Summary: December 1989: We choose not to participate in mission and ministry because we do not want to look foolish. Jesus transforms looking foolish into a redemptive model.
Most of us, especially in our younger years, spend an awful lot of effort in trying not to look foolish. Most of us, particularly when we are young and growing and think our bodies are all out of proportion anyway, will go to great lengths to hide our deficiencies and keep from looking foolish.
Some youngsters, for example, are just not athletic. Some just cannot get that coordination in place, and they know that when they get on the basketball court or on the athletic field they are just going to look stupid and foolish, and so they just don’t even want to try. If you are a complete klutz, and you know you are a complete klutz, then why get out there and let the world come to the same conclusion. You will only look foolish, or so you think.
If there ever was a kid who was a worse athlete than I, I cannot imagine who it would be. When the second grade kids chose up sides for dodge-ball, one super-awkward gangly girl and I were always the last ones chosen. And then they did it only because the teachers made them. Super-klutz, looking foolish.
When the church put together a softball team for its teenagers, since it was church, of course I was there. But since it was softball, I wished I wasn’t. And so did everybody, including the pastor, who managed to mention every spring that he had considered a career in baseball until the Lord changed his mind. Well, they had to take me on the team, because it’s church, and church, you know, is about accepting everybody, just as they are. In the dugout, I think we actually sang, "Just as I am, without one hit …” Church is about accepting everybody, so they had to take me, but they didn’t have to use me, and they didn’t unless we were about ten runs ahead.
And you know what? I was happier that way. I really was. I may have been a klutz, but I was not stupid, and I knew how the others laughed and snickered, and I didn’t need that. So I was perfectly happy to sit on the bench and pretend I was on the team and cheer for the others and not play, because by not playing I managed to avoid looking foolish.
Oh, occasionally it was kind of nice to actually get in the game; they would put me in right field, where the ball seldom came, and of course my fervent prayers that it not come out there were frequently answered. Sometimes they were answered by the second baseman, who would come charging way, way back into right field, waving me off and chasing down the ball rather than let me have it. And again, I was perfectly happy with that arrangement. Who wants to look foolish with a crowd of parents and friends and pastor and God and the angels and everybody looking on?
Of course I could also tell you about the night I knew the ball had been hit in my direction and I just blindly stuck out the glove, and, lo and behold, the ball entered my glove by accident! They almost carried me off the field on their shoulders that night! But it was just a fluke; usually I preferred to stay in the background, sit on the bench, pretend to play the game, and avoid looking foolish. Above all, avoid looking foolish.
Most of us do, you know. Most of us avoid putting ourselves into situations where we are going to mess up and look stupid and klutzy and foolish. Most of us will not put ourselves in some spot where whatever it is we are supposed to do will make us seem awkward.
For every one of us who is a Michael Sampson, all grace and beauty on the basketball court, ten of us are falling all over our feet, and we don’t want to look foolish, so we quit competing.
For every one of us who is a practiced and eloquent speaker, able to spout knowledge and facts and figures persuasively and beautifully, fifty of us, whenever we stand on our feet to say anything end up getting our "tangs toungled up" and sputter out some silly stuff and look foolish.
Last Monday I went downtown to the National Gallery of Art to see a couple of special exhibits I’d been wanting to see. And I couldn’t help but think that for every one of us who is a Frederick Church, able to paint Niagara Falls so that you can experience everything except the roar and the spray, a thousand of us are unable to draw a straight line with the help of a yardstick. And so, when asked to do something artistic, we refuse, because we don’t like looking foolish.