My pastor Stu Hodges at Waters Edge Church was in the middle of delivering his most recent sermon last Sunday when he said that he wanted to punch me in the throat. There was no mistaking who he was addressing at that moment. I would now suppose that all this deserves a bit of an explanation. Well, Stu was talking about the purpose of the church, what it needs in terms of people, in order to function properly, to fulfill its purpose. It reminded me a bit of the notion of critical mass in nuclear reactions. Without sufficient numbers of the right groups of people in the body, the church is doomed to fracture and to fall apart, to fail in its mission. The series was entitled "Welcome to the Party". The analogy to the fully functional church reaching its full potential was the perfect party with the "right" invitees (the agnostics/doubters, the newly converted, and those farther along on their walks). At one point, Stu mentioned in an aside, how he hates party poopers. Those people who try to ruin every party with their crappy attitudes and their lack of full participation and embrace. He added in a joking manner, that if you are one of these types, come see him after the service and he will punch you in the throat. This line, by design, got a big laugh from the crowd and served to lighten the mood at that moment in the talk.
The trouble is, Stu was obviously talking right to me. You see, I am a prototypical stick in the mud. I am the person who has always had great difficulty fitting in. I am agoraphobic and quickly want to mutate into a turtle when I am in any social situation. Now mind you, I am not the judgemental pharisee type of old, with a holier-than-thou attitude, wagging my finger at everyone. I just don't know how to relax and have fun. I feel so awkward and out of place and exposed, that I want to explode. Time and time again, people have tried to give me advice on this subject. They say, "just be yourself". The trouble is, I don't know who I am. I have nothing to say, nothing to add, and am uncomfortable with attempts at any sort of pleasant chatter. More often than not, when given an invitation to the party, I find a way not to attend. It is really a pathetic scene. When I have accepted an invitation to a party, I have done my best when I have someone who is willing to act as my sherpa, to take me under their wing and guide me through the process (using cue cards if necessary). I kind of use this person like an athelete uses a personal trainer. I have hoped that, given sufficient time, I could adjust and learn how to deal with these situations. Alas, that has not yet happened and I fear I will never adjust. Now, as if I didn't have enough issues with being out in public, I must guard my throat whenever I am around my pastor.