To be honest, I like being comfortable in my relationships. Accepted. Even appreciated. But then there are moments when I feel a nudge to act and that nudge is anything but comfy.
So ... let's consider this: Are we willing to show up to be present with someone in their pain - even if it means feeling awkward? To them? To us? Does "showing up" trump awkward?
Read on and see what my friend Alexandra Kuykendall concludes as she asks this question.
The Ministry of Awkward
By Alexandra Kuykendall
I stepped into the funeral parlor with the words What am I doing here? ringing in my head. A service for someone I barely knew, but my mother-in-law's words had been the stronger voice, "People remember weddings and funerals. Who comes and who doesn't." I want to be known as one who comes, who shows up.
I wasn't sure where to stand, how to greet the others already mingling in the lobby, who I should hug and who would find that gesture too forward. I stepped into the awkward, the tension, and reminded myself I came to support, to be present. This moment wasn't about me and I could survive a dose of the uncomfortable.
Often I've been part of a community, a school, work team, church, where someone experiences a crisis or a loss and the group so desperately wants to help. But the not knowing what to say or the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, debilitates us and as a result no one shows up. Awkward must be better than alone.
This showing up in hard times, where there aren't always appropriate words or prescribed social gestures can be called the ministry of presence. That sounds nice doesn't it? It also sounds self-assured and smooth and calming. When often my internal presence doesn't feel like that at all. I have all of the self-doubts questioning whether I'm the right person to be there, whether they just wish I'd mind my own business. But that makes it about me.
In the forward to Preston Yancey's book, Tables in the Wilderness, Jefferson Bethke says, "I always find it interesting that the way our churches are usually set up we are always looking at the back of people's heads. But at a table, we are looking into their eyes. Their face. Their expressions. What a beautiful picture that God not only prepares a table for us, but he sits with us. He looks at us."
Jesus was king of the awkward. He often created situations that made other people shift their gaze and weight in their own discomfort. Looking across the table can often be uneasy. Seeing each other in pain, in the midst of mistakes, in circumstances that are unfortunate and sometimes preventable can make us want to get up and leave. Rarely do I relax when I am standing in the middle of tension with someone else, but after I'm always glad I have.
Because Jesus did set the table for us where our sins are laid out. Talk about awkward. Where we celebrate the bread of his body and wine of his blood with those sins right in our midst. And on that night so long ago he lifted the cup and broke the bread and looked around the table and invited us to come back again over and over. Where would we be if he hadn't showed up? If he'd looked away?
Lord grant us the strength to sit at the table and practice the ministry of awkward.
Alexandra Kuykendall lives in the shadows of downtown Denver, CO with her husband Derek and their four daughters. She serves as the Specialty Content Editor for MOPS International and is the author of The Artist's Daughter: A Memoir. Read more of her thoughts on the awkward life at AlexandraKuykendall.com.