The most awkward of my awkward stages didn't really begin until high school -- when we expressed ourselves via xanga (mortifying, I know), made kissing faces at the camera (embarrassing), and tried to get our flirt on via AIM and/or texting (alert -- that article is real -- I'm dying...). Yeah, I was really cool... It was great...
Thus throughout high school, awkward triumphed time and time again. Like any other seemingly evil power though, good is the ultimate victor, and by senior year, I had slowly begun to emerge from the days of braces, acne, and running away at the sight of a cute boy -- though that last awkward tendency does still occasionally creep up on me every once and a while.
Obviously there are still moments in which I am probably incredibly awkward, but I no longer feel awkward every mili-second of every day as was the case in high school.
Perhaps that is partly due to maturity increase with age, but most of it, I think, is simply learning to be at peace with who you are -- more than that even -- learning to rejoice for who you have been created to be! One of my favorite quotes was written by Rob Bell, who I know is rather controversial, but this little snippet of his writings is, in my opinion, some serious truth.
"You can't be connected with God until you're at peace with who you are. If you're still upset that God gave you this body or this life or this family or these circumstances, you will never be able to connect with God in a healthy, thriving, sustainable sort of way. You'll be at odds with your maker. And if you can't come to terms with the life you've been given, you'll never be able to accept others and how they were made and the lives they've been given. And until you're at peace with God and those around you, you will continue to struggle with your role on the planet, your part to play in the universe."
AMEN, brother. Seriously.
I could be totally wrong here, but it's my hunch, that we go through the awkward years to teach us to appreciate the sane ones. And more than that, the awkward years teach us how to appreciate an individual not for his or her outer appearance, but for his or her heart. If we learn from what those years taught us, we learn that everyone feels self-conscious about something. Everyone wants to be liked -- even if they act like they don't care. Everyone wants to be a part of something. Basically, everyone just wants to be accepted.
In my opinion, awkwardness is almost completely about perception. Our own awkwardness, while it may effect our speech or the way we present ourselves, is rooted in the way we perceive ourselves. How we perceive ourselves is often then how we present ourselves to others. If we perceive ourselves to be awkward, we will probably be awkward around other people -- thus making them feel awkward too. But if we perceive ourselves as "accepted" than we will be accepting around others -- thus making them feel accepted, as well.
I think for believers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, acceptance is one of the most crucial elements of the faith. It is written that believers of Christ will be known by their love for others. How can you possibly love someone if you cannot accept him or her -- as he or she is? You can't. And as it is mentioned in the quote by Rob Bell, it is very challenging to fully accept another individual if you cannot accept yourself.
I write about this a lot, but the uniqueness of every individual is one of the most precious parts of life. Each one of my friends is so special and different, and I love that about them. They wouldn't be the people I love if they were all the same.
Maybe you grew up drinking your coffee black. Maybe you're an early morning riser. Or maybe you wake up every morning and put on a pair of rose-colored glasses through which you see the world. Maybe you have every word of every episode of FRIENDS memorized. Or perhaps you're more of a James Bond buff. Maybe you can't wait to grow up and move to the Middle East. Maybe you have a seemingly slightly obscure obsession with spiders. Maybe you've dreamt your whole life of joining the AARP and getting senior citizen discounts and early bird specials. It's possible.
Heck, I'm obsessed with learning and education and literacy and other cultures and photography. I love to frolic and spin in circles until I feel like I'm going to throw up. I sing all the time, and I can't carry a tune to save my life. I love watching CNN and HGTV, and I watch You've Got Mail every night before I go to bed. I talk to myself. I write fictional short stories -- often times pretending I'm the main character. Some girls my age want David Yurman jewelry for their birthdays and Christmas. I want a puppy, a hammock, a book, Modern Family on DVD, and some new coffee mugs. My idea of a perfect date wouldn't be some fancy dinner and a movie but a just a simple picnic in a park with pb&j and maybe some hazelnut coffee -- as long as we got to swing afterward.
I'm kidding. I was actually referring more to a swing set. But hey, I love to dance too! When I had a bit too much to drink on my 21st birthday, I started conjugating verbs in Spanish. I love researching for research papers. I teach the kids I babysit about weird things like the importance of getting good gas mileage and to love and respect other cultures. I read at least four story books aloud to them every day. (And when I say them, I mean her... And she's two months old... So... I don't really know how much of it she actually comprehends...) I'm the weirdest! But I'm totally okay with it.
I know though that my peace about who I am and where I am in life is rooted only in the fact that I know I am accepted and loved by Jesus Christ. Even though I often times desire to be liked by others, when the day is done, no one's opinion matters but the opinion of Jesus. He knows everything about me and loves me JUST THE SAME. More than that, I believe we were all created with very specific likes and dislikes for a very important purpose.
He created us -- every detail about us. He knows us by name. He loves us -- unconditionally, forevermore. I've said this before, but I say it again because I believe it whole-heartedly -- May we never confuse our own perceptions of ourselves with the truth that we are accepted.
Jesus wants to wrap us up tightly in his arms every single day. He wants to be the first thing we think of when we wake up and the last word on our lips as we fall fast asleep. We cannot even begin to imagine the extent to which He loves us.
My first summer working as a counselor at Kanakuk, a young girl stood up on the last night of the term to say what she had learned. With tears in her eyes, she said, "Before coming to kamp, I felt like I wasn't good enough to be loved. I thought there was no way I would never get married because I wasn't pretty enough or smart enough or skinny enough or nice enough. But I've learned that it doesn't matter what I think about myself, I AM LOVED."
I quickly felt tears welling up in my eyes. I too had felt the same way. I had believed the lie that because I was too awkward, too weird, not pretty enough, not cool enough, no boy would ever fall in love with me. I was broken by her words because hearing them come from someone else, I realized how big the lies were that I had believed. Not only had I believed the lies, but I had claimed them over my life. Because I hadn't ever had a boyfriend, I had allowed myself to believe that there was something wrong with me -- that my relationship with Christ wasn't pure enough, that I had done something wrong, that there must have been something utterly repulsive about me.
It wasn't true, but I had begun to live my life as though it was true.
Our perceptions of ourselves will never be equivalent with how the Lord views us. However awkward we may feel, we are loved -- dearly loved. When we let go of our own perceptions of ourselves and embrace the truth that we are accepted, we will begin to liberate others, as well. People love to be around others who know they are loved unconditionally because when an individual knows he or she is loved without reservation, he or she knows often knows the love is undeserved, but it lasts forever.
None of us deserve the love that was exhibited to us on the cross or the unconditional love Jesus continues to pour upon us daily... But he loves us for exactly who we are -- despite all of our faults, failures, mistakes, hardships, overwhelming brokenness, meanness, hatred, pride, fear, anxiety, doubt, anger, He forgives us, accepts us, and seals us with kiss, marking us by a love that will never wither or fade.
"Jesus saw me, broken and battered, and said, 'I want her. I pick her. She is the one for me.'"
So put on your favorite Hillary Duff CD. Cut off a new pair of jorts. Recite the Preamble to the Constitution however many times you want. Finger-paint. Write a book! RUN THROUGH THE SPRINKLERS -- as long as you aren't wearing white. Shout praises to Jesus as loud as you can! Live LIFE FREELY because you are accepted, forgiven and LOVED.