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Confessions of an Introvert Hoping to be Faithful

Posted by April Bumgardner on

I was in my early twenties when I finally realized I was introverted. I suppose I had not really thought much about it until then. There is something about being in a foreign country, however, struggling to speak to as many people in a day as possible, while working in missions, that smacks you in the face with it. I didn’t handle it well at first. I was angry with shame as if being introverted was a deficit, or worse, a sin. Somehow, I thought it reflected poorly on me. As a Christian, weren’t we supposed to be like Christ? And didn't Christ place himself in the middle of the crowds day after day? If I was to love people as Christ loves people, why did I feel so overwhelmed and exhausted? Why didn’t I feel a natural affinity for everyone I came into contact with? Among other things, I conveniently forgot how often Christ pulled away in prayer with his heavenly Father. In my immaturity, I also ignored the fact that we are all created for different tasks.

I am still trying to figure this out. Like the apostle Paul, I “press on toward the goal.” (Philippians 3:13-14) However, here are seven tips I have acquired to help me serve in the church more adequately.

  1. Match my attitude to Christ.  First and foremost, if I recognize my time is not exclusively for me, it will be much easier to think of others’ needs first. This is, of course, the most unnatural and the most difficult thing to do. However, simply by taking the focus off my immediate needs, and on to Jesus, I am better able to see others through his compassionate eyes.

  2. Plan ahead. This one is more practical in nature. Before arriving at church Sunday morning, or really to any event with people, I consider who I need to talk to and plan conversation topics ahead of time. Does this make you feel manipulated? I hope not. If anything, I pray it helps others feel more appreciated. If I did not do this, I may frequently leave too soon after worship or stand quietly in the corner. 

    We all have a love-hate relationship with Facebook, but honestly, social media is a great tool for introverts. I know who has recently been on vacation and who needs a ride somewhere next week. It allows me to have topics ready at hand.
     
     

  3. Look for the weaker. This is not to excuse condescension, but rather to challenge us to empathize with those who may be struggling with physical or spiritual battles.  My introversion has helped me cultivate an empathetic and observant attitude. By encouraging someone I know who is sad, struggling, a visitor, etc., the pressure is off me and I am free to look for ways to be of service. This imbues me with purpose. There is no time to feel offended that so-and-so didn’t speak to me, nor is there the temptation to hang out awkwardly in the corner until I can corral my family out the door.

  4. Just say no. I don’t have to be involved in three different ministries and teach the four-year-olds and chaperone every teen youth event. At least not all in the same week. By leaning on the Spirit’s wisdom for my life, I can carefully choose the best ways for me to spend my time with others. My relationship with Christ is not dependent on how many “church” hours I get in. Here, I have to be careful. It would be easy for me to lie to myself and believe because something is challenging for me, I don’t need to be involved. God wants to place us in situations that will stretch and grow us. This might involve participating in something that is not necessarily one of my gifts. This is why spiritual discernment is crucial. I often pray the James 1:5 prayer.

  5. Give myself breaks. Even at home, I daily run upstairs to my bedroom for five minutes or so to decompress. (Boys can be loud.) Even more so, in social gatherings, I need breaks. Sometimes this means limiting the length of time I am involved. Other times, it means strictly finding more manageable one on one conversations in quieter corners.

  6. Give myself permission to engage in more pointed conversations. It is a misunderstanding that introverts are shy or do not enjoy talking to people. Both of these are untrue for me. I love to discuss and listen to others, which may seem contrary to an introverted personality. Really, I just dislike chit-chat. I often feel unsure what to talk about. However if you approached me with a question of substance, even of a personal nature, I would gladly discuss it with you. There have been a few people who have approached me like this with apologies. Secretly, I love them because of it.

  7. Be grateful. I am working on fully appreciating the diversity of the Lord’s church. I marvel at how he individually infuses us with his Spirit to accomplish his will. I am not single-handedly expected to be all things to all people. Your words, your talents, your example helps me to be more faithful.

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:16-17

Extroverts, would you like to chime in? What are the challenges of an extrovert in the church? How has the Spirit led you to overcome them or to capitalize on them?

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