Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Introverted Spirituality: Doing and Being

As I continue to reflect on Adam McHugh's book Introverts in the Church, I find myself thinking about the ways in which introverts express their spirituality. All of us tend to live out our faith along a spectrum of doing and being. At one end of the spectrum are those who follow Jesus primarily in an action-oriented, activity-focused manner. They are the doers. At the other end of the spectrum are those who follow Jesus primarily in a contemplative, insight-focused way. They are the be-ers.

I call this a spectrum because most of us (if not all) are somewhere between the two extremes, and we move along the spectrum according to the seasons and rhythms of life. Sometimes we need to be doers, and other times we need to be be-ers. In general, extroverts tend to be doers, and introverts tend to be be-ers. (I have no empirical data to back up this claim. I'm making it simply on my own observations of people.)

As an introvert, I am much more comfortable on the being side of the spectrum. It's slower, quieter, and allows time for the internal processing that goes on inside me. There are seasons of life, however, that call me out of a state of being and to the faster-paced, more active lifestyle of doing. But I have to be aware that this is what's going on because I don't naturally move into that mode--and when I don't recognize it, I get overwhelmed, flustered, and just want to drop everything and leave it all behind. Knowing the transitions of seasons helps me to stay centered and persevere through the times of increased activity.

Extroverts, I imagine, would get bored and restless as the rhythms of life transition into a time of being. The stillness, slowness, and quiet of the being times would probably feel like anything but rest. God, no doubt, has orchestrated life to have these seasons and rhythms for very important reasons, and we would do well to understand what those are.

God may bring along a season of doing for introverts in order to pull them out of the limitations of their private world. If I had my own way, I would spend most of my time by myself reading or hiking through the mountains snapping photos. But as reviving as that is for me, to do it all the time severely limits how effective I will be for God's kingdom. I need to be called out of my life of contemplation and study in order to engage the world I have been called to live in and minister to.

For extroverts, God may bring a season of being so that they can slow down and reflect on God and themselves. The rhythm of being is an opportunity to more deeply contemplate what God is doing, why he is doing it, and how he wants you to learn and grow. This is a time of self-discovery, as well as the chance to quiet the noise of life and tune your ears to the voice of God.

Life is complicated, and it seems like it's changing all the time. A new season. A new rhythm. Greater expectations. Less responsibility. The ebb and tide of urgency. Consider where God has you on the spectrum of doing and being. If it's an unnatural place for you, ask God to open your eyes and prepare your heart to do or be the best you can during this season.

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