I’m currently reading a book called Introverts in the Church by Adam S. McHugh. While, I’m still a couple of chapters away from having this book finished, I couldn’t help about write about it! This book has been freeing for me because I realize that there are people in the world who get how I’m wired. Often, I feel like my introverted nature makes me a bit of an odd duck. I’ve pondered why God has made me an introvert and called me into ministry. These two parts of my being seem to be in conflict. If I were entirely honest, I would say that I like being an introvert. When I live life in a way that is consistent with my introverted side, I feel more balanced. My big struggle is feeling the need to have people understand me. In ministry, I think people just assume all pastors are extroverted. Our church culture is one of extrovertedness. So, how I can be who I am and do what God has called me to do? The other questions is, am I okay to be me even when people don’t understand how I’m wired? These are the things I wrestle with.
When most people picture an introvert person, they might picture someone who is shy or quiet. You might say that they keep to themselves. They might be perceived as anti-social or stand-offish. I think the biggest thing I have to combat when I say I am an introvert is people think that means I don’t like people. That is not true. I love people. I have built my life around ministry. When I say I’m introverted, I’m saying that I need to be away from people to recharge my batteries and connect with God. The more time I spend with people, the more drained I become. If I want to offer anything of value to those I care about, I must spend time away. My time away is quiet and reflective. Introverts have strong inner dialogue and even if we seem quiet, our brains are always working. I’m always processing, wrestling, contemplating, thinking… Sitting in silence for me is never just sitting in silence. It’s reflection. It’s a monologue and a dialogue – depending on if I let God into the internal conversation. If I’m sitting reading a book, it’s not because I have nothing else to do. I’m reading to grow, to engage my mind, to go deeper, to develop. Reading for me can be for pleasure, but for the most part it’s my favored form of spiritual growth. Writing is my preferred way of communication. It gives me time to think about what I’ll say. Writing also gets my thoughts out of my head and more often than not, I find the words write themselves. They just flow out of me.
I think the great thing about this book is that doesn’t suggest that all introverts hid away and do things away from people. The author very accurately states that when God calls you, he will work in and through the way we’re wired. Introverts can serve in the church and they don’t always have to behind the scenes. It was interesting to ponder that since introverts are bent toward study, they make excellent preachers. They plan and research their sermons very well. Their introverted nature doesn’t mean they are afraid of being in front of people communicating. They find the small talk after church more tiring and draining then the actual preaching experience. This clicked for me. When I’m in my teaching mode, I’m in my element. It’s the small talk that gets me. I’m just bad at it. I’m not good at bouncing from conversation to conversation. I greatly love the people I interact with, but I would much prefer one-on-one to the crowd. I would rather go deep with a few than have a surface relationship with many.
The best part of this book was seeing myself in the pages. I wish that those who are close to me could read this book and understand me better. One thing that jumped out to me was how Hugh mentioned that introverts need more sleep than other people. Those that know me well know I need my sleep. I need a good 7-9 hours and I’m not a morning person. I’ve been told it’s my age, but I really believe that it’s because my life drains me so much. Social interactions and my schedule tire me in a deeper way than others. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy these things, it just means that I’m more depleted than most when these activities are finished. My need for sleep is a way I can refill my energy bank and continuing serving at an effective level. Reading this affirmed my need to sleep isn’t because I’m lazy.
Another element that was throughout the book was the need for A schedule. A lot of people don’t understand my quiet schedule. They don’t get my need for down time where I am completely alone. This normally happens a couple times a week where I am the only one in the house. These times are very productive for me. Not in a t0-do list way, but in a reflective way. I am myself with no expectations. I can speak with God and connect with him through silence. When I’m home alone, I very rarely listen to music or turn on the TV. I don’t desire more noise. I need the quiet. I need the stillness. I don’t desire to live life at a fast pace of constant action and interaction. I need this balance. Without it, I will be useless for any kingdom work. I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not and in the process disqualify myself from the work God has called me to do.
As you can tell, I can write about being introvert forever! I’m learning more and more who I am and being okay with the fact that God has made me this way. I also have to realize that not everyone will get it. Not everyone will understand my need for quiet and stillness. It might be seen as lazy or reclusive. However, I know that is not who I am. I am actively serving the Lord in the way that he has called me and I need to be content in that. I’m learning to love my unique quirks and I’m learning to balance my life around them. This is a very good thing!