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Discipleship, Small Group Leaders, Theology

The End of the Awkward Stage

A Note from Mary Margaret West: Raise your hand if you can relate to feeling awkward. We’ve all been there, and Scarlet gives some great perspective and points us to Jesus in today’s post. I know you’re going to love her, so don’t miss out on the new book she just wrote for teen girls – He Numbered the Pores on My Face.

An Awkward Beginning…

I was in the girls locker room getting ready for PE when I started telling my friend about this guy from my 8th grade math class with spiky hair who smiled at me a lot. She power-sprayed Bath and Body Works’ Cucumber Melon in her hair and said, “Scarlet, no offense, but do you really think he likes you? You look fine, but you’re just not the type of pretty that would make a guy ever want to date you because of your looks, you know?”

The insult stung. So did the cloud of Cucumber Melon wafting into my eyes.

As it turns out, I looked about as awkward as I felt during those sensitive years.

I remember that moment and that hopelessness. I wanted to be pretty, but an objective person was telling me I wasn’t. I wanted guys to like me, but my power-spraying PE partner couldn’t see it happening. And I didn’t have the confidence or life experience to brush it off. I looked forward to the end of the awkward stage. The end of PE locker room conversations. The end of me looking and feeling like I was all wrong. The end of so much disappointment. I thought the end of the awkward stage was years away and I thought the only way out of it was to become beautiful and confident and happy.

People in their twenties seemed to be beautiful and confident and happy. For sure, by their thirties. But, my awkward stage stretched on. Throughout my teen years, still awkward. Somehow into my twenties, I still felt wrong about myself and how the world saw me. Do I have the world’s lengthiest awkward phase?

Though I had been walking with Jesus, I had yet to realize that ending the awkward wasn’t something I could do with the right haircut for my face shape or the right word from the right boy.

I needed a word from God, not from a spiky-haired hottie. I needed a new heart and I just so happened to have met the One who could give me that. So, I needed to listen.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” — Ezekiel 36:26

The young girls in your life don’t need more Instagram likes or more perfect jeans or more professions of love from pimply teens. They need new hearts. So, how can we help them?

Still Awkward…

Someone recently asked me when my “awkward stage” ended — when I had a turning point and learned to find my identity in Jesus, rather than in dating and achievements and beauty.

I had to be honest and answer that I don’t think it ever really ends. Because I have a heart that’s prone to wander, I’ll be visiting the “awkward stage” until, as my youngest daughter puts it, “Jesus comes back and makes everything perfect.”

I rarely get pimples now, but I still struggle to remember that I’m loved. I still sometimes believe that I can earn the approval of others and that it will fulfill me. Or even worse, I believe I can earn the approval of God. I sometimes forget Christianity. I forget the core of it. I forget the gospel — the gospel, which tells me that I’m not just awkward, I’m evil.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” — Romans 3:23

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts…” — Matthew 7:11

I’m right to feel wrong inside. I’m not good or pretty or worthy on my own. It was Jesus who was good and perfect in my place. Because of Jesus, I am approved by God. Because of Jesus, I don’t have to worry about being approved by men. The opinions of spiky-haired boys and Cucumber Melon girls don’t matter. Believing that, believing the gospel, is the key to facing the awkward stage.

In order to help our teenagers see their need for Jesus, we need to see it ourselves. We need to remember it, and train our minds to linger on what’s above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). Younger girls are looking to us. Who are we looking to?

…A Perfect Ending

If we have a relationship with God through Jesus, God looks at us and sees the perfection of His Son and says we are His beloved, forgiven, delighted in children.

We can experience the joy and peace of that reality right now. But, we are weak and we often run back to the middle school locker room or to the date that ended badly or to the meeting with the boss who thinks we “need improvement.” We look other places for approval all the time. We are sinners and we look away from the One who says, “You are approved! You are loved! You are not awkward. I made you and what I make is good.”

We look away, but one day, we won’t.

“…but our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself.” — Philippians 3:20-21

That’s the end of our awkward phase. That’s what we and our daughters and the teens we love are waiting for. We will be whole and glorious and we will know, every minute, that we are loved and approved and safe forever in the arms of our Father.


Scarlet Hiltibidal is the author of Afraid of All the Things and He Numbered the Pores on My Face. She also writes a regular column for ParentLife Magazine and enjoys speaking to women around the country about the freedom and rest available in Jesus. Scarlet lives in Middle Tennessee, where she loves sign language with her daughters, nachos by herself, writing for her friends, and learning how to raise ducks with her husband for no reason other than cuteness.