Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When Church is Awkward

Church is great, but people go to church, so sometimes church is awkward.

[source]

1. When the person next to me in class starts crying. I usually don't know why. Sometimes it's not even during a particularly emotional part of the lesson. In fact, it's in the first three minutes of the lesson and the teacher is still in the middle of a telling a funny story about her kids. This has happened to me surprisingly often--probably a sign that I haven't learned the proper response yet. Usually I don't know the person that well, so I just freeze, wondering if the person on the opposite side will know what to do. I'm not a touchy person, so I am loathe to give unsolicited hugs or arm pats or other awkward displays of sympathy ... and it's the middle of class so I can't just say, "Yeah, life is crap sometimes, do you want to go check the kitchen fridge for leftover ice cream and talk about it?" And what if they aren't even sad? What if they just saw an angel? Should I just force my arm to do the pat? Offer a baby wipe from my bag? Start crying myself? Ok, I'm going for the awkward pat.

I'm in the process of defusing my reluctant hand from my lap when the poor woman gets up and exits the room, leaving my stiff, palsied-looking hand poised the grope her now-absent shoulder. Should I follow her? Should I just stay in my seat while others judge me for not doing more to comfort her? Ahhhh, now I need an arm pat.

2.When someone shares false doctrine. We've all witnessed it. That dear brother in the ward starts talking about how he's sure his neighbor was one of the three Nephites because he saw a curelom in his backyard once (and I know this isn't true because all of the three Nephites were my neighbors in Boise). The room lingers in silence for a period before the poor teacher ends up giving a shaky-awkward "thanks for your comment."

Curellama? [source]

3. Sick/sobbing kids in nursery. Thankfully my day of reckoning hasn't come and I've never been a nursery leader. But now that my cherub is in nursery, I see that kid-provoked awkwardness can be even messier than the adult variety. Sick kids end up in nursery--this is the truth. Parents should know better, but sometimes we really want two snot-free hours so we foist our goo-caked children into the ward petri dish that is nursery. The nursery leaders are the gate keepers to that petri dish and are tasked with the awkwardness of turning sick kids away. When this happens the parent has a few response options: 1) acknowledge that, yes, they were trying to sneak the little snotty in to infect the rest of the children, and dang it, they got caught, 2) feign ignorance ("Oh? That hacking cough must have developed in the last ten minutes!"), or 3) argue that the kid isn't sick, that the green pus coming from his nostrils is "allergies." All of these options are awkward.

Then there's the separation-anxiety child who clings to his mother's leg like a limpet until she extricates herself and flees to the hallway, leaving him screaming in the midst of the other children, who quickly become upset themselves because there is a banshee in their midst. The banshee will not be soothed, he will not be coddled. No amount of goldfish crackers will appease his need for mother. "But how will he ever learn if I just stay in there with him every time?" the mother says. "But what about the frayed nervous systems of the other children?" the nursery leader pleads. What to do, what to do ... thank goodness I'm not a nursery leader.

A limpet: powerful suction, very slimy, close cousin of the toddler. [source]

4. When someone contradicts me during my lesson. I teach Relief Society once a month, and I love it. This last Sunday, the lesson was on forgiveness. We got onto the topic of emotions ... specifically anger. Without writing an essay on the topic, I think that anger isn't always sinful because there are several examples of the Lord referencing his anger in the scriptures. I'll concede that most of us may not be capable of a perfectly righteous anger and should therefore avoid anger in any form, but I won't say that all anger is always a sin, which was this sister's perspective. Anyway, this sister is the type who knows her stuff, always makes great comments, etc.... so it was disconcerting to be called out in the middle of our discussion. But I disagreed, and I said so, though in a vague-ish-can't-start-debating-anyone-in-Relief-Society-way. But then I felt awkward, and the lesson moved on and later there was a quote about angry feelings being bad ... so I awkwardly referenced the previous disagreement and said I should do more research on anger ... awkward. But then I came home and researched it more and found plenty of support for my theory of the existence of "righteous anger." So I don't feel so awkward now knowing I was at least a little right. But so was she in many contexts. As sisters in Zion!

Even though it's awkward sometimes, you should still go to church. Even if only to hit sacrament meeting then drop your sick kid off at nursery so you can catch a matinee. Just kidding!

What's your most awkward church experience? Was your righteous anger kindled?

Angry Moses about to break some dishes.
 

13 comments:

  1. Haha! Hmmm... I can't really think of any right now, but I guess we used to teach this kid that was really hard to deal with and loosing my patience with him. I dunno. Church is really awkward sometimes for sure. Ha.

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  2. So many truths in this post! Haha! I especially relate with the nursery one (of course)! Since we were called to nursery three months ago, everyone in our family have been rotating who's sick when. We, however, do not attend when we are sick. Chase had one kid puke on him in nursery. That was pretty awkward.
    Also, people arguing/contradicting each other in relief society is always awkward.

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    1. You guys are saints. There is a special place in heaven for nursery leaders. Can you excomm a toddler? Because puking on your nursery leader seems like a valid reason to.

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  3. lol! How about awkward testimonies (which could be classified into their own categories of awkwardness)? Lately in my ward, it's a 13- or 14- year old socially awkward girl from a socially awkward family...
    but yeah, false doctrine is, I think, the worst.

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    1. Yeah, awkward testimonies could take up a whole book. My grandpa was a branch president in Scotland and once had to physically remove a visitor from testimony meeting because his "testimony" consisted of angry ranting against the church. Awkward.

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  4. We had a sister pray to Heavenly Father and Earth Mother in relief society last week. I was sitting next to the RS President and I patted her leg and communicated "Thank goodness you have to solve these issues and not me, but it is kind of funny too."

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  5. Mother's day... its always always at least a little awkward. I will never forget the year that a man got up and condemned all the women who were mothers and were still in school. in the same talk he said that those who didn't have any children were not trusted enough by the Lord or too selfish to be obedient. I walked out at that point.... and the year the elders quarem president in my home ward bought all the women a five pound bag of flour as the wards gift of "flowers" is still talked about in hushed tones every April :)

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  6. This is my most awkward church moment. In my last ward, there was a couple with the last name "Strange". And the name was quite appropriate. They were asked to speak on Mother's Day, and both of their talks were very awkward. She spoke about how she didn't feel like she was a good mother. And he spoke about all of the issues that he had with his dead mother and then read a letter that he had written to her about those issues.

    Fast forward about 3 months to our last Sunday in that ward. This same couple, the Stranges, had requested to speak again. The counselor who had asked them to speak on Mother's Day was no longer in charge of arranging speakers. The counselor who was now in charge of arranging speakers had missed the Mother's Day fiasco and apparently hadn't heard about it. So he said "Sure" and allowed them to choose their own topics.

    The entire bishopric was out of town. The high priest group leader was in charge. And my husband, as the EQP, sat with him on the stand. Sister Strange gave her talk about the Word of Wisdom. She spoke about how white bread and sugarless gum are against the Word of Wisdom. She said Satan is actively trying to make it impossible for people to understand what they are taking into their bodies when they eat processed food. The entire congreation was cringing. Some people walked out. One of them texted the bishop, who was out of town.

    The bishop texted my husband. He asked him to lean over to the high priest group leader and ask him to step up and ask her to end her talk. The HPGL refused. He didn't want to embarass her. When the bishop heard this, he told my husband to get up and do it himself. The HPGL wouldn't let him. He also refused to make any corrective statement at the end of the meeting. So the next week a member of the bishopric had to read a statement clarifying the Word of Wisdom and what exactly is and isn't included in it.

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    1. Your poor husband. This takes the awkward cake, for sure. I hope the sacrament was white bread.

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  7. Awkward testimonies, for sure... But I think my most awkward church moment didn't happen at church, but at a church picnic. We brought a non-member friend. Partway through the picnic I looked over to find her cornered by, of course, the craziest lady in the ward. I went over to rescue her, only to overhear the tail-end of Sister Crazy's testimony of an extremely awkward topic... that was true! (Side note: some of the highest potential for awkwardness is in the things that are actual true doctrine...) It took a delicate touch to handle the situation, and I'm still not sure it went well.

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  8. This post is epic! Ha! So true. Awkwardness in church is inevitable sometimes. #2 and #3 for sure. I am excited for Hudson to start nursery next month, but scared of all the germs that will be passed (especially if a sick kid ends up coming). Sick kids do NOT belong in nursery; that's how everyone and their moms get sick. No joke. We've had multiple ER visits/doctors visits here in our ward since kids are getting RSV, bronchitis, lice, etc. and bringing their kid to church. So not cool.

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  9. oh gosh! I think I was sitting beside you for #1. likewise, i had no idea what to do.

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