June 9, 2010

The Awkwardness Within

2010 1516 page23 capS THERE A CODE OF ETIQUETTE FOR AWKWARD MOMENTS? FOR EXAMPLE, shouldn’t someone tell you when a small piece of black bean gets stuck in your front teeth? Why is it that you often discover it hours later, after too many broad smiles? How about having bad breath, or a revealing article of unzipped clothing that family and friends saw and said nothing? The accompanying feeling following the discovery of the impediment is inexplicable. It’s something like the ongoing awkwardness I’ve been experiencing recently.
Just over a decade ago I graduated from the seminary. In January this year I assumed responsibilities as a professor of homiletics at the same seminary. Some of my professors, whom I was trained to address as “Doctor” while in class, are now my colleagues. And I don’t know what to call them.
If I say their first name, I feel as if I’m violating an unwritten code of good manners from my British upbringing. Everything in me rebels against doing so unless I’m given permission. So when ?I see these respected, admired professors coming, I either dodge them, or nervously say, “Hi there!” No name, no title! The more time passes, the more awkward it gets.
2010 1516 page23Recently, at a faculty retreat, I felt like a fish out of water for not using anyone’s name. So I asked a few of my colleagues how they handle this and other awkward situations. To my surprise, not only did they relate to my discomfort, but they had no solutions for it.
I know this problem isn’t as significant as being unemployed, or living in a tent after losing everything in a devastating earthquake, but I think awkward moments are common enough to warrant consideration.
Generally, when awkward moments come, we don’t know what to do or where to turn. I’ve learned that when we don’t know where to turn for answers, we turn to what we know. And what I know is that the Word of God has the solution for every human dilemma.
Scriptures indicate that a lack of confidence in Christ leads to a loss of healthy self-esteem, which contributes to the fear of not being or doing right. My feelings of awkwardness result from a fear of rejection. So the obvious solution is a recovery of trust in myself and a faith in God that His perfect love and grace are sufficient in all situations.
What do you think? How about sharing some of your awkward experiences, and how you’ve handled or overcome them. Your advice might help eliminate some of the debilitating feelings awkwardness evokes in others.
While I wait for your suggestions, consider that feelings of awkwardness are connected with shame, a sure evidence of a lack of faith. This Paul knew by experience when he wrote: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16, 17).
In the gospel of Jesus Christ the distinction between us is faith, or the lack of it—not titles that elevate or humiliate. This kind of faith cannot be learned or earned. It’s a gift from God that increases “from faith to faith,” and grows by reading and meditating on Scripture.
E. M. Bounds, in The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer, wrote: “Faith is not an abstract belief in the Word of God, nor a mere mental credence, nor a simple assent of the understanding and will; nor is it a passive acceptance of facts, however sacred or thorough. Faith is an operation of God, a divine illumination, a holy energy implanted by the Word of God and the Spirit in the human soul—a spiritual, divine principle which takes of the supernatural and makes it a thing apprehendable by the faculties of time and sense.”
I’m finally ready to meet my colleagues and address them as I was raised, with respect. All other things will be added by faith. 
Hyveth Williams is a professor of homiletics at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan. This article was published June 10, 2010.