While down in Peru, my daughter and I were able to tear down a family’s home and then rebuild it from the ground up for them. Their willingness to let strangers into their home, move their stuff and ultimately rip their ceilings and walls apart was a powerful experience. Especially considering the fact that they had no clue of our capabilities…or if I was even qualified to build them a new home. That is why on the start of the second day, when we started to rebuild the structure, I was impressed they did not run this pastor with soft “city boy” hands out of Chimbote.
At one point, the local construction guys handed me a hammer, and two clavos (nails). They pointed at the hammer, the nail and the rough hewn 3×4 boards that needed to be put together in order to make a beam that would span the roof. Their home’s entire structure rested on my ability to secure these two pieces of wood together.
That is why I hesitated as I started to pound on the nail and noticed that it was beginning to bend. That is why I started to sweat as the nail warped slightly further. That is why I blushed as the worker started screaming “para! para!” (stop, stop) as he rushed towards me.
Then he grabbed the giant crowbar to extricate the bent nail I had been wacking at. Having rescued me, I figured he would take over and do the work correctly. But no, he handed me a nail and told me to go at it again.
This time the nail bent even worse. Exasperated, he rolled his eyes and removed yet another mangled nail with the crowbar. In fact, by this point, the entire work site stopped so they could gather around and watch me hammer a nail, with the universal language of pointing and laughing. This Included my own precious 11-year old daughter who innocently said, “Here dad, let me do it for you.” She might as well have asked for my Man-card as she reached out for the hammer.
Also at this point, I became irritated and frustrated. I started to blame the cheaply made nails that were clearly not imported from Home Depot in America. I started to blame the weight of their hammer…that it was not calibrated to my precise strength and swing. I started to blame the wood…it was too rough. I blamed the heat. The gathered gawkers, the screaming baby. Everything was the problem…except me.
Finally, after countless bent nails, I managed to meekly hammer one nail straight through. And mercifully, they called “lunch break.” Back on my bunk, I fumed. Why—because that little nail had mockingly exposed my incompetence.
For men, usually an attack on our competence can send us deep into the redzone where we fail to focus on what is directly in front of us and begin to be concerned with the gathering crowds. The attacks erode our precariously held sense of masculinity, and leave us feeling incapable and incompetent. The persistent miss hits and distraction of the audience drew my attention inward into a place of embarrassment and away from what was right before me making the task that much more challenging.
That experience of kneeling in the hot sun of the dusty grounds of Peru while the crowds leered and jeered at my incompetence reminded me of the story of Jesus’s encounter with the woman caught in adultery.
Naked, ashamed and exposed she stood before a crowd condemned not just to ridicule but also death. As the crowds gathered, and her cheeks flushed much like my own. Her gaze probably turned inward as she felt the embarrassment eroding away at her.
However, at just the right moment Jesus did an amazing thing…he stooped down into the dirt to draw the attention away from her and onto himself. He wanted to lift her gaze off of our her predicament and onto Him.
He pried the bent and warped nails of shame away from her heart and mine. He covered our disgrace with His grace. And in doing so, freed us from the anxiety of being “good enough.”
What causes you to feel incompetent? When have you been exposed for being a failure?
How can Christ’s grace cover your disgrace?