Please enjoy this sneak peek from Chapter 1 of my forthcoming book Socially Awkward: Pressing Through Discomfort to Engage Tough Topics, releasing October 8, 2021.
And be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for a personal note!
From Chapter 1 of Socially Awkward
Questioning is part of the human experience, and with the rise of internet use, many of our questions are now going directly to search engines. While we’ve all been known to search online for the occasional fact (say, what year World War II ended), in recent years, people have shifted from searching for confirmatory facts to searching the web for solutions. People are turning to the web for answers to their problems, and not just simple ones like “How do I get rid of bed bugs?” and “How do I get over jet lag?” They’re turning to Google for help facing deep, meaningful issues, from “Why did I get married?” to “How to have sex?” and “What is the meaning of life?”
Of course, they’re not asking Google. They’re using Google as a tool to find articles, videos, and solutions from “experts”—which, on the internet, is definitely something you need to question. Because while Google’s algorithm will ensure that searchers find the most popular answer, there’s no guarantee they’ll find one that’s both truthful and compassionate.
But why are people making these searches at all? Why are they turning to the internet as a first, last, or perhaps only resort? Why aren’t they reaching out to friends, family members, faith leaders, and support systems instead?
Most people tend to avoid awkwardness when they can. Many would much rather type “Why do I have this weird rash?” into a search engine than consider showing their inflamed skin to another living, breathing human being. And when it comes to asking tough questions, they’d rather ask a search engine than a friend.
Believe me, I get it. I’ve had my share of rashes in my time, along with my share of questions I’m embarrassed to ask. I’m not one to shy away from confrontation, but even I’m guilty of avoiding awkward conversations from time to time.
In fact, on the day I outlined this very chapter, I found myself lingering in the frozen food section of my neighborhood market, intensely reading the packaging of some frozen potatoes. Not because I’m especially interested in the potassium and sodium levels but because I thought I’d seen someone out of the corner of my eye whom I just didn’t have the bandwidth to engage. At least, that’s what I told myself at the time. The truth was a little more complicated, and I wouldn’t have confronted it directly if I hadn’t been working on this chapter.
Why did I stand in the open door of the freezer aisle, living a lie and shivering as I pretended to ponder potatoes? Because this person and I have a history. At one time, we’d been friends, but our relational breakdown hadn’t been within my control. This person had abruptly departed from our church under strained circumstances. I wasn’t exactly part of the situation that had led to the departure, but I had grown up in church. Spending my entire life either with family members in church leadership or being a leader myself, I’d been on the receiving end of more than my share of misplaced hostility. I’d never quite learned to navigate these situations with grace. As a result of that long history—more so than my history with the person in question on that day—I felt I didn’t have the energy to deal with whatever was about to happen when our eyes met. At least, that’s what I told myself. So, I stood in the notch of an open freezer door, praying for the glass to fog over quickly and shield me.
Who Will Stand in the Gap?
In Ezekiel 22, God sends his prophet to confront the inhabitants of Jerusalem for their sins. He lists them in detail. They’ve shed blood, slandered others, worshiped idols, and committed lewd sexual acts. Their leaders—the princes, priests, and prophets—have been systematically abusing their power, profaning God’s holiness while covering for each other’s indiscretions. Extortion, oppression, and injustice reigned. In the midst of this, God says he’s looked for a mediator, someone to stand in the gap as Moses had done during the wilderness wanderings. “But,” God says, “I found none.”
This isn’t to say that God can’t find things when he looks for them or that he can’t raise up righteous people when they’re needed. In making this statement audible, he is proving a point—much like a mom who’s asked her daughter countless times to put on her shoes and eventually peeks into her child’s room, saying, “I’m looking for a little girl with shoes on so I can take her to the park, but I can’t find one.” The point isn’t God’s lack but ours. Left to ourselves, we don’t naturally rise up, confront oppressors, rebuke sin and wickedness, deal with tough issues, ask awkward questions. It’s in our nature to seek an easy way out.
Without God’s direct intervention, we would be done for. Humanity is lost, and we cannot save ourselves. Fortunately, there is One who came to serve as ultimate Mediator between sinners and a holy God. In response to our lack of ability, Jesus came incarnate, walked among us, and endured the shame of the Cross. But it was impossible for death to hold him. Jesus is now risen from the dead, ascended, and sitting at the right hand of God the Father, ever interceding on our behalf.
Jesus did the work that allowed us to be reconciled to God—a work that involved suffering, pain, shame, and death. As ones who have received the benefits of his labors, we’re in a better position (and should be all the more motivated) to become reconcilers ourselves. That means we not only point others toward reconciliation in Christ, but we also show the world what it looks like to be reconciled with God and with each other. This doesn’t happen on its own. It is an active work. Because we have been justified, we now do justice. Because we’re at peace with God, we now seek peace and pursue it.
In answering such a call, we cannot reasonably expect to avoid discomfort. No task involving such demanding verbs could ever be easy. Nor can we act as reconcilers if we’re intent on building unnecessary walls to keep others out and our own messes safely hidden. No more hiding behind fogged glass clutching our bags of frozen potatoes.
If we’re to take our spiritual responsibilities seriously, we must be willing to do the right thing when it’s necessary. To be brave, step out in faith, overcome our awkwardness, and engage tough topics.
The Most Asked Questions on Google.” Mondovo. https://www.mondovo.com/keywords/most-asked-questions-on-google (accessed December 7, 2019).
II Corinthians 5:17-21.
Micah 6:8; 1 Peter 3:11.
Socially Awkward releases October 8, 2021 and is currently available for pre-order. Paperback preorders have actually been shipping early, and if you pre-order now, you may even have a copy in your hot little hands before official release date!
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Read your copy of Socially Awkward in your own socially awkward tee or hoodie!
On a personal note, sometimes it’s hard for me to process just how quickly my life has changed over the last two years. It’s truly been a wonder to experience. God has been really good to me and blessed my work, and I don’t take that for granted.
Of course, none of the progress I’ve made as a writer would be possible without him—or without readers.
Thank you so much for sticking with me as I went from blogging to floundering and flailing to pitching to publishing, then back to floundering and flailing, and through the entire process again.
Thanks for sticking around through each cycle.
I love you guys!