(This is part two of last week's discussion, "Five ways the church can better serve introverts.")
As I mentioned last week (and as you already know, if you know me at all), I'm an introvert - hermit-status. And it's not always easy to be an introvert in what feels like an extrovert's world, including inside the walls of the church. We often end up feeling unseen, unheard, and underutilized - just because we process social situations a bit differently.
But in broaching this discussion, it's not at all my intention to put all the responsibility on the shoulders of the church, or to cast all introverts as victims. The church exists to do Christ's work on earth until He returns, not to make me or anyone else comfortable; I exist to serve as a unique and necessary part of the body of Christ, not to sit on my hands while I point out all its flaws. The body of Christ only works properly when every part is doing its job, and truthfully, we introverts sometimes use that identity as an excuse to avoid or ignore our call.
So how can we serve the church with our God-given personality as well as in spite of it?
First of all, we must embrace the way God has created us...
As quieter people, the kind who might rather spend a long night at home alone than leave the house for an evening of fellowship of any kind, I believe we can sometimes fall into the trap of feeling guilty for the way God made us.
Over the course of my introverted Christian life, I've often gone through times of feeling guilty for many things related to being a quiet person - such as not wanting to pray out loud in a group, or wishing I could sit quietly during meet-and-greet time, or getting frustrated during small-talk conversations, or trying to avoid any activity that starts with "let's go around and introduce ourselves," or wanting to stay home from the women's retreat, or having absolutely zero desire to share the Gospel on the streetcorners and airplanes. I've been terribly lonely and never told anyone, because I felt I had only myself to blame for being such a quiet person. I've been hard on myself for not being "better" and mad at God for making me so "bad."
But being a quiet and thoughtful person isn't bad.
Because I am quiet, I have the gift of being able to listen - really listen - to others. Because I am thoughtful, I can often perceive the needs of those around me without being told. Because I enjoy silence, I can have tremendously rich prayer conversations with God. And because deep thinking and learning and discovering are some of my favorite hermit-status pastimes, I've been able to cultivate a love for the Word of God that I wouldn't trade for anything.
I have a unique place in the body of Christ, and it doesn't have to be the place of Most Eloquent Prayerist or Bravest Streetcorner Evangelist or Most Charismatic Leader to matter. The sooner we as introverts embrace God's creative authority and stop trying to play the roles of who we think we "should" be, the sooner the church can truly benefit from our service.
The church needs Daniels, who intercede desperately all night behind closed doors. The church needs Boazes, who walk in quiet obedience to God and love for His people. The church needs Ezras, who love to study God's law so that they can teach it to others. We are not all spokespersons like Aaron or evangelists like Paul or charismatics like David.
As Paul wrote, "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; or again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you'" (1 Corinthians 12:21). We all have a job, and we all have to do OUR job, or the effectiveness of the whole body breaks down!
...but at the same time, we must let go of the comforts of anonymity.
But there is also a danger to getting too comfortable in our introverted identities.
I grew up in a very tiny town in middle-of-nowhere, Washington. My dad knows almost everyone there and so, by extension, almost everyone there knows me. In fact, I was just recently visiting there and I hadn't been running errands for more than fifteen minutes before I had seen four different people I knew.
It wasn't until I moved to a larger city and a larger church that I realized how easy and comfortable - addictive, even - it is to be anonymous.
Coupled with the invisibility that often comes with being a quiet person, I could easily spend my life as a faceless shadow, unknown and unaccountable and undisturbed. And more often than not - I do.
But I can't find much support for anonymity or its comforts in the Bible. Instead, I see ordinary men who were lit on fire with boldness and courage by the call of God - men who cast aside the comforts of home and family and occupation and reputation in order to proclaim the Word of the Lord, who opened their hearts to pour supernatural life-changing love on others. And leading them all, Jesus Himself: the ultimate example of self-denial, of loving at great and terrible price, and even of living and dying in the public eye in order to champion the Kingdom of God.
Introversion isn't something we have to "fix" in order to be obedient. But we do have to be ready and willing to lay the excuses of introversion aside, when necessary, for the higher call of loving others in Jesus' name.
We might be quiet people, but we must be courageous people. All around us, others live in desperate need of someone to know them and love them and offer them hope, and it's impossible to do that effectively in hiding.
That's not to say that every single person in the world is our job - I think the example of Jesus and His twelve disciples makes it clear that our circles of effectiveness have limits - but for the ones God does give us, whoever (and however many or few) they are, we must be ready to lay down our lives.
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."