Riding the elevator with a stranger is awkward. Bottled up inside a confined space with someone you do not know — very uncomfortable.
I do not like awkward situations, because – obviously – they are uncomfortable!
I usually attempt to break awkward tension in any given situation with a joke or some light-hearted comment! My friends know this about me. They think I am a kidder, who likes “to stir the pot,” but really, I’m just super uncomfortable in awkward moments. I guess making a joke or making a light-hearted comment is my attempt at taking control of the situation.
Inside an elevator with a stranger is a whole other level of awkward, though! I wish I had a standard comment on the ready to ease the awkwardness – something like, “Random fact: Hippos secrete red sweat when they are upset.” That type of knowledge bomb would certainly destroy any degree of elevator awkwardness!
I once rode in an elevator with James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul.” I do not think I said anything to him. I remember staring at his teeth – also, random. Maybe that should be my elevator ice-breaker. “Hello, my name is Ross. I once rode an elevator with James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. And, now, my new friend, you can say that you’ve ridden in an elevator with a man who rode in an elevator with James Brown!”
All of this to say, I rode in an elevator with a stranger today. A young man, with tattoos all along his arms and multiple piercings. I stepped into the elevator with him and the awkward tension. How should I stand? What should I do with my hands? Where should I look? What should I say/not say?
I went with the standard head nod and, “What’s up, man?” — You know, alpha male material.
Apparently, that’s all the guy needed to start telling me his story – His father was in the hospital with a surgery, he was hoping to be released later in the day, he had come down from New York to help his mother with his father, he sold clothes for a living, and he was headed to Florida before flying back to New York.
Y’all, I was only taking the elevator to the 3rd floor! He told me like ten stories within 2 stories worth of an elevator ride!!
I guess the reason we feel awkward – the type of awkward we feel in an elevator with a stranger – is because we all have a story to tell. We have this inherent need to relate, and to relate well, to others. The awkward tension we feel in the elevator with a stranger is not the discomfort of sharing a small, confined space with someone we have never met. The awkwardness results from our resisting the need to relate to others.
There are times in life when we bump into God like a stranger in an elevator. We encounter God in the midst of our life and we have no idea what to say – “Hey, God! Hippos sweat turns red when they are mad, but you probably already knew that!”
God has a way of showing up when we least expect it and when we are least prepared for God’s presence. It can be a little awkward – How should I stand? What should I do with my hands? Where should I look? What should I say/not say?
The awkwardness we experience when we unexpectedly encounter God in the midst of our life results from the same inherent need to relate, and to relate well, to others.
Specifically, at the core of our heart is the inherent need to know God and to be known by God.
“Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by Him.” — 1 Corinthians 8:2-3
Any awkwardness experienced when encountering God is normal! What to do? How to stand? What to say/not say? These uncertainties are the result of a natural need to exist in relationship with God. You have a story worth being told; and, God has a story for you to live. The awkwardness is simply the assurance that you are meant to know and be known by God.
Watch out the next time you step into an elevator. Who knows, you might find yourself riding with God the Father of your soul…not to be confused with the Godfather of Soul.