It was my way of being the sweet and considerate husband I have always endeavored to be to my sweet bride of 38 years. Terri’s car needed gas and I had a little extra time so I jumped into her sporty Malibu and headed to the little town of Lucasville a few miles away only to realize a minute or two into the trip, I should have brought my sunglasses. It was no time until a quick search of the console produced not one, but three pairs of glasses. The only problem was, they were, let’s say, feminine looking! Driving while selecting the more masculine of the three I proceeded, now fully prepared for the morning sunshine to complete my task.
Finally arriving at the gas station, I jumped out and began to fill the tank and clean the windshield which made me completely oblivious to the two bikers who were standing by their bikes just to my left. When I looked up and gave them the obligatory smile and nod followed by the “How you fellas doing today?” I received a noticeably less than enthusiastic response. That’s funny, I thought. Then, catching my reflection in the driver side window of my wife’s car, I saw not only the basis of their lackluster response, I saw what was really funny… it was me in my wife’s sunglasses!
The tank was full and my mission accomplished. Leaving a couple of tough looking bikers riding the roads of southern Ohio wondering who that guy was wearing their grandmother’s sunglasses! Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself! My wife, by the way, thought the entire episode was hilarious—so did I. It’s one thing to take what we do seriously, and we should. It’s also helpful I believe, not take ourselves too seriously. I have always admired those who have the capacity to laugh at themselves. Baseball great Tony La Russa once said, “The toughest thing for me as a young manager is that a lot of my players saw me play. They know how bad I was.” Oh, the joys of a proper perspective of oneself.
This was an incredibly important lesson I learned not only in my years in retail management, but in 22 years of Pastoral ministry as well. If I was able to laugh at myself, and there was always plenty of comedic material available in my life to choose from, then I could better communicate and relate to those I was called to lead and serve. It made me more transparent and easily approachable, especially to those that I hadn’t met personally.
Often it’s not what we do, but how we handle what we face in life that most clearly defines who we are. “If you can laugh at yourself, you are going to be fine. If you allow others to laugh with you, you will be great” said German Pastor Martin Niemoller. And if anyone faced life in a season of great difficulty it was this great church leader who stood up to the Nazi regime of the 1930s.
Max Lucado, in his book Cure for the Common Life writes, “We often suffer from poor I-sight. Not eyesight, a matter of distorted vision that lenses can correct, but I-sight. Poor I-sight blurs your view, not of the world, but of yourself. Some see self too highly.” How do you see yourself? How do others see you? More importantly, how does God see you? It would perhaps be spiritually healthy to examine our lives in light of these three spectators.
First, there are the people around us. Cicero said, “To disregard what the world thinks of us is not only arrogant but utterly shameless.” We are not ruled by opinion, nor do we acquiesce to the thoughts of others. We stand on truth; we stand on God’s word. However, we must have a good and honorable standing in our field of service that we may be the influence God has designed us to be.
Furthermore, how do we view ourselves? The Apostle Paul wrote, “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceived himself” It was John Riskin who said, “I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own power, or hesitation in speaking his opinion. But really great men have a … feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them; that they could not do or be anything else than God made them.”
Then finally, what does God see in us? At times, we may deceive others and even deceive ourselves, but we can never deceive God. Oliver Cromwell ruled England between 1649 and 1658. He had a large wart on his face. One day when he was having his portrait painted, he said to the artist, “Paint me just as I am, wart and all!” Friend God sees us warts and all! Are you looking good… at yourself?
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.