Feeling Awkward: Part of Learning a New Skill

When our family moved from southern California to northern Indiana, I joined an indoor tennis league to help me survive winter under the snow belt. I worked with a tennis pro to improve my game. His adjustments on my grip, stand, and swing left me feeling like the rusty Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz — awkward.

The next time I played, my serves and returns shot wild and wide. “I’m so sorry,” I said to my different partners. No one wanted to be paired with me that day.

“You won’t attract new clients with me as your advertisement,” I told my coach.

He smiled. “Keep practicing, and we’ll see.”

I’ll never forget the day the different parts came together into a fluid whole. As we walked off the court one gal said, “Do you realize you won every game today, no matter who you were paired with?”

Considering where I’d started, success tasted especially sweet. Not only did I keep the ball in motion, but I also placed it where I wanted.

Weak knees ended my tennis fun, but the lesson remains. Pushing through awkwardness to learn a new skill brings competence and joy.

Pushing through awkwardness to learn a new skill brings #competence and #joy. Share on X

Developing Spiritual Skills

I shared this experience with my Bible study as we began a study on prayer. Some habits serve us. Others create limiting ruts. We hear other’s prayers and envy their ease, but when we try a new stance — to praise, pray out loud in a group, pray in faith — we feel tongue-tied.

Perhaps you’re wanting to grow in a particular area of the faith. Where would you like to become more proficient? Wouldn’t it be fun to see that area grow this summer?

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8 NLT).

Resources I’ve Found Helpful

Knowledge is helpful. But…

Knowledge is helpful. But as you wouldn’t let a surgeon touch you who’d only aced a written test, we need practice to become proficient (Matt. 7:24-27). That means we can celebrate those tongue-tied attempts to share our hearts to a group or our faith to an unbeliever. We’ve stepped out of our rut onto the road of progress.

After discussing the power of praise, our group members trusted the group enough to take turns praising God out loud.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”(Matt. 24:27 NIV).

It’s ok to feel awkward. It’s not ok to let awkward feelings stop our spiritual growth. For unlike tennis skills, spiritual abilities serve us our whole lives, reap benefits in the next, and please God.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8 NIV).

It’s ok to feel awkward. It’s not ok to let awkward feelings stop our spiritual growth. #RefreshingFaith, #StartGrowing Share on X

I’d love to hear about the resources and experiences that have benefited you in the comments.


Debbie Wilson

2 Summer Zoom Groups for Women

Our summer online study begins Tuesday June 14th. We’ll meet from 7-8:30 p.m. EST on Zoom. I’ll email the lessons out each week. In light of how our world has walked away from God, we’ll be looking at various Scriptures concerning what it looks like to return to God. Contact meif you can join us.

Ginny Wilson will be leading a group through Give Yourself a Break on Thursday evenings from 7-8:30, beginning June 16th, 2022. Contact us if you can join us.

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  1. Lauren Renee Sparks

    Great analogy. In this day Christianity is under increasing attack and so many of us fear defending our faith because we are afraid we will not know how!

    • Debbie Wilson

      You’re right, Lauren. And fear of not doing something well has held me back too many times. May we all know faith, not perfection, pleases the Lord.

  2. Ann J Musico

    Wow Debbie not only is what you share in this post wonderful and so practical, but all the amazing resources you shared are invaluable!! I have always been one of those who avoided doing things unless I was good at them – so as you can imagine – it limited me a lot! Your encouragement to just keep practicing is exactly what it takes. No one is born good at doing everything. We have to give ourselves some grace.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Ann, it has held me back way too often too. I don’t want to live that way any more!

  3. Barbara Harper

    This is such a good point. I think we sabotage our time in the Bible when we feel it has to be so many minutes, so many chapters, so many resources, so much like so-and-so does it, etc. And the same for prayer and anything else. It takes time to grow in these things, plus exactly how we do them changes with seasons of life and maturity.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Barbara, where do all those standards come from. I agree. They can really mess with us.

  4. J.D. Wininger

    Such an encouraging message Ms. Debbie. As a “still fledgling” Christian writer, I can look back at stuff I wrote even a year ago and see how far I’ve grown in my skills. Oh, I still have miles to go, and hope to never stop learning and improving, but just like our faith, we’re on a journey of discovery throughout our lives. Loved this post ma’am; thank you!

    • Debbie Wilson

      J.D., I too read stuff I wrote a while ago and wince! God created life to be a process. I’m learning to celebrate the process!

  5. Jerralea Winn Miller

    Debbie, thank you so much for all these resources. I’m definitely making notes.

    But you are right; we must step out and practice what we learn and give ourselves – and others – grace when we are awkward.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Amen! Some things are only learned by doing.

  6. Joanne Viola

    This post is both encouraging and practical. Many wonderful resources for us all – no matter our stage of growth.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Joanne.

  7. Nancy Head

    God often calls us outside our comfort zones to stretch us, use us, and make us more like Him. Thanks for encouraging us to grow. God bless!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Nancy, I wonder if that discomfort comes because in some way our sense of worth is still tied to what we do instead of whose we are. Just thinking out loud. Children who can try things without fear of failing encourage me.

  8. Yvonne Morgan

    Thanks for this great encouragement to step out of our comfort zone. I’m praying for God’s strength for a monthly meal time with friends that I can be bold and share with them. Thanks Debbie

    • Debbie Wilson

      Lord Jesus, thank You for hearing Yvonne’s prayer. Please open the door at just the right time and give her the words to walk through.

  9. Sylvia Schroeder

    You hit a tender spot. It is so very difficult for me to step into an awkward space. But the discipline of humility is how learning is accomplished. Appreciated you sharing your tennis story.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Sylvia, I’ve found my pride over not wanting to appear awkward has held me back too many times. May the Lord continue to help us both!

  10. Jeannie Waters

    Your analogy illustrated your point well, Debbie. I especially appreciated this section: “It’s ok to feel awkward. It’s not ok to let awkward feelings stop our spiritual growth. For unlike tennis skills, spiritual abilities serve us our whole lives, reap benefits in the next, and please God.” Lori Hatcher’s book, Refresh Your Prayers: Uncommon Devotions to Restore Power and Praise, enhanced my prayer life.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Jeannie, I appreciate hearing about good resources. Thank you!

  11. Annie Yorty

    Debbie, what a good life lesson! Thank you for sharing it with us. We’d all like instant gratification, but that’s not what builds character. You’ve also given a great list of resources.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Annie, maybe because we live in a convenience driven time, we do expect instant gratification. I’m glad I don’t have to make my bread or kill a goat to have a meal. But then we have unrealistic expectations. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

  12. Lisa notes

    Learning a new skill can definitely feel quite awkward. I’m currently reading a book called Cringeworthy about our awkward moments. 🙂 I’m grateful that God is patient with us in our awkward phases of learning new spiritual skills!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Eww. What a good word. Thanks Lisa.

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