I jumped at the opportunity to write this! Awkwardness is something I’ve become fascinated with over the years. On one hand, it’s a massive source of entertainment. Nothing is funnier (yes, that’s a word) than watching a Jr. High schooler squirm trying to ask his crush out on a date. On the other hand, no one actually wants to be that Jr. Higher … again. Being inside that awkward situation is terrible. It feels inexplicably awful. It’s a mix of squeezing discomfort and abject fear that it’s gonna get worse somehow.

Storytime! In high school, I was on a little crusade to ditch my walker for crutches so my folks insisted I have oversight from my physical therapist. She was a great friend, had been my therapist from childhood, and would meet me at school for training with my crutches. A few months in, she asked who I was taking to the homecoming dance. I said that I wasn’t going to go, she read between the lines and responded by setting me up with a girl from her son’s soccer team. Blind date to homecoming! It went as terribly as it sounds like it would. We had nothing in common and she couldn’t understand a thing I was saying. I would’ve felt bad for her if I weren’t drowning in intense awkwardness myself. That’s the point! I was so focused on me and how I was just dying, that I didn’t think much about how ridiculously uncomfortable she must’ve felt. She was actually really great and I have nothing but respect for her.

I’ve had a ton of experiences over the years, and I’ve been in weird, uncomfortable, super awkward situations a lot. However, I’ve found I can drain the tension from the situation by having a hospitable attitude! Notice how the bible has nothing in it defining what normal is, and how each culture should act. Furthermore, every person is a unique, handcrafted creation of God to represent a special nuanced facet of who He is. Awkwardness is a knee-jerk, deeply ingrained, mostly automatic reaction to another person’s behavior. I say we need to undermine its power and desensitize ourselves to it until it goes away. Honestly, it has no place here.

When we are at church with each other, let’s not let the fear of awkwardness keep us from engaging with each other. Rather, let’s give of our hearts generously, whether it be a subtle reassuring nod or a big hug with a slap on the back, or just quietly listening to people who need to talk. Let them laugh uproariously at a ‘not-so-funny joke! We’re family, we’re all weird!

Jonathan Duncan

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