Surviving an Awkward Moment at Church

A few years ago, I volunteered in the children’s ministry at my church. Most of the time, the volunteers were busy serving the children. There were a few opportunities during the class for the volunteers to chit-chat.

Working with the children was easy. The adult socializing was hard for me.

“Your son is so bright,” a volunteer said to one of the moms working in the room.

“I can’t believe he’s reading already at his age,” the volunteer continued.

The mom commented on her son’s extraordinary skills and started to list more for the volunteer. This exchange went back-and-forth for a few minutes while I stood nearby and listened.

The volunteer then added, “I brought my nephew tonight. He’s really bright too.” Then she described his achievements in kindergarten.

I felt awkward. I couldn’t join the conversation. At the time, my daughter had just started elementary school, a year later than most children. Her developmental disability meant she was behind in every subject, and she was nonverbal. Life had many struggles back then. There were victories too but not the kind these women were discussing.

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At first, I brushed off their conversation. I was secure in my life with my child after all. A few weeks later, however, I drove home feeling defeated after listening to the women share the successes and achievements of their family in school, sports, and life.

Socializing in general has had its awkward moments for me, but this was the first time I felt it regularly at church. I started to dread volunteering. It didn’t feel good to be there anymore. I don’t know why I didn’t chime in and simply start a new topic. I was terrible at small talk as my life often revolved around developmental challenges and medical emergencies, things most people can’t relate to at all.

After one night of serving and feeling a mix of emotions, I felt impressed to examine myself in prayer. Why was I allowing this to get me down? I wasn’t necessarily upset about my child’s limitations. I accepted her abilities and loved my daughter.

What was really going on with me? I suppose I wanted to be included, and I wasn’t. I wanted people to be cognizant of my situation when they spoke around me. The women knew about my daughter’s disabilities, but they did not notice I had little to add to their conversations.

In the end I was reminded that I am responsible for the condition of my heart. This wasn’t a reason to quit serving at church and shrink my circle of acquaintances, as I have done in the past. It was, however, an opportunity to push into God and thank Him for the things my daughter had accomplished. I have been reminded over and over again that I can’t control people’s speech, actions, or reactions to my family. I can only control my own.

The next time the two women started talking about their exceptional family members, I walked away and found something else to do. I pulled up a chair next to the child squirming in his seat during the movie and asked to hold his hand. I found a child who never seemed to say much in class and asked her a mundane question. I picked up a broom and started tidying up the mess left from snack.

I was not bothered by the situation any more. God helped me find a way out of the awkwardness.

Evana is a wife and mother of two children. Since becoming a parent, Evana has spent many hours driving to specialty appointments, praying beside a hospital bed, and learning about her children’s diagnoses. Evana is also a pediatric speech-language pathologist and serves children with autism, feeding disorders, and other developmental delays. You can connect with Evana on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog, A Special Purposed Life. You can also read more about her family’s story in her book, Badges of Motherhood: One Mother’s Story about Family, Down syndrome, Hospitals, and Faith.