Living relationally…as an introvert

I have felt a growing tension lately between the amount of time I’ve been spending with other people versus alone. It has gotten to the point where I know I need to start being more intentional about carving out alone evenings 3 or 4 times a week. God wasn’t subtle 😛 That’s one of the thing I’ve heard Him say over the buzzing din of Busy.

It surprises a lot of people when I tell them that I’m an introvert.

I get it. They see the funny girl making a point to connect with other people (because this introvert doesn’t want anyone to feel left out). They don’t see the exhausted girl in bed with heart buzzing from not enough big chunks of time alone in weeks. They see the girl smiling with people. They don’t see the girl almost crying with relief and the simple pleasure of reading a book after having to take a day off of work to recover from yet another socially-packed weekend. Yes, that is a true story.

My beautiful, extroverted friend (and a light that led to my salvation) Alicia once said that she has one weeknight free a week, and she likes it that way. I have basically lived that way the past three months, and I feel like a candle burning at both ends.

I lovelovelove my family and friends. I am blessed by them. There have been years (yes, sometimes multiple in a row), where I’ve had no friends who lived in close proximity. God seems to bless me with either drought or deluge. Having experienced the former, I am grateful for the latter. I want to be clear. No one is twisting my arm or guilting me to hang out. I say yes to invitations because there are a lot and they all sound fun. I love the people going, and I know they want to hang out. I don’t want to miss out.

The problem is that internal stress and exhaustion that follows getting home late, overstimulated and too tired to spend much time in the Spirit, hearing God’s voice, when I know firsthand how precious and refreshing that is. There is nothing or no one that comes close to that intimacy, and I know that God can, has, and wants to give me that every night of the week. My schedule of social obligations five or six days a week has to stop (the one night “off” becomes a catch-all time for errands).

I believe introverts are designed for community. I believe that they have a lot to offer other people and the world (and if you want someone else’s synthesis on that, see Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”)

I also believe introverts have pitfalls to avoid.

-We don’t get to use introversion to negate the gospel’s teaching. We don’t get to hide behind a spirit of fear and timidity. If God tells us to go, speak, we don’t get to say “but God, I’m an introvert!” Each of our brave ventures may look and sound different than someone else’s, but we’re still supposed to step out. It is all the more of a testimony to God’s strength when we’re terrified.

– If there are others around us inviting us into community, we don’t get to say “no thank you. I’m an introvert. I’ll call you on those rare occasions when I need to feel connected, but I won’t be there when you need me.” We need to love and serve others well, and that includes being available and willing to be interrupted when others truly need it too.

-We don’t get to hide at home and wonder why God doesn’t bring us new friends/a boyfriend/a girlfriend. Unless you’re are hoping that the postman will be your new best friend, you’ll likely need to leave the house.

The reality, however, is that I seem to need more time alone than my friends. And just as introverts need to crucify their desire for quiet sometimes to love and serve friends who love to hang out, I expect that my more extroverted friends will also have to make some allowances for me as well.

I miss the rest that comes to me through bike rides and runs. Reading the Bible at 8pm instead of 10:30. Reading a book and sewing a quilt. Individual worship. Journaling. And just chilling in my jammies.

I don’t think rigidity in scheduling is the answer, but I do think that I will be intentional about trying to leave 3-4 nights free a week. No coffee dates. No meeting up for dinner or drinks. No morning and evening events every weekend day. For me, nights spent with Jesus are the biggest gulp of fresh faith. So on that note, I’m off for one.

My worship jam for the day.