I’ve had a week filled with awkward. It happens.
First, I went to a women’s event where I hardly knew anyone. I stood in the foyer picking at a plate of pasta while my heart almost pounded out of my chest. I attempted to make small talk. I went to the bathroom three times in forty-five minutes just to hide. I occasionally stared at my phone so it would seem like someone, somewhere might know and like me.
Now here’s the thing: Last fall I did a speaking event at this very same place. I stood on the stage and talked about being Fiercehearted with calmness and confidence. I signed books and snapped pictures with a couple hundred folks. But this casual mingling in the foyer was so much harder.
A couple of evenings later I sat around a table with a group of local writers. As we talked about books and blog posts and what it’s like to be in the world of words, I felt the same anxiety coming back. My cheeks felt hot, my shirt got sticky with sweat, and the inner critic became so loud I could hardly hear anything else. I knew many of these women online before I met them in real life, and having a screen between us changed everything. I could be confident and witty. I never said “um” or laughed at the wrong time or worried about my hair.
My husband and I are hooked on the television show Nashville right now (don’t judge) and one of the main characters, Juliette Barnes, said something that keeps ringing in my ears. Her personal life is a train wreck but as she’s about to step on stage to do a concert she remarks, “It’s easy to make 20,000 people love you.”
Isn’t that what our world tells us? Post the perfect pictures on Instagram. Work the crowd. Craft an image. Create an audience instead of meaningful relationships. Avoid all the awkward.
But despite its difficulties, I’m falling in love with the awkward. It’s where we find out which one of our friends laughs so hard she snorts. It’s where the mascara runs right down our faces, and we discover how lovely the ugly cry can be. It’s where we remember we are not God — and that is a very good thing. It’s where we learn to believe we’re loved for who we are and not who we sometimes wish we could be.
By the end of the women’s ministry event I’d found someone to sit with and made a new friend. When the writer get-together was over I stood in the parking lot talking with two of the women about God and our own hearts as the summer sky turned indigo blue. I’m so glad I didn’t miss those moments.
Awkward is the price of admission for authentic connection. It costs us; oh, how it does. It costs our pride and our desire to be seen as perfect and the comfort of our couches. I hope I’m always willing to pay it.
The people who impress me most these days are not the ones on stages or those with the most likes on their social media pages. I’m impressed with the folks who show up in the everyday and say, “Here I am. There you are. Let’s figure out how to love each other.” That is a brave, beautiful, world-changing thing.
And I think this kind of living is what Jesus shows us. He didn’t come to a throne but to a manger. He didn’t seek a spotlight but a cross. He didn’t stay at a distance but instead walked the dusty, messy roads with us. In other words, He could have made 20,000 people love Him but instead He pursued hearts one by one. He still does.
God, give us the courage to do the same.