Friday, September 22, 2017

The Introvert Goes to a Conference

crowd at a conference
Conferences are not the natural habitat of introverts. Yes, you will find us there. We're the ones sitting or standing away from the main flow of traffic, looking through our program at what session to go to next. Of course if we came with a group, we'll gravitate toward them. We probably won't ask questions during the session but might approach the speaker afterward. 

Whether introvert or not, I'm here at a conference now.  I'm responsible to my employer (who sent me) to gain the information and training I can to do my job better. I'm responsible to contribute back to the professional community by giving a presentation or volunteering in some way (which I did not do this year). I'm told that you're supposed to network at conferences. That's one I generally fail at for some reason.

In thinking about how to be a Christian and an introvert-conference-goer, I thought about my current reading in the minor prophets, mostly from the time around the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the exile. A theme that is emphasized is that Judah went into exile because they were faithless and didn't follow God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Those that returned were called by the prophets to faithfulness. So for my part, I will try to be faithful to my responsibility to gain what I can here. That may not include lots of new folks in my "network" but plodding loyalty is a virtue in itself. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

What is an Introvert?

Since "introverted" is in the title of this blog, I want to define and address it.

The basic idea is that introverts prefer low stimulation environments and extraverts prefer higher stimulation environments. Social interactions are one main source of stimulation, so extraverts prefer crowds, making small talk, and other social interaction, while introverts do not. I've also heard these defined in reference to the situations where we gain "energy" or are drained of "energy," particularly in social situations.

I'm sure we've noticed for a long time that some people prefer crowds and some prefer quiet solitude.  Mr. and Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice are likely two ends of that spectrum. The more formal definitions of extraversion and introversion have also a relatively long history in psychology, and are part of current theories on personality, such as the "Big Five" model.

No one is only an introvert or extravert. We may naturally tend toward one or the other, but introverts can enjoy crowds at times and extraverts can gain from some solitude.

So what does all this have to do with our life as followers of Christ? First, I see nowhere in Scripture where either extraversion or introversion is called a sinful thing. It is simply a difference between us, like hair color, that makes us each unique individuals. Thus, we need not value one over the other.

But neither is an excuse for sin. We can selfishly desire social stimulation or quiet solitude. Like food, they are good for us in their proper measure, but harmful and sinful when indulged and pursued more than God. In the Body of Christ, Extraverts sometimes need to listen rather than amp up the social energy, and introverts need to come out of their shell and engage in fellowship. Both of those may be awkward for the person to work against their ingrained preference, but we are not called to be comfortable in this life, but to follow Christ wherever he leads.

For something more in-depth, the Wikipedia article on Extraversion and Introversion is fairly good.

Here are a few other fun articles:
And finally, I recommend this article, The Christian Introvert, from Tim Challies, who is more articulate on all this than I am.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Re-re-reading Lord of the Rings

I recently finished reading the Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. Again. I think this is the 9th or 10th time I've read the whole thing and I've found something different each time. This round, what struck me is Tolkien's positive examples of what I will call "plodding loyalty."

Some examples are Aragorn's long labors in obscurity, Merry's pursuit of battle with the horsemen of Rohan, and Frodo's faithful pursuit of his quest without hope. My favorite is Samwise Gamgee. His deep faithfulness to Frodo sustains him through great difficulty, even into Mordor. He sees the job that must be done (the destruction of the Ring) and pursues that as forthrightly as only a hobbit can. I won't try to catalog all the examples of Sam's plodding loyalty, but I will mention his charging a citadel (seemingly) full of orcs to save his master and, in the end, carrying Frodo on the final stretch to the Cracks of Doom. 

This is quality stands out at this point in my life as I see the value of such plodding loyalty and consistency.  I have found that one of the most powerful tools we have as a parent is consistency. Consistently apply discipline, keep the rules, point to the Good, remind of Scripture, take your plate to the kitchen after dinner, and do bedtime snuggles. Their own thinking and words will wear a path through regular plodding in the same direction.

As an elder, I am grateful for the loyal plodders. They show up. Yes, we need people to lead music and worship, but we also need people to lead a small Bible study, keep the nursery, vacuum up after the kids hit the snacks, trim the bushes, or offer a cold cup of water to someone who needs it. I listened to a podcast recently where the host signed off with phrase "go do something awesome." Honestly, I'm 42 years old, have a wife and three kids, hold down an 8-5 job, drive a minivan, and I'm no longer "hep to the jive" much less awesome. Some may be called to big things, but know that far more (even elders) are called to plodding loyalty. Be encouraged that our God sees that time in the nursery, the trimmed bushes, the cup of cold water, and the two copper coins that seem so small to the world but are all you have to give.

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