You sit across from me on the cozy cerulean chair cushion, chatter, clatter, and espresso machine buzzing around us, your lemon-yellow kerchief corralling lovely curls.
Me, legs curled criss-cross applesauce, snug on the vintage couch.
My hands curled around a decaf cinnamon breve with whip while you sip a mocha complete with a lovely chocolate drizzle.
My phone lays, gold pop socket up, on the round table diagonal from your iPhone and keys. Your macrame keychain makes a pretty puddle of aquamarine.
The screen door swings open and bangs lazily on hinges as a bevy of chattering teens exit balancing scones, phones, and iced coffees, rainbow straws swaying in the breeze.
You sit there across from me.
The easy, honest, guilt-free friendship between us carries trust and vulnerability.
We honor each other with the gift of bearing witness to one another’s stories.
Here’s what I say to you as I savor the cinnamon and whip, set my mug down, and lean in.
“I’ve been contemplating.
Life truly feels like a 95% mixture of awkwardness and acting.
About 93.8% of the time.”
I laugh a little, shrug, look in your eyes.
Knowing you, I anticipate your response.
Discussions, ideas, relationships, personalities, the ever-wrestling of becoming in Jesus.
These are the mix and medley among the ebb and flow of our conversations.
“Go on,” you say. “Flesh it out. This awkward and acting.”
I wrap fingers into the warmth of the tangerine coffee mug.
“It just seems…..” I pause.
It just seems my introverted self spends so much time either lurching awkwardly through life or playacting when my presence is required.
Do the next thing.
Show up and be kind.
Trying to laugh at myself when it all falls apart on me.
Sending my husband to the car for my long pink jacket because the zipper on my years-old favorite skirt separates out at a birthday party and my new cute sweater isn’t long enough to cover it.
Tripping over thin air.
Stumbling over my sandal toes.
Dishes that don’t end.
Our shower I can’t keep clean.
Scrawling the grocery list I’m always adding, adding, adding to while simultaneously throwing out the leftovers stuffed way back in the refrigerator for weeks too long.
The angry emotions that well up despite my attempts to stuff them.
Getting told I play games.
Hurts and scars I scramble to hide with butterfly strip band-aids at best.
Trying to trust. Who to trust?
Questions. Questions. Questions.
Not listened to.
Talked down to.
Tears and fears and more tears.
I’m fine. I’m fine. So fine. Why yes, so fine and grateful.
It’s hard to show up.
It’s hard to be real.
It’s hard to feel safe.
I circle the rim of my mug with my thumb.
“Is this common? Do other people feel this way?
Or do they genuinely show up without fear?
No insecurities? Confidence. No awkwardness. No need of playacting.
What is about me and my crippling doubts that make life feel threatening, overwhelming, engulfing?
I finger the buckle on my bag strap.
I continue. “I know all the cliques. The slogans. The bumper sticker or keychain quotes. The t-shirt mantras.
Jesus is Enough.
The Joy of the Lord is our Strength.
God is Good All the Time.
I Have Everything in Him.”
“I’m not even discounting them. Jesus is the love of my life.”
I hesitate. You hold your open palms toward me and nod gentle assurance.
“My counselor recently told me to welcome all my emotions. To show myself compassion. To give grace for being a human person. For showing up when life is hard.
Yet, I’m also hearing myself sit here and say, ‘Me, me, myself. All about me. How is it not selfish?”
It’s easier to step back into playacting.
I’m fine. So fine. Let me encourage you.
And then go home and berate myself for every awkward word I said.
“I know friend,” you say. “Oh, how I know. Same.”
“The thing is,” you continue. “We’re not as alone as we may think. There are more of us wrestling with doubts and questions and pushing back against the darkness than it often appears. Probably because we are pretty good at playacting our way through the maze of awkward.”
You throw back your head and laugh heartily at the absurdity of it all.
You have the best laugh, by the way. Deep from your chest in throaty melodious notes.
I let myself sit for a few minutes and soak into the soothing warmth of solidarity.
Tapping your phone, you scroll, glance up.
“I read these words in Psalms this morning. I think they’re for us. I think it’s a promise that Jesus is already present in every detail of awkward and acting.”
“I am counting on the Lord;
yes, I am counting on him.
I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
more than sentries long for the dawn,
yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.”
~ Psalm 130:5-6, NLT
“This makes me think of a favorite quote,” I tell you across our emptying mugs.
“I’m all ears.” You sip your mocha.
Ruth Haley Barton writes ~
“There are very few places where the soul is truly safe, where the knowing, the questions, the longings of the soul are welcomed, received and listened to rather than evaluated, judged, or even beaten out of us.”
“So good. It’s why we feel so much life is acting or awkward,” you affirm. “It sums it up.”
At this moment I am fine and grateful.
I tell you this.
“I’m deeply thankful for you. For offering me one of those few places. For bearing witness to my story. Hearing my hurts. My heart. Reaching toward my longings rather than running from them. Holding deep discussions and healing laughter. For showing up and showing me compassion and grace in my awkward attempts to learn to offer this to myself as well. For shining Jesus.”
You tip up your mug for the last bit of chocolate, rest your chin on the rim, hand curled around handle. Your eyes sparkle across the pottery.
“Same,” you say.