Minister’s forum: Embarrassment eases with wisdom, faith
March 13, 2006
I still carry the childhood memory of an incident in which I was embarrassed to be associated with my dad.
It wasn’t because of something offensive he’d done, rather, it was when, in public, he took a stand on my behalf. I wasn’t as concerned about him, or grateful to be his son as I should have been. Dad surprised me by purchasing tickets for just the two of us to see a Long Beach City College football game. As an 11-year-old brother to three younger sisters, even though they had no interest in football, this was big. This very busy, very important man, wanted to spend the day with me. It was better than Disneyland.
At the half we walked to the concession stand. He handed me the money, and gave me the job of buying the popcorn. Wow! I was about 11 years old and as I stood waiting for my turn at the counter, I kept getting cut in front of by college students as I stood waiting for a turn at the concession counter. I was in awe of these cool guys, to whom I was just an object. Even worse, I was an obstacle to be pushed aside. In those days Dad still had the bronze skin and trim muscular 6-foot 2-inch stature from his years as a field geologist, mapping the Yukon River, and the rugged coastal range between Santa Maria and Bakersfield. He must have made quite an impression as he emerged from somewhere behind the line and placed a firm hand on the shoulder of the student at the head of the line who was in the process of placing his order.
In a kind and measured, I-hope-you’re-listening-to-me tone, he pointed back to me and said. “You people have just cut in front of that young man back there. I think you need to take a place behind him.” There was a chorus of “Sorry sir,” and I was quickly ushered to the front of the queue. My dad had already caused a scene, bringing all chatter, and even the commerce at the concession counter to a standstill. All eyes were on me, and I was wishing I were invisible. But Dad wasn’t finished yet, “He’s my son. He’s the one you should apologize to.”
At the time I totally missed the significance and the opportunity of that moment. I was too wrapped up in feeling embarrassed, and even ashamed of my dad. I missed the sheer glory of hearing the greatest man in my life declare that I was his son in front of all those people. But the real pain was the growing realization of what I had done, by allowing my respect for coolness trump my respect and desire to honor my dad who was at that time the closest thing to a savior and lord that I knew. I had been offended because my dad stood up against society’s tendency to take advantage of those who are not powerful, and marginalized. He was ever ready to intervene on my behalf. And in just such a time my response was self-centered embarrassment. He deserved so much better from me. He was the one in that whole crowd who valued me and had given me a name and saw me as a person worthy of respect. He called me his son, and I should have swelled with pride and shouted out, “Here I am, Dad!”
Many years later, with young children of my own, I asked him if he remembered the famous concession “stand.” He hadn’t given it another thought, and seemed surprised at my confession and tearful apology.
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I keep returning to a statement Paul makes midway in the first chapter of Romans that can easily slip below our radar. There he writes: “I am not ashamed of the gospel; for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jews and also for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'” Far from unimportant, Paul’s stance here, in the face of the society that deems Jesus Christ unimportant, and him a fool, is of the utmost importance.
If you are following the Lenten Scripture readings, in Mark 8:27-38, Jesus gives a stern warning to those who are embarrassed by Him. No, I will not be squeezed into society’s mold, and I will not yield to the temptation to become embarrassed by Jesus Christ, my Lord. This is one area we dare not make any concession, but take a stand, and be the proud and grateful bearers of His name. “Here I am Lord Jesus, I love you Lord!”
-The Rev. Steve Blocher is pastor of Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church.