I lead a small group in downtown Minneapolis, and we are going through an eight-week study on various ways to care for other souls. This past week centered on the fact that because Jesus pursues us, we ought to pursue others in earnest, intentional ways. After the group listed several reasons why we might be slow to pursue others, someone said something along the lines of, “Well, it’s just awkward sometimes.” And I found myself saying first, “Yes, that is true!” And then, “Wait. What does ‘awkward’ really mean? And what does it say about our relationships with people?”
In an email that my wife sent to our small group, she winsomely captured “awkwardness.” She wrote,
If something is ‘awkward,’ it usually means it somehow doesn’t ‘fit.’ That can be in many contexts: clothing that doesn’t fit feels awkward, sentences with incorrect grammar sound awkward, one crooked picture hung on a wall with a bunch of straight ones looks awkward. In the same way, I think we tend to think of people as awkward if they stick out from most other people around them in some way (speech, appearance, social interactions, etc.) And as several of us said, things that differ from the ‘norm’ can make us feel uncomfortable.
So, what might not be “awkward” to one person just might be awkward to another. One brother in my small group said, “Sometimes we describe an entire person as awkward because their speech, appearance, social interaction, etc. diverge from what we typically are comfortable associating with.” And we often even avoid awkwardness—even if it is an entire person—to preserve our comfortability. Therefore, it’s readily manifest that embracing awkwardness isn’t natural; it takes effort, work, often lots of time, and perhaps most importantly, humility.
But as those who consider ourselves followers of Christ—the very Christ who fully embraced awkwardness to greet the foreigner, despite all of the effort, work, time, and suffering he would experience (Phil 2:2–8)—we follow his footsteps. Embracing awkwardness takes divine humility; your needs become secondary as you consider the other person more than yourself. “[I]n humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3–4).
We aren’t after mere small talk; rather, we want biblical intentionality. Christ is intentional with us, and he really knows the various struggles and weaknesses we all face (Heb 4:15). He knows this because he’s been through it already. Biblical intentionality that embraces awkwardness will seek to not only the basics of a person (e.g., name, ethnicity, hometown, etc.), but the inner-nuances of their soul (e.g., personality, various interests, personal struggles with sins, strengths, etc.).
Minneapolis, Minnesota—with its enormously diverse demographics—seems to be one of the most ideal places to practice this type of relational intentionality, and God has placed Bethlehem College & Seminary right in the city’s heart! May we be beacons of Christ-likeness to those around us as God helps us pursue such intentional, awkward encounters.
2nd Year Seminarian
- Pray we students at Bethlehem College & Seminary would lean hard into awkwardness and begin to not only pursue deeper, more meaningful relationships with one another, but also with nonbelievers in the Twin Cities.
- Pray for the small groups at Bethlehem Baptist Church, for they are, in many ways, the hands and feet of the church. Whole neighborhoods in Minneapolis could be radically changed by the Holy Spirit if more small groups embraced these “awkward” encounters.
- Pray for the burgeoning Bethlehem College Undergraduate House System, for at its core is an appeal to pursue others in the ways described above.