I am an introvert. I always have been. I took the Myers-Briggs test a few years ago and my strongest pull was in the introvert category. Since that time, I’ve always felt like the label ‘introvert’ has a negative stigma surrounding it; like culture only positively receives extroverted and outgoing people. I’ve often tried to avoid this label, or make myself become an extrovert. If you’ve been around the church awhile, you’ve probably heard plenty of sermons or read plenty of books about how Christians are meant to be compassionate, outgoing, engaging, well-spoken and constantly extending hospitality to others. I think the picture often painted in churches is more of what an extrovert looks like in the church, and not necessarily how each of us can uniquely glorify God with how he has created us.
What that means for me is I’ve often felt like my strong tendency to wax introvert is more of a disease than a personality trait. I’ve always been aware that I can be received as shy, socially awkward, or hard to get to know. I’m near the bottom of the list when it comes to asking others to spend time with me. People wear me out, and when I come home from church on Sundays I tend to feel exhausted. I dislike being in a room with a lot of people, and I’m more comfortable talking TO a crowd than I am being IN a crowd. I prefer a quiet corner of a party over the main room. It is really, really difficult for me to talk to people – regardless of how well I know them. I much more enjoy quietly setting up or tearing down our church than I do having to actively engage with people. I often don’t mind standing or eating with people in silence; that is normal for me. I like having “me” time, it’s how my batteries recharge. Workouts by myself, time spent alone watching or reading something is how I think and energize myself.
You see, it’s not that I think being outgoing, engaging, hospitable or conversational are bad things or that I don’t like to do them. It’s not that I don’t like being around people. It’s not that I’m shy, rude or socially awkward. I am a lot of things, but those aren’t really the words I would use to describe myself. Some people might think I don’t have much to say; on the contrary I have quite a bit to say (have you seen my Facebook or read my blog?)! I love people, and I love talking to them about Jesus. I love sharing the gospel with people. The thing is, these activities and forms of communication both terrify and exhaust me. When I hear about doing them, the stress of thinking about being terrified and exhausted in turn makes me exhausted.
In light of what is often spoken of in churches and how culture tends to receive people, I’ve struggled with feelings that there was something socially and culturally off about me.
This is especially difficult as someone who wants to pursue full-time ministry opportunities in the future. If this is who I am, can I really be someone who God can use in ministry? More often than not, it seems like those whom God uses are the “go-getters.” If it’s hard for me to actively spend time with people, how could I ever minister or pastor someone well? These factors continually and constantly build up doubt and shame in my mind.
I’ve been thankful and blessed recently by some blog posts by Thom Rainer (president of Lifeway) and Ron Edmonson (pastor and church planter). Both of them are strong introverts like myself and have written and discussed much in the way of being an introvert in ministry. They have helped me see I’m not alone, and helped me realize that just like anyone else I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and that God through his Holy Spirit has appointed me uniquely with gifts to serve the common good (1 Corinthians 12).
I am reminded of Moses prior to his journey to Egypt. When God appeared to him to tell him that he would be the one to deliver his people from bondage and slavery, Moses resisted. While some might think Moses as foolish for resisting God, his reasoning makes a lot of sense to me:
But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue…Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” – Exodus 4:10, 13
I look at this line and can’t help but think Moses was an introvert. He wasn’t what some might call a “people-person.” It was hard for him to talk to other people. But God doesn’t make mistakes, and chooses people for very specific reasons:
Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” – Exodus 4:11-12
God chose Moses not because of his strengths but in spite of them. This is a comfort for me and I hope it is for anyone else who has these personality traits. My service to God – whether in full-time ministry or not – may look different than some or most, but he has chosen me uniquely to serve his kingdom in some way. Not because I am strong, but because Christ is strong.
Help me, Oh Lord, to be content with who you’ve created me to be in light of who you are. Help me to have a willing heart to serve you not because of my strengths but in spite of them.