Friday, September 2, 2016

Best seat in the house

So. many. questions. all the time.
I think I am socially awkward. I'm a textbook extrovert, meaning I get energy from spending time with other people rather than by being by myself, but I'm not always graceful about it. I never know where I fit in the social hierarchy of people at a party (or a meeting, or a conference, or a worship service, or a small group...), and my inner dialog goes, "am I just the spouse of an invited guest, a close friend of the hostess, just an acquaintance, in the wrong place entirely? WHERE DO I SIT?" I've written about this awkwardness before.

So I was relieved to learn that I'm not alone. I recently heard a story on NPR that confirmed my suspicions that humans are not always good at defining friendships or social relationships. In fact, we're really bad at it. Studies have shown that about half the time, people we consider to be our closest confidantes don't feel the same way about us and might not even include us in a list of their top 5 friends. Half the time! It's not just in my head. Awkward high school lunch table survivors, unite!

Todd preached on Luke 14:7-11 last Sunday, and I realized that Jesus had something to say about seating chart politics, too:  
When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
In Jesus' time, banquets or wedding feasts were all about the social hierarchy. Where one sat was an outer sign of one's status. Greco-Roman society did not consider humility a virtue, but Jewish law in the book of Sirach advised careful attention to one's tendency for greed. Jesus took this law even further and made humility a cornerstone of his teaching. 

This kind of social hierarchy guidance is helpful in avoiding embarrassing seating scenarios, but it's not all that great for fostering authentic relationships.

Jesus' words give me an answer to my social seating anxiety: humility and gratitude. I am to place others above myself and be grateful for opportunities to be in community with others. 

I don't need to come to the party with an agenda or a role to play, I simply need to be there--my presence is enough. It doesn't matter who I am or what titles are attached to my name, my host extended the invitation to spend time with me. This frees me up to use my energy meeting new people and deepening existing friendships instead of worrying about where I sit. The best seat in the house is the one where I am seated among people I can learn from, listen to, and love.

How do you navigate tricky social situations? Where is your favorite place to sit at a party? 




3 comments:

  1. My favorite place to sit in a crowd I do not know is where I will not stand out or be noticed. I wasn't always this way, but after years of anxiety attacks, I prefer to be where I will be least embarrassed if an attack arises.

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  2. My favorite place to sit in a crowd I do not know is where I will not stand out or be noticed. I wasn't always this way, but after years of anxiety attacks, I prefer to be where I will be least embarrassed if an attack arises.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Christina, I love this! And I don't want to sit at a party, I want to be given some job to do - like be in charge of handing around appetizers or something. Gives me a feeling there's a reason I'm there, which is more comfortable for me than just being a guest.

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