On my wife and I's honeymoon we cruised in the Caribbean's. Before we had to select what size of group we wanted to eat dinner with. Both my wife and I enjoy meeting new people and chose a large group 8+ to eat dinner with. We figured we would be placed with other just married couples or a combination of random people.
Our first night we dress up and head to the dining room. Struggling to find our table number we meander toward the back of the room. Finally our table comes into view. Immediately Emily and I look at each other as we notice the nine other people already sitting down. It was immediately apparent that these nine people were a family cruising together. So you can only imagine the awkwardness that first night as Emily and I imposed on their family dinner. I believe it was probably mutual as they waited to know who these two strange chairs were for and why they were placed with them. It was almost like the cruise line forgot about us and said, "Oh just throw two extra chairs in over there." But than again we did ask for a large group.
Emily and I had an opportunity to change tables after the first night however we decided to stay. Throughout the week, our relationship grew with this family as we learned about each other and our various cultures. The awkwardness slowly faded away as we and they became comfortable with one another. It was quite apparent the enjoyable relationship that was created by the greetings and conversation all of us had each night. By the end we felt like adopted members of their family.
I find this experience somewhat similar for those seeking a spiritual home. You come in not knowing what to expect but hold these previous experiences and perceptions. Questions float through our head. Will they accept me for who I am and how I am dressed? Will I do something stupid or say the wrong thing? Will they make me have to do something?
It's easy for us to stay at home and avoid the fear we have or the awkward interactions we think may come. However I guarantee if we push through our fear and allow the welcomeness of others to enter our lives we will find genuine relationship.
So let's explore the science of awkward situations, how they impact us when seeking a spiritual home, and why we need to push through them.
The Science of Awkwardness
All of us at some point find ourselves in an awkward situation. There is no way around it, it just happens. Many times we think about ourselves and how we acted, what we did, and how others will view us moving forward. However what we fail to realize in those moments is how everyone is living their own complex life leading most people to not focus or even remember those awkward moments. This video by the youtuber Vsauce describes the science behind awkwardness and how it can actually be a positive thing in our lives.
Attending a New Church is Awkward
I think attending a new church falls into the awkward category. I mean what other place do you go to that requires you sing and pray with strangers? I think most people would agree attending a new church stinks. Our anxiety heightens, sweat glands overreact, and we suddenly have no idea how to talk or act. This is especially true if we are going alone.
If you don't believe me check out the Recklessly Alive blog post "8 Reasons Being New to Church is the Worst Thing Ever" written by Sam Eaton. It's a great article describing the awkward situations he felt going to a new church. He also gives potential solutions for churches to make it more welcoming to new comers.
I can see why staying at home is easier. It stops any negative social interaction from possibly happening. On the other hand it also prevents any new positive experience from happening or developing a new relationship that may be just what you need.
Overcoming Awkwardness to Find a Spiritual Home
So why after all this talk about the difficulty of seeking a spiritual home would I encourage you to come to church. It's because people make a difference in our lives. When we can find individuals to share our beliefs, passions, and lives with it, it makes us happier, safer, and more welcoming of others.
Our faiths are a major part of who we are. Faith is meant to be lived communally. It is in our communal relationships where we truly understand what it means to live Christ's principles. Without relationships we and others miss the opportunity to know the divine through another's eyes. Now does that ultimately mean you need a spiritual home. Well no, its up to you. But a spiritual home can help your faith come alive and deepen the personal relationship you have with God. Why wouldn't you want to deepen your faith with others who also struggle along their own spiritual journey's? Because the reality is those that go to church struggle too. Our spiritual journey's are an adventure to be taken with others.
So if I did decide to look for a spiritual home, how do I overcome the awkwardness I'm trying to avoid? Well I think first you need to do your research. Search websites, talk with people, and look for a place that will be welcoming and inclusive to your needs. I also believe it starts with our mindset. We get what we are looking for, which means we need to focus on our intent and purpose of going, not on the social situations we find ourselves in. As with any situation, awkwardness fades the more we get to know others. If you still need other suggestions check out Trent Hamm's article "Seven Ways To Overcome Social Awkwardness That You Can Practice."
Hopefully wherever you find yourself on your journey you will remember awkwardness happens. I pray all of us will find genuine relationships in our lives where our faith deepens and speaks to our hearts through Christ like love.
Thank you all for following along to the blog. The Community of Christ World Conference in Independence starts this next week. I would encourage all of you to try to attend in person or online to the powerful worships they have planned.
This week live in that discomfort and do something new that would normally make you awkward.
4/4/2019 09:29:10 am
This topic reminds me of a story about how we treat visitors to our church. Unfortunately I have found this story of how the member’s of the congregation responded to the visitor, to be true in many of the congregations that I have visited. Then we wonder why people don’t come back.
4/5/2019 02:56:37 pm
Jim thanks for sharing your story! It makes me realize that when we cling onto things in our lives more than the relationships before us we have missed the point of welcoming and loving others. It's not that we have to give everything up to welcome but that we need to be aware of how our own preconceived notions and routines impact others.
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The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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