What is your most embarrassing moment? I mean, when was a time that you truly wanted the earth to open up and swallow you whole? Please, tell me. I really want to know. Not because I’m a masochist but because I want to know I’m not alone. I need to know that I’m not the only one who seems to make an art out of slipping on the banana peel. Thankfully, I have learned to laugh loudest at myself.
I have literally slipped on produce in the grocery store. Walked into and used more than one men’s restroom. In very public places. Of course I didn’t realize it until I saw the urinals; on the way out. I’ve called people by the wrong name more times than I’d like to count. I’ve walked out with toilet paper on my shoe. Lipstick on the teeth is a common accessory for me. All these things are all part of being me, I suppose. But there is one moment that stands out (well, maybe more than one but one is all I’m sharing today) as a moment that can make me blush even all these years later.
It was 4th of July. We’d driven in to Houston from Corpus Christ to attend a celebration picnic that was being given by the company a friend of ours was associated with. There were about 20 or more in our group. It was a perfect day, complete with brilliant sun and crystal blue skies. The kids were having a ball swimming and taking turns going on boat rides. There was something for everyone from young to old. Even a bingo game! Now, I’m not usually a big bingo player but it was, after all, the 4th of July. What is more old time Americana than bingo? Except for maybe barbecue and beer, and there was plenty of that being enjoyed.
The bingo game was held in an outdoor pavilion and was complete with rickety cards and screeching microphone. It was one of those carefree moments with friends, all of us cuddled up close on the benches of picnic tables. I was sitting next to one of my closest friends in the whole world and across from her brother. (Spoiler alert….) I don’t remember how far into the game we were. I was busy talking and laughing and imbibing ever so slightly the available beer. Could life get any better? And then it did. I looked down and right before me was the perfectly completed bingo card. Wow, I hadn’t realized I was getting this close. “Bingo!” I shouted proud and clear. My table cheered for me as I took the victory walk forward to the somewhat stern looking lady with the screeching microphone. Apparently I had interrupted the flow of her calling. I, rather defiantly, handed her my bingo card and awaited official confirmation of a well deserved victory. And maybe a prize?
But, my boastful glee quickly turned into despair as she repeatedly called out the squares on my card that had been incorrectly closed. The screeching microphone suddenly seemed to project way too clearly. I had perhaps gotten one of the squares correct. How could I have done this? My mind refused to take in the reality of my faux paux. But the 100 (or was it 1000) people playing with me could, and did. There was a dull roar building as some people realized they had cleared their card for nothing. Because of this loser trying to pull a fast one. Because of me.
My victory lap painfully became the walk of shame as I apologetically made my way through the angry mob; I mean nice folks out for a holiday. I could not get back to my table quick enough. There I would be able to lick my wounds in safety. In comfort. My friends would all tell me that all would be well. Well, I guess they would’ve if they hadn’t bodily turned their backs on me. Every one of them (12 or 20, it doesn’t matter). A space had been cleared for me. At the end of the bench. The chill from them was palpable. Apparently I had not only embarrassed myself. Even my tears avoided me.
As I was sitting there worrying how I could I have possibly messed up a simple bingo game so completely and brought such disgrace to my crowd, I began to see shoulders shaking on the backs of my “friends”. At once they turned to face me and there was all out guffawing going on. My friend’s brother then proudly told me how easy it had been to distract me and move the squares on my card. I had never seen it coming. I had been duped. I wasn’t an inept bingo player after all. Just easily influenced and gullible.
Now I could have gotten my feelings hurt. Or been angry. But, if memory serves me correctly, I didn’t. Oh, I feigned a little revenge seeking for a while, but knew I would never be a crafty match. But upon reflection, I realized that I had been pranked (or duped) by a family who loves to prank each other and by pranking (or to be more current, punking) me I had been gathered in to their family fun and bonded to them in a weirdly wonderful way. And honestly, I needed toughening up a little. Often one to take myself way too seriously, I have always blamed myself for whatever happens around me, and I needed to be loosened up from that just a bit.
Learning to laugh at myself, without condemnation, has proved to be absolutely essential in my ministry journey. In my faith journey. Humor is a great perspective keeper. I have found that when I fall, or fail, or mess up, if I can look for the glimmer of humor and laugh at myself, I am much more open to experience grace in the moment. I’m not perfect at this. But I keep getting opportunities to learn.
Like the time I was preaching before a particular congregation for the first time. When my microphone did not work, I looked toward the back of the sanctuary at the sound guy and asked him if he could turn me on…and he had; just at that precise moment.
Ok, your turn. I’d love to know I’m in good company. Confession is good for the soul. So is laughter.
Something to chew on….