Boy, are you in for a treat today! I’d like you to meet Niki. She is fun, adventurous, and hysterically funny! She has a way of bringing out the fun and laughter in just about any situation, as you will find in her testimony today. Although her story is packed with humor, it’s also packed with absolute truths that we all need to be reminded of. Her story of overcoming helps us to see how God shows up in the midst of our circumstances and allows us to see things from His perspective.
What if I told you that public embarrassment can be good for you?
I know, crazy idea right? So let me explain.
Back in February 2012, just six short weeks after my sister died from lung cancer, I was diagnosed with cancer; rectal cancer. Unfortunately rectal cancer isn’t sexy and doesn’t come with a pretty pink bow or a fun run in a decorated bra. To say I was shocked is an understatement much like claiming Bill Gates scrapes by financially; I was fit and healthy, and had just run a marathon.
After radiation, chemo and surgery, to rework my God given plumbing, I’m left with a digestive system as temperamental as a two year old; it often has me running for the bathroom at the most mortifying times. I’m proud to say I can map 90% of the loos in Charlotte; from the Ladies restrooms at the Children’s hospital (that smell of Clorox and baby wipes), to the port-a-Johns along my jogging route (welcome, yet unsanitary relief when desperation calls mid run).
As church leaders we’re naturally open and vulnerable about our fears and failures, so quickly decided this was no different. We’d talk about my cancer from the front and hey, these were our flock, how awkward could it be?
I turns out it could VERY awkward and death defyingly embarrassing.
I knew my husband Al was going to mention it but I wasn’t sure when or how, until I heard him utter these immortal words.
“As some of you may know, Niki was recently diagnosed with rectal cancer….”
The pounding silence of the sanctuary was deafening and the rest of the sentence faded away, drowned out by the throb of my heart pumping blood into my cheeks at an unprecedented rate.
He’d said it.
He said rectum.
And not just anyone’s rectum – MY rectum.
I could feel over two hundred pairs of eyes burrowing into the back of my head. I imagined a picture of my bottom simultaneously coming to the forefront of over two hundred minds.
MY RECTUM!!! IN CHURCH!!
The embarrassment rocked a force ten quake through my core.
Not normally prone to embarrassment the fire burned my cheeks; all four of them.
Begging my chair to swallow me, I fixed my eyes forward, debating whether to make a bid for freedom out the side door, or stand up and take a humorous bow.
Flight or fight at its best.
Run and hide or stay and fight with humor and grace?
What do you do when you’re faced with that emotional state of intense discomfort we call embarrassment?
Studies show that a third of us apologize immediately when something embarrassing happens, while 22% of us joke to cover it up, 21% pretend nothing happened, 18% suffer the blushing until it passes, and 6% of us leave the room.
But what is the best way to deal with that awkward moment that leaves us shame face and self-conscious? And how exactly was this mortifying experience in church good for me?
Given the fact I had a tumor the size of a small planet located where the sun doesn’t shine, you wont be surprised to hear that this was neither my first, nor last, deeply embarrassing moment. I struggled with the undignified, distressing and mortifying moments of embarrassment until I realized all the emotions I wrestled with, are rooted in fear.
On that fateful Sunday fear was the driving force behind my embarrassment.
I was afraid of what people would think. I was frightened they’d reject me if they knew the real me was a hot mess with cancer in a most “unchristian” part of my anatomy. Yet most of all, I was afraid they’d feel pity, seeing me as weak and helpless.
My dear sweat friends, God’s love can cast those fears away.
So what if people think horrible or undignified things about me?
We all have elbows and knees and we all have rectums. Even Jesus had one!
I had to get over it, and anyway, Jesus thinks I’m the bee’s knees. He thinks you are too.
So what if they reject me for being a hot mess?
God will never leave me.
So what if they think I’m weak?
I am weak, and in my weakness He is strong.
I’m not sure those truths would have been seared on my heart had I not had that year of embarrassment
People often tell us it’s not as bad as we think it is.
Before my cancer this platitude infuriated me so much I’d seriously consider delivering a nice right hook to their perfectly waxed upper lip.
But you know what? They’re right. It’s not as bad as we think.
My fears were ungrounded.
They didn’t think awful things about me; they loved me.
They didn’t reject me; they scooped me up in their arms.
They didn’t think I was weak, but when I was, they loved me all the more.
Fear traps us in shame and embarrassment, while love, God’s love, sets us free.
If you’re prone to embarrassment or, like me, live with an embarrassing condition, can I invite you to dig into the fear that feeds that shame and self-consciousness?
What are you afraid of and what does God say about those fears?
In case you think I’ve stumbled on an embarrassment vaccine I should tell you that I still get embarrassed. But by God’s grace, it’s never as bad as I think it is.
God’s promises became so vital to me during those days that I made cute printable promise cards to carry with me, use as book marks and put in frames. If you’d like to, you can download a set for yourself on my blog.
As I said, by God’s grace it’s never as bad as it seems. Here’s a couple of my deeply embarrassing moments, that God used to teach me more about Him, incase you still don’t believe me!
About the Author
Niki Hardy is a Brit in the USA. A self confessed fresh air junkie, dog lover and tea drinker, who’s happiest running trails with her dogs. As a cancer survivor with three teenagers, she loves to find humor and grace in the midst of life, and firmly believes that God wants us to thrive and not just survive when life get hard. She writes over on her blog, My Story My God. You can also connect with Niki on: