"I'll defer to Johnny, but I think the widget goes under the gear assembly."
Johnny is a pseudonym and I don't deal with widgets or gear assemblies, but that's basically the reply email I received earlier this week.
I was in the middle of something else when the request came to revise my drawing. The end of the afternoon was approaching and I didn't want to carry this task into the next day, so I rushed through the revision and sent it off. The only problem was that I had done it wrong.
In my haste, I didn't realize that I had made a mistake, so I re-read the sentence a couple of times and opened the drawing to see what he was talking about. "The widget goes under the gear assembly..." And there it was - like a total idiot, I had located the widget above the gear assembly! What kind of educated professional would make such a stupid mistake?!
I had blown it. My client knew it - and the five other guys he copied on the email knew it, too.
It was that moment at the holiday party when everyone's looking good and having fun, when you're mixing it up and meeting new people and telling your best stories - and then you spill your drink all over the hors d'oeuvres table. The music is still playing, but everybody's mouths go silent as they stare at you. One woman hides her smile behind her hand.
I don't like using the word hate, but I hate feeling stupid. I hate knowing that I knew the right answer, but for whatever reason I gave the wrong answer. And I hate being pinned down under my stupidity, feeling like I'm on display for the world to laugh at.
When I read those words, "I think the widget goes under the gear assembly", all I could hear was "How could you be so stupid?!" All I could see were guys sitting at their computers laughing, calling over others in the office to read it for themselves. "Can you believe this guy?!"
What was I going to do? How would I choose to respond?
I'll tell you one thing: my final response wasn't my initial response. My initial response was filled with deflection and sarcasm as I attempted to shift the blame and fight back. As my defensiveness turned to boiling anger within me, though, these words came to me: "Live in Him, not in you."
The words were different than those that Patrick shared with us last Sunday as we studied Philippians 3:1-14, but the message was the same. You see, God had set me up.
He wanted me to be changed by the words of in that passage, not simply read them. He wanted me to understand the difference between finding one's identity in their own performance vs. the performance of Jesus, a difference as stark as death and life. Patrick taught us that we're constantly competing and comparing when we find ourselves in our own achievements. There's no end to performing, no peace and no place to hide when life is based solely on what we've done.
The good news for the Philippians - and the good news for us - is that Jesus' achievements create solid ground for anyone who puts their faith in him. Living in him means sharing his identity and being fully accepted by the God who stands over the universe. Whose opinion matters more than his?
It doesn't mean that we don't give life our best. It simply means that we stop worrying about doing it perfectly, having all the answers or being exactly who other people expect. It means that we don't have to be crushed with embarrassment when a couple of people in the office laugh at our mistakes.
Where are you with this today? Let's leave behind the burden of finding our identity in our achievements and move forward in the freedom of knowing our identity is secure in Jesus Christ.