Yesterday, in exploring the fear of awkward silence, I mentioned two reasons why I am concerned that this fear is a bigger threat than many of us realize: 1) In the context of local church, this fear can keep us from having spiritually-beneficial conversation with members and visitors, many of whom desperately need such conversation. 2) This fear can also keep us from getting to the meat of a conversation where you get to know a person and opportunities for encouragement and counsel are more numerous. Bottom line: this fear keeps us from fellowship and ministry.
As I also wrote, this fear often stems from our desire to impress people and be seen by them in a certain light. When we can’t think of anything to say and awkward silence rears its ugly head, the image or identity we are trying to create with a person quickly begins to dissolve.
How do we escape this fear so we can take advantage of our conversations for the glory of God? Do we just grit our teeth and push through the silence? Do we just say the first bonehead thing that comes to mind? No, we need to remember specific aspects of the gospel so that we take the fight to the root of this fear. In remembering the gospel, you discover that you have been given a new identity and a new purpose. Church, this changes everything!
Your new identity – Paul tells us in Romans 8:15, “…but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry ‘Abba! Father!’” So often we work and toil trying to create an identity for ourselves (who we want people to think of us as), so we strategically craft our words, our appearance, and, in the in the case of awkward silence, the time when we choose to exit a conversation. The gospel says that this work is over because we have been given our identity. We don’t have to work to create an identity for ourselves because, through Jesus’ work, God has already given us one. And not just any identity, but the identity of sons and daughters of the Most High God! Is there a higher and more important identity in the universe that we can be given? We don’t have to be afraid of awkward silence because whether there’s silence in a conversation or not, if we are in Christ, then we will still have the most significant identity that a human being can be given. We don’t lose our identity as sons and daughters of God because we couldn’t think of something eloquent or funny to say.
Your new purpose – Before we became Christians, our purpose in life was to serve ourselves by any means available, but in Christ, things changed drastically. In 2 Corinthians 5:15, Paul writes, “…and [Jesus] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” If we are simply living to serve ourselves, then leaving a conversation when awkward silence is looming overhead is no big deal because you will feel better by leaving. But if your purpose in life is now to live for Jesus instead of yourself, then leaving a conversation for fear of silence means walking away from the purpose God has given you. This doesn’t mean that you now have to accept the miserable burden of continuing to talk to someone even when it gets awkward. It means that you get to accept the wonderful privilege of fulfilling your God-given purpose by seeking the good of another for Jesus. See, if you understand what purpose is, then you understand that to fulfill your purpose means to experience joy and peace.
As we seek to live for Christ by building up his body through spiritually-beneficial conversation (even when there’s a little bit of silence), we are acting out of God’s identity and purpose for us… which means we will also experience the joy he has for us.