I’m that person who walks by a homeless person and – knowing the importance of responding, but not quite knowing what to do, say or how best to approach them – spends 10 minutes in the nearest clothes shop pretending to look through the jeans section, when in fact I’m rehearsing in mind my approach.
I’m that person who, seeing a glaring piece of litter on the pavement, wants to pick it up and place in the nearest bin, but hesitates because people don’t really seem to do that. I will look weird for being weird. Cue two walks around the block to analyse the bin options and bide time until no ones in sight. Bin identified and coast clear, I make my move. But wait, someone appears. I bottle it and walk on.
I’m that person who, during ministry at a summer festival, panics at seeing the girl in front of me on her own and needing prayer, but all other females in the vicinity are either praying or being prayed for. Do I step-up and pray, with feet and hand-of-prayer a respectable distance away from her to avoid the ‘inappropriate’ tag? Do I apologetically interrupt another prayer time to get another female onto the case? Or do I just pray for the girl in my mind? But then the girl may feel like nobody cares! Argh. I should have just gone forward for prayer myself, thereby avoiding the problem altogether.
I’m that person who, having just begun to sing – fairly loudly – the next verse of a song only to discover the instrumental bit had not quite ended, attempts to disguise error by taking on that look of innocence and quiet meditation.
I’m that person who, feeling particularly chirpy and inviting one Sunday morning, approaches a female friend with a bold hug rather than a safe handshake. Their light and cagey response tells me that was a wrong move.
I’m that person who, at the end of the service, approaches the fella who I have never seen before and asks: “Hello! Is this your first time with us?” “No,” he replies. “I’ve been coming for three months.” Oh.
I’m that person who, in conversation with someone who shares how life is tough currently, has no idea what to say or do, so settles for the safe: “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” Sometimes it helps, I think, but at other times I think it just annoys them.
I’m that person who, while talking to my neighbour in the office about faith, immediately checks my enthusiasm for Jesus when the hum of the office falls silent and everyone can then hear our conversation. What will they all think and who will I offend and annoy? The thought terrifies my people-pleasing tendencies.
And I am that person who, during a sermon, sits uncomfortably when the pastor makes clear their moral concern for a particular entertainment programme, when I put on Facebook that very week my love for the show. Forget the sermon – and slightly relieved the pastor does not have Facebook (I think) – I survey the room to identify those who likely saw my confession.
You may have raised a wry smile at some, or perhaps experienced some yourself. And you will have your own. Or perhaps it’s just me. The life of faith – and being a Brit – often takes us out of our comfort zone. It puts us into territory that is foreign to our often-conservative nature and individualistic society, not to mention further exposed to the expectations and opinions of believer and unbeliever alike.
Some embrace this with effortless poise. For others, we’re often bumbling along trying to get it right when at times we want the ground to swallow us up, or the rush of blood to the head to make swift retreat. And I always go bright red.
As I think on whatever our awkward confessions are, I think God smiles, forgives us when we need it, encourages us to go again and again and again, and reminds us how far we have come.
Oh, and I think we need to stop taking ourselves too seriously.
The awkward moments of life can lead to the most beautiful of moments – for us and our unwitting victims – so with that in mind I’ll keep going, even if my face will, at times, turn red like a tomato.