For the longest time I thought “introverted” vs “extroverted” had to do with whether a person were shy or outgoing. Given that, I would have quickly labeled myself an extrovert. I have no problem in social situations – in fact, rather weirdly enjoy the challenge of finding commonalities among diverse groups of people. I don’t embarrass easily and can make fun of myself (pretty sure you can thank Mrs. Wolfe, my second grade teacher, for letting that “skillset” bloom). And, though speaking in public is often cited as one of the top 5 worst fears of the masses, I have grown to kinda like it. Crazy, huh?
So, it surprised me to learn a few years back that introvert/extrovert actually has to do with how you “re-charge.” Like, when you have the ability to do anything…do you want to find a room full of people or be by yourself? Do you accomplish more when you’re with someone or does having another human around throw you off task? Do you GAIN energy by being around others or does that tend to suck the life out of you just a little bit? If you’re curious about this, you might find it interesting to learn more from the Myers & Briggs Foundation.
Once I had that understanding, I quickly came to realize that I am a classic introvert. My profession requires me to be around people (and I do enjoy it), but when evening comes around or the weekend, I am very ready to have some quiet time. I’m a list maker and a task checker-offer and I also enjoy just being contemplative in my own little brain (shocker, right?). Thankfully, I also have learned not to hate my own company.
Here’s the thing though…
Sometimes I have to fight it. I have to fight my preference to be alone because I know that I was created to be with other people. I think, especially when you’re single, it can be really easy to be selfish with your time. A few years ago I was considering how Jesus dealt with this and I came to a realization. There were times that He wanted to be alone. He wanted to rest. He wanted to eat. He wanted to have a few quiet moments praying. But, He also knew that if He had always given into His “want tos,” He would not have reached some people. Jesus knew that His purpose in life – His short life on planet earth – was greater than His “want tos.”
I want to be like that. Even if it’s outside my comfort zone. Even if it’s inconvenient. Even if it’s a pain (and, spoiler alert: it often will be).
Can I be really open with you and tell you a brutally honest and gut-wrenching story?…
One time I was traveling for work. I think I was somewhere in Arizona. I had wrapped up my work day and I had a plan. I had picked up a lovely salad to take back to my hotel. I was stopping for a quick errand then planned to go back, tuck the salad in the fridge and have a little time on the treadmill before dinner and retiring for the night. I had also been praying that day…something along the lines of, “God, give me opportunities for You to work through me.”
So, I’m in the parking lot where my errand was when a woman…in a wheelchair…tapped on my window before I even had time to open the car door. She asked me for money. I really didn’t have any cash (and can’t recall now why I didn’t offer her my salad – probably because it was one of my favorites…and left to myself I’m a total jerk. Being brutally honest remember?), but I said I would see if I could find some food in the store to purchase (which was hit and miss in this type of store). I went in with a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach. It didn’t take long at all for me to realize that it wasn’t about my handing this woman cash or even something to eat. See, there were several food places in this little plaza and God had wanted me to take this woman IN to a restaurant and have a meal WITH her.
And I didn’t want to.
I had my evening planned out. I didn’t want to be inconvenienced. I would rather just give her money. I left the store and drove around that entire parking lot looking for her and could not find her. I was heart-broken that I could pray that prayer and that quickly completely miss an opportunity for God to show Himself through me because of my selfishness.
But, as heart-breaking a lesson as this was for me to learn, there was good news. God will give us second chances to do the right thing. Unfortunately I missed it with that woman but there will be – and have been – others.
God, today help our “want tos” be overtaken by Your offer to join You in some every day thing to make You known.
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom
to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.