Don’t waste your awkwardness.
One of the saddest realities of life is that the things we need to talk about the most, we tend to talk about the least—from bouts with depression to sexual struggles to parent-wounds that never seem to heal. Raise these issues out loud, and wait for the awkward silence. But those awkward moments are precisely where we find connection with God and one another.
In This is Awkward, Sammy Rhodes talks directly, honestly, and hilariously (because sometimes we need to laugh) about the most painfully uncomfortable subjects in our lives. In chapters like “Parents Are a Gift (You Can’t Return Them)” and “D is for Depression,” he boldly goes where most of us fear to tread, revealing that we can be liberated by the embrace of a God who knows the most shameful things about us and loves us all the same. Because nothing is too awkward for God.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Sammy Rhodes is a campus minister with Reformed University Fellowship at the University of South Carolina. Rhodes is frequently invited to speak at conferences and churches on topics including anxiety and depression, approval, the Internet, pop culture, humor, theology, and leadership. Rhodes also has a popular Internet presence, which has been highlighted in Huffington Post, Salon, Paste, and Christianity Today.
Read an Excerpt
This is Awkward
How Life's Uncomfortable Moments Open the Door to Intimacy and Connection
By Sammy Rhodes
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 Samuel McBride Rhodes II
All rights reserved.
DON'T WASTE YOUR AWKWARDNESS
2:08 p.m., Friday, July 18, at Drip Coffee
MAYBE IT'S BETTER TO START WITH AN OUTLINE? ALSO I find myself avoiding writing like an introvert trying to avoid a guy with an acoustic guitar at a party. I'm nervous about the topic. Is awkwardness relatable enough? Biblical enough? Sellable enough? Writing feels like trying to find the vein for a needle to release the blood that will save lives. Okay, that could be a seriously overinflated view of writing. I'm sitting in Drip. I just ordered a tasty tomato special. I took my first Uber today. I'm typing words because I need to get into a "flow," but it's not working. Also I saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with a friend while at "lunch." When I go to the movies during the day, I feel like Don Draper on Mad Men, except I'm not cheating on my wife and don't have a drinking problem. Oh, my sandwich just came so hold that thought. ... That was delicious. I got fruit because I'm trying to lose weight. Getting fruit instead of chips feels like the adult thing to do, which is another way of saying the "unfun" thing to do. Being an adult is hard. Back to the book. Where should I start? This whole book feels like a giant beach ball greased up with sunscreen, and I can't quite hold on to it long enough to get under water without it slipping out of my hands again. Writer Anne Lamott says somewhere that most of the time you have to put butt in chair and write, write, write. Seems like Super Glue would help. So it's 2:20 p.m. now, and I need some Super Glue.
If we had to make our relationship with awkwardness Facebook official, we probably would have to choose the "it's complicated" option. On the one hand, we are drawn to awkwardness. It's in the shows we love: The Office, Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, and New Girl. It's in the actors and comics we love too: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Zooey Deschanel, Amy Poehler, Ty Burrell, Ricky Gervais, Louis C. K., and Jim Gaffigan. We can't seem to get enough of awkwardness.
And yet we are terrified of it, especially of being marked with what my friend Les Newsom calls the new scarlet letter: "A" for "awkwardness." One of our greatest fears is leaving a party only to have friends lock eyes with each other and complain about how awkward we are. We might be drawn to it, but there's still a social stigma in awkwardness we would like to avoid.
Maybe we haven't yet realized that we are both drawn to awkwardness and afraid of it because deep down we are all awkward people. Just think about the last time you were in an elevator. Everyone's awkwardness shines a little brighter in an elevator.
I probably should define awkwardness. I don't mean wearing Crocs with socks (if you do, please gently lay down this book and text your most fashionable friend for help), or that you make small talk look harder than solving a Rubik's cube, or that you're the person everyone avoids introducing new people to at a party.
What I mean is that there's a gap between what you are and what you should be, a disconnect between the real you and the ideal you. What awkward moments (and people) do is simply shine the spotlight on that gap, revealing the cracks in our humanity, no matter how shiny and cool we may seem on the outside.
I remember the first time this came home to me in a real way, even if it's taken me years to learn how to articulate it. I was sitting in the world's saddest movie theater in Sumter, South Carolina, taking in Meet the Parents for the first time. And I suddenly realized that I was Ben Stiller. From the painful conversations to the desperate attempts at validation, I had never seen a movie that so perfectly captured the awkwardness that was my life.
Say the wrong thing. Do the wrong thing. Think the wrong thing. Repeat. Is that a life motto I can get tattooed somewhere?
For a long time I thought being awkward was a mething. But then I realized it's an us-thing. Some of us may feel more awkward than others, and some of us may act more awkward than others. At the end of the day, all of us not only have moments that make us feel awkward, we also have parts of our lives that are awkward to talk about.
One of my favorite awkward moments involves a friend. He was in college but home for the summer. The important thing to know is he was a full-grown man. And for some reason that day as he stepped out of the shower he decided that he would go downstairs wearing nothing but a towel and surprise his mom. And he did, by slipping off the towel and doing a naked dance as his mom talked on the phone.
The reason I love that story so much, besides how hilariously awkward it is, is that even though my friend was simply doing something he thought would be funny, the image illustrates a deep longing to be known and loved. The truth about awkward moments is that they're awkward because we long to be embraced as we are, not as we should be.
Again, that's what awkwardness is, the gap between what we should be and what we actually are. Life is awkward because it doesn't go the way that it should go. People are awkward because they don't do and say and think what they should do and say and think. All of us are awkward because all of us experience this gap in some way.
The gaps are hard to talk about, though, because they expose us for who we really are: someone who falls "short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). The problem is, like the bad guys at the end of Scooby-Doo, we hate being exposed. But awkwardness is always an invitation to admit the truth about who we really are. And that makes us vulnerable, which is hard. Will anyone really love me if they see all the places where I fall short?
A few years ago I met with a student who had lived most of his life with a porn addiction. He got into it early by accident. But that accident gradually gave way to dependency, and what once seemed intriguingly gross transformed into a way of coping with the stresses and failures of life.
Over coffee he told me that sex, much less pornography addiction, was simply not something that was ever discussed in church. He grew up in one of those gospel-centered, published-author, preachers-whose-podcasts-you-download kind of churches. His family felt the same way. As in many good Southern families, sex was simply not something appropriate to talk about. Ever.
What he said nearly broke my heart: "Because no one ever talked about porn, I felt like it must be the worst sin in the world, and so I was so scared and ashamed to tell anyone about it." What my student was describing was shame.
One of the saddest realities of life is the things we need to talk about the most are the things we tend to talk about the least. Shame is often the culprit. Author and speaker Brene Brown says that shame only needs three things to survive: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you look behind your awkward moments, you will almost always find shame.
Shame is exactly what Adam and Eve experienced in the Bible in Genesis 3. After failing in a pretty spectacular way, they were incredibly afraid to meet God, so they covered themselves with fig leaves and hid. It was the first awkward moment in the history of the universe; it was the first walk of shame, too, and it happened to be away from God. It's hard to know exactly what Adam and Eve were thinking after they realized their sin. They seem to do a good bit of minimizing, blaming, and covering. Instead of going to God in their newly realized nakedness, they tried to handle it themselves. Why? Shame.
Shame, simply put, is the subjective experience of objective guilt. It's that moment where we know and feel that we've done something wrong. It's always easier to live in shame than in vulnerability, to try to hide and cover ourselves instead of going to God (and others) with our brokenness. Adam and Eve covered their nakedness and hid from God, rather than being vulnerable with him about what really happened. Shame is like the invisibility cloak in Harry Potter, except the reason you don't want people to see you is that you're afraid if they really did they would run.
A few months ago I was grabbing dinner with a friend, and we were talking about our weeks. That particular week had been hard for me because a pastor-friend in town had been invited to speak at the biggest ministry on our campus. So I started talking about how jealous I was of him, and how hard it was for me to be around him because I get really insecure over how gifted he is. As I was saying these things, I happened to glance behind me, and there sat his best friend. He'd heard everything but played it off really well. It's in the top ten awkward moments of my life, one of those moments when I wished I had Professor X's mutant powers so I could wipe away that memory from ever happening.
As I was driving home that night, though, it struck me that this awkward moment could actually be a gift of God's grace. A moment pregnant with awkwardness could also be a moment when friendship is born because the only thing worse than confessed insecurity and jealousy is unconfessed insecurity and jealousy, even if it does make things ten thousand times more awkward.
What God did for Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 is something we desperately need to look at. He looks for them, and instead of scolding them when he finds them, he asks them some heart-searching questions. When God asks questions he doesn't do so like a passive-aggressive mother-i n-l aw, looking to scold or shame; he does so as a loving father who cares for the well-being of his children.
Then he does something so remarkable we could easily miss it. He tells them to take off the fig leaves because he has a new set of clothes for them to put on, clothes he himself provides from the skins of the newly named animals in the garden. Instead of shaming them, he covers their shame. Like a parent dressing a child, he clothes and protects them to keep them safe and warm. His gracious action is what enables them to risk vulnerability. Perhaps the apostle Paul had this in mind when he later wrote that "God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance" (Rom. 2:4).
The story of Adam and Eve is the first place in the Bible that points toward salvation through sacrifice. In order for Adam and Eve to live, something had to die. In order for them to be covered, something had to be stripped. The Bible says this is exactly what Jesus came to do for us; the Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world. At the cross Jesus was stripped so that we might be covered. The reason we can be vulnerable is that the God of the universe was first vulnerable for us. Because he has secured our forgiveness — the once-and-for-all taking away of our shame — vulnerability goes from being a life-threatening act to a life-giving one.
When my youngest daughter was three, she played hide-and-seek badly. She would find her hiding spot, typically a closet upstairs, close herself in with the doors not quite shut, and then loudly begin to say, "In here! I'm in here!" until someone found her. She loved to hide, but she wanted to be found.
So do we. We love to hide from each other. We hide our flaws, our defects, and anything we feel will make us look like we don't have it all together. We hide how we're really doing, even from our closest friends and family. Because, like Adam and Eve, we're afraid the person who finds us will condemn and judge us. So we lock ourselves away, resolving to never share the things in our lives that are killing us: broken relationships with parents, lust that's blossoming into addiction, depression that's overwhelming us to the point of wanting to end it all, a relationship with food that makes us hate and do harmful things to our bodies.
But we still long to be found. It's why websites like PostSecret and Tumblr exist. They are places where we can talk freely about our struggles without running the risk of being judged by our family, friends, or potential employers. The problem with being vulnerable online with people who barely know us versus being vulnerable in real life with friends and family is that it never quenches the thirst we have to be both known and loved. Being found involves both: being really known and truly loved.
1:24 p.m., Saturday, July 19, in my bed
MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, THE KIDS SLEPT IN UNTIL almost eleven this morning. But then so did I. I stayed in bed until noon like I'm a college kid. My mom is visiting, which is why I had the luxury of sleeping in. Connecting with my mom isn't exactly easy. What do we talk about? Someone close to her is in jail right now, and it's affecting her way more than I thought it would. Sadly my first thought upon hearing the news was, You should watch Orange Is the New Black on Netflix. Maybe my spiritual gift is genuinely believing TV shows make everything magically better. Hard to describe the oneness I feel with Don Draper and Tony Soprano and Walter White and, oddly, Liz Lemon. Honestly, I probably watch television to fill the time normally spent being afraid to do something. Also started Stephen King's book on writing this afternoon. Even prayed that the Lord would make it helpful to me to start writing my book. That sentence still doesn't feel right. My book. Why should I write a book? Can I write a book? Those are the twin demons messing with me right now. "Can" and "should." Still no golden tablets from heaven telling me exactly what I should do.
When I say vulnerability, I don't mean the fake vulnerability that loves confession and hates repentance, the kind that we use as a tool to get others to like us. Vulnerability in the name of approval is at best a trick, at worst a way of deep deception. I mean the kind of vulnerability that brings the innermost thoughts out from behind the closed doors in our minds. The kind that begins to put words to our deepest struggles. It brings things from the secrecy of the dark to the transparency of the light.
This is where grace comes into the picture. We will never risk vulnerability unless we believe in the kind of grace that says you are loved where you are, not where you've been pretending to be. The good news is that grace is precisely for those who've been hiding because they know they've fallen into that gap between what they should be and what they are. This is also the bad news about grace. It's only for those who have stopped pretending and admitted where they really are. It's for those who, like the tax collector in Jesus' parable in Luke 18, keenly feel the wideness of that gap between what they are and what they should be so they can only pray, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
The reason vulnerability is hard is that we don't believe in this kind of grace. Many of us aren't open about our struggles because grace hasn't moved from a concept to a reality. We're like Isaiah in the temple: we'll never have a true sense of our brokenness until we meet the living God, and we'll never have a true sense of his grace until he meets us with his unspeakable forgiveness (Jer. 6). God's grace makes the vulnerability that used to seem impossible, possible. Because we know that his love and acceptance don't depend on what we do but on what he has done. So the moment we cry with Isaiah, "Woe is me," is the same moment we hear the voice of God singing over us, "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3).
It's the same with Adam and Eve: the moment they began to tell God what they had done was the same moment God began to cover their shame. This seems to be something like a principle in the Bible. The more you get to know God, the more you get to know yourself in all your awkwardness; and the more you get to know yourself, the more you get to know God in all his grace and mercy.
Awkwardness is an invitation to vulnerability, and vulnerability is where intimacy and connection are born. Awkwardness is also an invitation to throw yourself upon the grace that makes vulnerability possible at all. In the words of author and speaker Adam Kotsko,
Social orders arise and perhaps evolve and eventually fall, but awkwardness will endure as long as we remain human because it is what makes us human. What Ricky Gervais and Judd Apatow point toward ... is indeed an awkwardness so awkward it becomes its own kind of grace — it is the peculiar kind of grace that allows us to break down and admit that we are finally nothing more or less than human beings who will always be stuck with each other and, more importantly, to admit that we are glad of it.
Excerpted from This is Awkward by Sammy Rhodes. Copyright © 2016 Samuel McBride Rhodes II. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Don't Waste Your Awkwardness, 1,
Chapter 2: Parents Are a Gift (You Can't Return Them), 13,
Chapter 3: D Is for Divorce, 33,
Chapter 4: The Porn in My Side, 47,
Chapter 5: D Is Also for Depression, 69,
Chapter 6: I Kissed Marriage Hello After Kissing Dating Goodbye, 89,
Chapter 7: Where Friendship Is Born, 111,
Chapter 8: Calling All Introverts (They Probably Won't Pick Up), 127,
Chapter 9: Donuts Are a Whole Food If You Take Out the W, 139,
Chapter 10: Tweeting Ourselves to Death, 155,
Chapter 11: Side-Hugging Jesus, 169,
Appendix A: An Introvert's Guide to Surviving a Party, 187,
Appendix B: A Social Media Manifesto, 191,
About the Author, 205,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.5 "The more you get to know God, the more you get to know yourself in all your awkwardness; and the more you get to know yourself, the more you get to know God in all His grace and mercy." This week seems to be the memoir week of reviews, but the good news is they have been fabulous and This is Awkward is no different. Vulnerable, honest, refreshing, and meant to encourage the reader and it does just that. "We will never risk vulnerability unless we believe in the kind of grace that says you are loved where you are, not where you've been pretending to be." Like I mentioned early, I wasn’t expecting this book to as vulnerable as it is. Sammy is 100% open, vulnerable and honest. I loved that. I don't think authors, speakers, bloggers, etc., know the full extent the ripples reach when sharing their story. God uses these things far more than we can imagine. He also quotes C.S. Lewis often, so things can't go wrong when you include Jack. "[God] knows us at our worse yet loves us at His best." Throughout the book, there are several journal type entries. While I’m maybe not 100% on board with them, they didn't ruin the experience either. They’re almost like the commercials during your favorite show. Some funny, some thoughtful. They give you a moment to digest what you've been reading and understand the author more (which in a memoir like this, is important), but when you're really into your show, you don't always want to be stopped. Not sure if that helps or confuses y'all, but it was different, so I thought worth mentioning! Or maybe I'm thinking too much about The Walking Dead season finale (no, I haven’t recovered) :) Also, this line cracked me up because I have 100% thought this: "Sometimes the church talks about singleness as if it were similar to being chosen for HufflePuff by the Magic Sorting Hat in Harry Potter." P.S. I completely agree with your thoughts on LOST, Sammy. I still haven't recovered from the treacherous ending. Do y’all follow Sammy on Twitter? What are some of your recent memoir finds? (Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review) Originally posted at http://booksandbeverages.org/2016/04/07/awkward-sammy-rhodes-book-review/
I first heard of Sammy Rhodes when he was a speaker at Influence Conference in 2014. So when I saw his book, I was immediately intrigued. And I wasn't disappointed. I remember him being funny at Influence, but his book brings his comedic stylings to new heights. He is so frank and candid about himself, his awkwardness and even mistakes he's made in the past. [Like the time he got accused of plagiarism.] He brings to light important topics that no one wants to talk about because they're...you guessed it, AWKWARD. Topics such as depression, sexual issues, parent problems, divorce, and being an introvert in an extrovert's world. I think my favorite parts were just how relatable he is, and the fact that I literally laughed out loud multiple times. He'll make you nod your head in agreement and wonder why no one else has been courageous enough to address these issues in such a real way. I highly suggest this book for anyone who wants a vulnerable look into some of today's biggest issues, while laughing your way through the hard truth.
In “This is Awkward,” Sammy Rhodes addresses topics no one else wants to address, especially in the Church, but also in the general population. Every time I’ve heard Sammy speak it reminds me of Brad Paisley’s “Letters to Me,” where Sammy is 30-something me, talking to 23 year old me. “This is Awkward” evokes the same feeling. In Chapter 6, Sammy shares some of the best wisdom I’ve ever heard on marriage. Chapter 10, “Tweeting Ourselves to Death,” resonated with me deeply, having been the guy behind the social media of two large ministries during college. Finally, Chapter 11, “Side-Hugging Jesus,” was nothing like I expected it to be but everything I needed to be. Sammy doesn’t just tie up loose ends and put a pretty bow on the book. It’s real, raw, and honest. “This is Awkward” certainly didn’t disappoint me, and I bet it won’t disappoint you either.