Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Awkwardness and Donald Miller

After my last blog I figured I would tell the only personal story I have pertaining to Donald Miller. As I said before, his book Blue Like Jazz was instrumental in waking me up from a long and cynical slumber I found myself in towards the end of my senior year in college. In October 2007 I had the opportunity to attend a conference at Irving Bible called Fusion. There was one real reason I attended and that reason was Donald Miller. He would be speaking on the Free Market Economy and Jesus. I listened to the talk, though I was late, and it was incredible. You can actually buy it from Blue Fish TV. Its worth the price.

On the second day I found out that Miller would be hosting a smaller breakout session in student ministry room at IBC. I got there really really early so I could get a good seat and as I walked in there he was, Donald Miller. Now acting cooler than cool I noticed that there was a line of people waiting to get Blue Like Jazz autographed, but I thought to myself, "Self you are cooler than that. You don't need an autograph." So I sat quietly, pretending to journal, so that I would appear intellectual but not super-spiritual. The line dwindled after a while, until there was one guy left and then Miller stood alone preparing for his ensuing talk.

After some inner turmoil I worked up the nerve and conviction to go tell Miller thank you for his writing and the effect it had on my life. I walked up to him cooly and introduced myself. "Mr. Miller its good to meet you. My name is Kirk Gentzel. I know you probably hear this all the time, but your book really changed my life in college. Thank you, it helped save me from leaving the church in college." The words came out just like I hoped they would, but one thing happened that I'll never forget.

See in Southern Baptist life, there is this thing that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. The prolonged handshake. I've seen deacons do it every Sunday of my young life. When you want to talk to someone sincerely you shake their hand, look directly in their eyes, and continue shaking hands until you've delivered the sincere message you want to give. Some, like me, think this is totally normal, for the majority of you who think this is creepy, congrats you're like Donald Miller. As I delivered this heartfelt message, with the prolonged handshake, Miller, noticeably uncomfortable with my prolonged handshake, jerked his hand back from mine, still listening but now with a bewildered look on his face, like, "what kind of creeper tries to hold my hand?" Needless to say, I finished thanking Miller, and walked back to my seat feeling like a complete awkward idiot. I was humiliated, and nobody was even in the room to notice.

My wife says I'm awkward from time to time. In this instance, she's right.