Modern day technology has given us so much for which to be thankful. And in the same breath, without drastic turns, we have to admit that it has also given us much with which to contend. As I scroll through the vast images and posts on social media, swipe right and left in emails, get distracted by advertisements in unexpected places, I feel bombarded by feelings of inadequacy — because my life is suddenly missing these things flashing before my eyes.
Growing up in the era of NASA breakthroughs and ‘big hair’ (yes, I know you laughed) and big platformed shoes, we were limited to seeing what others had until they were standing in front of our faces. Somehow, that delayed any forthcoming disappointments and comparison traps that now strike faster than the speed of light — thank you internet. We’re drowning in insecurities before we set our tootsies on the ground in the morning.
I was that kid: horned-rimmed glasses, clothes 1-2 sizes bigger (mother always said I’d grow into them), introvert book-reading-always-studying nerdy girl. Didn’t know how to make friends with other kids that didn’t look like me. And they didn’t seem to care that I stood off to the side. So, deeper into the books my face would press.
High school was a season of concealing awkward with a fake boldness. Not that anyone taunted me then, but that if I caught anyone giving me the side eye, I’d go after them with harsh words and looks that could wilt flowers. I had made a personal vow to myself that my awkwardness would not be a topic for your discussion. To have others fear me felt like a powerful tool to wield.
In actuality, it was a poor imitation of boldness.
While flaunting the privileges of knowing popular people (and high schoolers know who they are), I was still on the perimeter of being “in.” Being a participant in team sports and being a scholar meant that some folks would be able to consider you their go-to person for insider information. The trickle out effect has a way of letting you feel included when you can pass the treasured nuggets of information to someone else. An awkward kind of belonging — you want to think you are, but you really aren’t.
As an adult, real world hits when you see that being “in” shifts to being “accepted.” And you are not.
Awkward is still your identity. All the women in your community — church, gym, grocery stores, dry cleaners, retail stores — they’re leaner, taller, prettier, their makeup is perfect, their hair is flawless and their relationships are intact. They can wear leggings and skinny jeans and their thighs never meet. Eating all the sweet things on the dessert platter don’t budge their waistlines but the mere thought of swallowing a morsel of a fraction of one goes straight to my hips. They can strut stilettos beyond the age of sixty, wear leather pants without the squeak and look cute in a messy bun and no eye liner.
Don’t get me wrong — I praise GOD (now, I can — it took me awhile to get there) that if you’re in that group of “I-wanna-look-like-her” you go, Girl! But many of us aren’t — in fact, most of us aren’t.
And it isn't until we finally meet the Awesome One -- the One Who made each one of us in His Image and calls us Accepted and Wanted -- do we begin to wrap our mind around how much more there is to who we are.
As I began to read more, I started to see more of myself written in the pages of Scripture. Not me personally, but people like me who also had these awkward feelings of inadequacies and insecurities. Women just like me who needed to lose that awkwardness so they could move forward. Women who needed GOD to do a miracle in their lives.
You don’t have to travel far to find that in the Book of Genesis, the sixteenth chapter, we read about Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. In a quick summary here, Sarah wanted to be a mother so badly that she set out ahead of GOD’s Promise (mind you, He had already promised her) and insisted that the timing be on her terms. Sarah arranges for a surrogate pregnancy between her maid, Hagar, and her husband Abraham and voilà, mayhem enters the picture for generations to follow (to this very day we are still feeling the aftershocks). When Sarah sees the outcome of her plans, she’s jealous and her fury turns to cruelty. Some of us want to say, ‘duh,’ but then refrain because we can see ourselves in Sarah’s sandals.
About a dozen chapters further into Genesis, chapter 29, we see another comparisons scenario being lived out between two sisters: Rachel and Leah. Both women are married to Jacob, and early on, Leah is at the top of the fertility charts. Rachel watches along the sidelines and her older sister is bringing forth one child after another, while she remains without even conceiving. Ironically, Leah is desperately vying for her husband’s affection, hoping that with each newborn he will look at her with the same eyes that he endears the younger (yet barren) Rachel.
We drop down further into the Bible and come to 1 Samuel where we find a man, Elkanah, with his two wives, Hannah and Penninah. Again, we have one as being known for her ability to bare children and the other without and deeply longing for her heart to be heard by GOD.
Abandonment and neglect, feeling forgotten or unworthy, they undoubtedly felt strongly as you and I do towards our own personal causes and struggles. Wondering when GOD would bend down to give relief in the form of answered prayer. Hoping with every fiber of her being that she would soon be "in" or "accepted." No longer living in the awkwardness of life.
These few examples are mere glimpses into the life of notable people of our history. While the details of their emotional highs and lows are not given, we can assess that these precious human beings felt sadness, sorrow and loneliness in the same manner as you and I do.
The stories in the Bible involve real people — they’re no more fictional than you nor I. And yet, these accounts serve as remembrance to us today that GOD is just as near to us as He was to them in their day. The same GOD created them in His Image (as we are), gifted them with skills, talents, purpose and a will to use them. This same GOD was faithful to His Promises to each one of them, Promises of hope and a future — His track-record has not changed and never will.
I wish that I could say I no longer walk the awkward trail — but that is yet to be seen.
And I think that in GOD's tender humor towards me (we have these insider jokes between us; I'm sure you do, too), He wants me to experience these newer moments of awkward with Him in a transformed sort of way.
Let me give you a recent example. I was in a ‘moment’ taking a picture with someone very dear to me and we were standing in front of a large group of people. I knew there were cameras taking shots, but I had no clue where to focus my attention. When I got a glimpse of the finished and publicized photo, I was mortified to see that I had squinted my eyes so tight and not even looked in the right direction. It was a classic facepalm moment in time. And while I had yet survived another awkward moment, the Lord reminded me that it was time well spent with friends I consider family.
I could fill your day with many such moments and you and I could exchange laughter. These moments don’t strike me as devastating as they used to or as intensely as they would have 10 or so years ago. Like the time I wore my shirt backwards in public, thinking how proud I was to finally have my outfit so well put together. Or when I (really didn’t) get the memo about the rescheduled potluck and showed up for the gathering with a bucket of chicken.
And while I can chuckle in hindsight, I have to remember to be tenderhearted and compassionate towards the ones who are still coming up behind me — learning how to navigate through her own awkward moments in life. We don’t all have the same mindset when confronted with these events. One size does not fit all when it comes to sensitivity and understanding. Needless to say, let’s refrain from, “you gotta get thicker skin,” because comments like that won’t help toughen her hide. It will cause her to hide.
Again, this goes way back to our earlier orientation of how things rolled out for us as children. Some of us had mentors and some of us didn’t. Some of us became bitter and some of us became better. Wherever we landed our feet when we jumped off the adult bus of life, that took us in a direction with a mindset of either confidence or awkwardness. Few of us possessed the former. More of us had pounds of the latter stuffed in our backpacks.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 ESV
Did I mention that maturity makes living through (because you won’t escape all of them) these awkward moments less traumatic and more meaningful? There’s something to be said about being able to live to tell about it — whatever ‘it’ may be. My point is that the maturity I’m speaking of — a spiritual maturity — is not of this world or drawn from the pages of self-help or a guru’s book, but rather from the Book of Life.
I am pointing to the Way of Life from the Giver of Life. He set me straight, even when I wasn’t looking to walk straight. He took my eyes off of myself and tilted them towards Himself — which is where all the compassion I ever needed is found. And I found acceptance right there in His Eyes.
When you turn your focus from you to Who — the One Who created you in His Image — and you begin to read and study about the real you, your perception of who you really are brings meaning to your life. That awkwardness has its place and it isn’t in defining your identity.
Awkward becomes that place where you may be kept humble and can share a chuckle or two with GOD in a moment that only the two of you can understand.
I love you to Heaven and Back, Girlfriend ~~
LindaRJohnson, TitusTwo Visionary