Column: awkward communication can still serve the kingdom

By Mikaleh Offerman, Copy Editor

In my two decades on this planet, I have had a lot of crushes. Zac Efron, young Leonardo DiCaprio, this weird kid in my sixth-grade math class who only wore flip-flops (even in the dead of winter), this other guy that my mom accidentally knocked into a wall when I was in seventh grade… the list could go on and on.

For the most part, if I had a crush on someone, I did not speak to him. In fact, I pretended that he did not exist. This started in elementary school and carried on through high school. Specifically, to the latter half of high school.

This guy was probably the nicest person I’ve ever met in my life. If he walked into a room, I walked out. If we passed each other in the hallway and he was walking with someone I knew, I would say hi to everyone but him. Basically, I came off as straight up cold, mean and indifferent. I was, as the colloquial term goes, straight up savage.

I was, as the colloquial term goes, straight up savage.

Let me sum up my façade in a few words: brain-freezing panic. When he wasn’t around, I was fine. I would pep-talk myself into speaking to him. In my head, I would smile at him in a friendly, distinctly normal way, and he would smile back. Then, we would proceed to have a normal conversation.

I would make normal and socially acceptable eye contact. He would speak, and I would speak, and we would have a normal conversation. In short, I would convince myself that I could have an actual interaction with him. Then reality would hit – or, more accurately, he walked in, and my heart jumped into my throat while my brain fried, and I forgot everything I ever thought I knew about myself, the world and social conduct.

To protect myself from potential embarrassment–because it’s pretty mortifying when you want to make a good impression but your brain has decided that you’re actually a blubbering carrot stick–my defense mechanism would kick in, and I would act like he did not exist. Thus, our interactions were limited at best, non-existent at worse.

CheeseThe irony of this whole situation is that as I did this, I simultaneously wished that he would ask me on a date. Not that I have much experience, but even now I’m certain that in order to go on a date with someone, you must first be able to communicate coherently with them. Needless to say, I wanted opportunities to talk to him. However, I refused to even be in the same vicinity as this guy.

I’ve heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome each time. With that in mind, I guess I was acting a little insane because the cycle of ignoring, yet expecting him to speak with me, continued for a very long time.

That is, until the day I marched right up to him, looked him dead in the eyes and with all the normalcy I could muster, said hello. Just like that. Hello. I may or may not have sounded a little constipated because I felt like I was having an allergic reaction to air, and my eye contact could have been toned down several notches, but I had done it. I had said hello.

I think most people might have be weirded out by such a direct and moderately aggressive approach, but he was a nice guy, so he smiled and said hello back. Before I AwkFlirtingknew it, we were having a conversation and I no longer felt like I was on the verge of choking on my spleen. This was good. I could do this, or so I told myself.

A few weeks later, it happened. We were standing outside by my car, chatting. I knew he was about to ask me out. Don’t ask me how. I just knew.

“What are you doing Saturday?”

He said it so casually.

Here’s how the conversation should have progressed.

Him: What are you doing Saturday?

Me (casually): I’m going to my friend’s wedding.

Him: Oh, cool! Wanna go to a movie or something that night?

Me (in a completely NORMAL tone of voice): Yes, of course!

Here’s how the conversation actually happened.

Him: What are you doing Saturday?

Me (panicked): Imbusy.

Him: Oh, cool! Wanna go to a movie or something that night?

Me (breathing heavily): NO.

Then I got in my car and made it halfway home before I processed what had just happened. I pulled over by a grove of trees and banged my forehead on my steering wheel a few times until I slipped and hit the horn, scaring myself as well as a bunch of birds who were peaceful chilling on the telephone pole. That little scare was enough to put me back into my right mind.

In reflecting on my laughable actions here, I’m reminded of other times that I’ve been presented with something I literally asked God for and then I turn it down or ignore it.

How often do I pray that God would give me opportunities to share His Word or speak His name, then blatantly ignore them? How often do I ignore hurting people and then expect them to come to me seeking the Lord?

How often have I been presented with someone seeking the Lord and looked them in the eye as I changed the subject.

Yes, prayer is so good and so powerful. I need to pray for people and for opportunities. But, then I must act on them. Sometimes, that means I need to take initiative. If I ignore what’s going on around me, no matter how hard I pray for an opportunity to comfort someone or fulfil a need for them, it’s not going to happen. I need to learn how to make the first move.

As a woman, I’ve been told my whole life that I need to find a guy who will pursue me. The idea that a woman should wait to be pursued is something that receives a lot of hype.

Here’s the problem with that. I let the desire to be pursued leak over into my everyday life. I can curl up in my polka dot blanket and sit at my desk every morning praying for God to use me; however, if I don’t set foot out of my room, it’s not going to happen.

The moment I start expecting lost and hurting people to pursue me is the moment I lose my effectiveness as an ambassador for the Lord. At the end of Matthew, Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to sit tight and let people come to them. He told them to go out and pursue others.

So, today I’m going to pray that God would use me, and then I’m going to go out and be useful. Even if occasionally I end up choking on my own spleen, I will strive to look opportunity in the eye (for perhaps a few seconds too long) and say “bring it.”

I may have many more stilted, awkward exchanges in the future, but I think I would regret having no conversation at all.

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