I know a thing or two about awkwardness. Last week I took a road trip with a friend, stopping at Buc-ee’s, like all good Texans do. We had fun and easy conversation on the first leg of the trip. On the way home, however, I filled a sliver of silence with this winner: So, how are your friends? Any of your friends?
Me: Any friends that you may have. How are they?
Her: Um … I’m going to need you to get a little more specific. What do you mean, how are my friends?
I stared out the windshield, popping those Beaver Nugs like a champ and pretending that I had meant to say what I’d just said.
Yes, I find myself being awkward sometimes. Surely, I’m not the only one.
In certain settings, I blurt out bizarre questions or can’t figure out what to do with my hands. If I feel awkward enough, I will search for the nearest bathroom and make a beeline for it. It’s like hiding in a closet, except there is running water in case you decide to stay and a mirror so you can pretend you are refreshing your lipstick.
A few months ago, I had a bad case of awkward at a graduate school Christmas party. I want to love parties, I really do, but they are so much hard work! And I am not talking about hard work to host, either, I’m talking about hard work to go to! At this party, I couldn’t think of what to say, and of course I couldn’t figure out what to do with my hands, so I just kept touching things, like forks and placemats and repeating, I loved this class! Didn’t you love this class? This class is so special. I loved this class. It was really special. I loved it! Didn’t you?
(Somebody reading this just said bless her heart).
The cure for awkwardness (or for anything) is to thank God and ask what He thinks about it. At the party, I prayed inwardly, “Thank you, God, for my awkwardness!”
And He immediately responded with a smile in His voice, Yes, you are awkward at parties. I made you in such a way that you don’t know how to be fake. You are genuine. There is no guile in you. That makes you a little awkward at parties, and it is good.
I definitely do not think this means that people who are smooth at parties are being fake. If you are smooth at parties, you are probably comfortable in an energetic group because you are extroverted. But if an introverted person tries to act comfortable in an energetic group, they feel like they are being fake. So the awkwardness takes over. My guess is that if an extrovert tries to act comfortable in a one-on-one quiet conversation they would feel fake. That is probably where their awkwardness shows up.
So we’re awkward sometimes. So what?
You are just being yourself, God says. And it is good.
We would be surprised what God would call good, if you and I brought it to Him and thanked Him for it. But usually, we don’t. We assume that things like awkwardness are altogether bad and need to be changed. But take a moment to jump back in the car with me and the Beaver Nuggets. Do you know what happened next? Well, there were about ten seconds of laughter at my awkwardness, and then we began a conversation that was the deepest and best part of the trip. And we wouldn’t have gotten to any of it if it had not been for that awkward question. So now God’s not the only one calling it good.
I am too.
At a women’s conference this spring, Charlotte Gambill said something that flew under the radar. Her entire message was based on waiting and praying and waiting and praying for a promise to be fulfilled. There was a lot to chew on. But tucked in the middle of it, she said, “Are you committed through the hard times, or just through the good times? Are you committed through the awkward times?”
Are you committed through the awkward times?
That sentence has been tattooed on my heart ever since, my biggest takeaway. I think about it all the time. It has completely changed the way I interact in party crowds (or church crowds, hello), which usually make me want to crumple inward like tinfoil.
Now I take a deep breath and whisper, “I am committed through the awkward times.” Then I walk in, ready to act as a “Minister to the Introverted.” If I enter a full and rowdy room, asking God to open my eyes to the awkward and introverted, He does. Suddenly, they are all I can see. It takes one to know one.
The funniest thing has happened since I have begun operating as a Minister to the Introverted: I have bloomed. Parties and crowds don’t bother me like they used to, and I almost enjoy being there. I’m not saying that I have become extroverted, no, I’m still most energized and refreshed by being alone or by having one-on-one meaningful conversations with people I’m close to. But now when I am in a crowd, I’m not looking to fit into the crowd, anymore. I know I am there on a mission to find the introverted person outside the crowd who might feel a little uncomfortable in the busyness. I’ve made some really cool friends this way.
Emily Dickinson wrote about it best back in 1891:
I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.
Deep calls to deep. And awkward calls to awkward.
God calls that good.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28