Theology of Awkward

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By Amanda Pugh

Awkward. Society gives this word too much power—I know I do. All you have to do is take a scroll through social media to see that we are obsessed with the perfectly polished highlight reel of life rather than the random awkward moments of every day. Our tendency to avoid the awkward moments is understandable, though. No one likes that yucky feeling that comes when something is just off in an interaction. It’s uncomfortable and messy. It leads to rejection and misunderstanding, and it reveals our insecurities to ourselves. I’m cringing just thinking about it. I hate it so much that I have prayed that Jesus would take away my awkwardness and make me normal.

Long story short: He hasn’t.

My fear of the awkward hit an all-time high my freshman year of college. I had just moved several states away to a school where I knew absolutely no one. “Will I ever make friends?” I worried. “Will anyone like me? What if I’m always intruding into people’s lives with my awkwardness?” 

It wasn’t until a few months later, after I had made some awesome, beautiful, holy friends, that I found out I was not alone in my awkwardness! Almost everyone felt the way I did. Enduring the initial weirdness with them is probably what bonded us the most. Ever since, I have decided to embrace the awkward every opportunity I get. It could be anything from smiling at someone I don’t know, having the courage to get an answer wrong in class, or even talking about Jesus with a random guy on an airplane. It’s about being my real, imperfect, unpolished self for the whole world to see. It’s cringey and uncomfortable, and I’m definitely not perfect, but I’m trying. And it’s always in those awkward, uncomfortable moments that I end up growing the most.

And through it, I have learned that awkwardness is just part of the human experience. Being a human is weird and messy and uncomfortable. Plus, ever since Adam and Eve ate that darn apple, all human relationships have never been quite right. 

And when I say all humans, I mean all humans. Even Jesus suffered from awkwardness. “Hold up,” you might be saying. “Jesus is God. He’s perfect.” 

And you’d be right, but just hear me out. I would say that Jesus is the one person who knows awkwardness the most intimately. Just think about it: God, the creator of the universe, the source of being itself, walking around planet earth as a human who eats and sleeps and poops. Talk about messy and uncomfortable! And the Word who was with God, who was God, now speaks human words from a human mouth to other humans with human ears. There are bound to be some misunderstandings. 

For example, remember that time Jesus told his friends to eat his flesh and they all walked away? That’s awkward.

Or that time he was instituting the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith, and Judas just had to leave early? Major party foul.

Or that time his best friend denied even knowing him –three times?! Rejection.

Or that time he was sacrificing his life in atonement for our sins—naked, for the whole world to see. Uncomfy.

Or when he walked with his friends to Emmaus while they told him the whole story of his own death—all while not even recognizing him? I can actually feel the awkwardness from here. 

And here lies the greatest lesson about awkwardness. Jesus didn’t shy away from it. He embraced it. Jesus knows the awfulness of being misunderstood, rejected, and uncomfortable, and he takes it anyway. He takes it because he loves us. He takes on the fullness of the fall, including our awkwardness, to redeem us and make us whole again.

To be human is to be imperfect. To be human is to be awkward. But what a comfort it is to know that Jesus walks with us in our discomfort! He knows what it means to be awkward and to embrace it. I hope that you will join me, sisters, in looking to Christ as our example of holy awkwardness. Let’s embrace it with Him!