The problem with writing about introversion is that I'm an introvert. And, unfortunately during the course of the last month I needed to cease engaging and rest...right in the middle of my blog series. Quite inconvenient. But today I'm rested and ready to write and I'd like to start off with a question.
Was Jesus an Introvert or Extrovert?
In a recent survey of Christian college students, nearly all (97%) of the students pictured Jesus as an extrovert. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, because on all other personality traits the students tended to peg Jesus as the same as themselves and, two, because this mirrors our is cultural love of extroversion.
And...what the heck??? When did extroversion become a fruit of the Spirit? But I digress. (As an aside, Jesus was probably a perfect combination of introversion and extroversion.)
Photo credit: Duck Marx
In his book "Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture", Adam McHugh observes that evangelicals talk a lot. Henri Nouwen suggests that words can be a verbal mask for a spiritual void. How well I know that.
The Introverted Side of Jesus
There are plenty of strengths in introversion. We can be better listeners, better observers of human behavior, more contemplative, more reflective, better able to engage in Sabbath, and the list goes on. Jesus displayed all of these things. ( I dare an extrovert to try living alone in the wilderness for 40 days--even WITH food.)
Recent technology has uncovered that the introverted and extroverted brain works differently. Introverts have naturally more active brains. Blood flows differently in introverted brains than extroverted brains and introverts require less dopamine. All of this points to a divine design in our make up. As introverts who desire to be transformed into the image of Christ; to emulate his life and example, we don't have to be inauthentic. Our goal is not to act like an extrovert.
On the other hand, our personality is never to become an excuse for laziness or sin. And, the reality is that God moves in community.
So what does that mean for me? Here are a few thoughts I've been chewing on:
1. I can fully embrace the personality God gave me. I often describe myself as a contemplative and I love that about myself.
2. I have something to offer the larger community in my ability to listen, to slow and to stand apart from the hectic pace of culture.
3. My relationship with Jesus is designed to be lived out in community, but that doesn't have to look like it does for an extrovert. Sometimes I will stay home and that will be okay.
4. Just as an extrovert has to work to cultivate silence and Sabbath, I have to work to cultivate community. I don't get a free pass just because it comes less naturally.
Photo Credit: Morph Omir
Sometimes I Skip Church.
First of all, I know that church is an identity, not a place I go. But you know what I mean. Sometimes when the community of believers gather, I stay home. Not a lot, but more than you'd expect from a pastor's wife. And, yes, sometimes its because I have issues with the church, but I've done a lot of emotional and spiritual work around that and today I find that sometimes I simply need to enjoy Jesus in solitude. And that's not a sin.
Of course, on other days Jesus gently coaxes me out of bed and sends me to my community regardless of my emotional state. That's all part of the dance.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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