Have you ever done one of those personality tests? I admittedly have taken hundreds of them in my curious lifetime. I am hungry to know how and why I am the way that I am. When I was in middle school I took my first Myers-Briggs (that is the one with the INFJ, ESTP, ISFJ, etc). My first test revealed I was introverted. I remember feeling ashamed and angry. How could I be introverted? Defensively I thought, “I am a nice person. I show kindness to all I meet!” I asked my teacher if I could retake the test.
For some reason I imagined that introverts were the social equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge. I felt negatively about myself for being labeled an “I” and made a commitment to being an “E”. I tried and tried to make myself be friendly and inviting and open to new people, but it always felt fake and forced and exhausting.
It took me years to accept the fact that I am an introvert. I could happily spend days by myself. Whether reading a book, singing in the shower, going for a run, writing, cleaning house or ‘pinning’ for hours on end—I enjoy my own company and actually crave the safe space of my own bubble.
Not to glorify one over the other, but I think being introverted has gotten a bad rap. I know that I have been envious of others who constantly connect easily with others. They can make new friends at the gym, actually enjoy chatting on the phone, make plans easily to “get together”. This is not me, even though I sometimes wish it was.
I hate the phone. I have to write it down on my calendar to call someone. It is not because I do not love them, it is because I can easily forget to connect with other people. A week can pass before I realize I have not talked to some of the people to whom I am the closest. I am content with less people in my life even though I know I need friends and family around me.
However, now that I have accepted this as a natural state for me, I wrestle with God’s calling on my life to be a missionary, to be evangelistic, to be hospitable. I wish my personality made this more natural, but I feel like these callings rub against the grain.
How can I be an introvert but also live out the mission of God?
This week I am coming to terms with the reality that my natural persuasion is not a valid excuse. Ouch, and damn. I want to say, “I don’t need to make new friends at the YMCA because I am naturally introverted. God understands. He made me this way.”
All I can think right now is a cop-out. God does not have an easy out in scripture. He tells us to go into all the earth and declare his glory, his gospel, his love, his truth. There is no asterisk saying “Except for you introverts, I know it is hard for you”. Being open and vulnerable is hard for everyone. Introversion and extroversion are the way the mind naturally functions and gains energy. It does make a difference in our natural interactions with people, but it does not change the fact that God call us out, to be open, to invite others into our lives, to take risks on people, to be vulnerable and trusting of him.
Introverts and extroverts alike find vulnerability and trust to be a challenging task.
The beauty of this realization, the sin of my excuses, the sin of my comfort zone, is that it brings me to my knees. I am humbled and feel pushed to the limits of my own strength. I am an introvert. Meeting people, remembering to reach out, planning coffee with strangers—it goes against the flow for me. It is hard. I reach the end of myself quickly in the areas of evangelism and outreach and hospitality.
The beauty is that I land in God’s power. My end, my limits, lead me to him. My weakness is not an excuse to quit. My weakness is my access to God’s unlimited extroversion. He supernaturally strengthens us to do incredible things, things that we cannot do on our own.
So, this is my plea. Stop making excuses. Vulnerability, taking risks, reaching out- all are hard and unnatural and take us to our own limits. Find God in your weakness. Ask him to show up. Do you trust that he can change your nature for the sake of his kingdom?