On Being an Introverted Christian

I’m an introvert.

I’m a fairly classic introvert, who is not outgoing or comfortable in large groups of people I don’t know, who requires lots of alone time to function, who could easily become a actual hermit if I lived alone and didn’t need to work for a living. Parties where I only know one person are very stressful. Fictional people are so much easier to deal with than real people.

Small talk is so hard. What do I say? What questions do I ask? Oh no, did I just come off as a crazy person?

Walking up and starting a conversation with someone I don’t know is enough to give me heart palpitations. I did that at church recently, with people I don’t know personally but who know who my family is, and my hands were shaking through the whole conversation, my heart was pounding, and I was praying I could get the words out without tripping over them and stuttering and saying strange things. Corners are the best place to be at events, because then people come to you if they want to talk to you.

If you see me at an event and I don’t talk to you, please know that I probably think you’re really cool but have no idea what to say to someone that awesome. If I speak to you I’ll end up saying strange things or just laughing a lot. It’s not you, it’s me. Seriously.

Phone calls are the bane of my existence. I’m extremely blessed to be in a job where I rarely have to talk on the phone. If I call you, I have probably given myself a script to start off the call, because there are only a few people on this earth I don’t get anxious about being on the phone with, and most of them live in the same house as me.

Making friends is like climbing a hill with no guarantee of ever reaching the top, complete with awkward conversations and heart palpitating moments along the way. This chart, found on tumblr, sums up most of my friendships:

Sometimes I feel like you have to be an extrovert to be a good Christian. (A horrifying notion.) Jesus loves people. He came to earth and spent so much time loving on people and meeting new people and being surrounded by crowds. He tells us to feed His sheep and go into the world and make disciples. So many people!

Being real here–people stress me out. A lot. 

So it seems like I’m not qualified for this being like Christ business. Especially when you need to show His love to people you don’t know. Believe me, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone to do this and for someone who gets anxious about asking a worker at a store a question, it takes a lot of fear and trembling before God to do that.

Oh God, do I have to? Maybe someone else could do it? I’ll just show your love to the middle school girls I already know, and maybe another leader can talk to the new ones. I know, I know. I’ll go over and introduce myself in 3, 2, 1…

It has gotten easier, in some situations. Middle school kids don’t seem to care how awkward I feel when I talk to them. I actually hold short conversations with the moms who have babies in the church nursery where I volunteer.

But I am so much more comfortable in the background, with the people I already know. Church event coming up? Great! How can I help in the kitchen or with the kids? I’ll tell people what to do if there’s no one else to do it, but it makes me nervous. And please don’t make me a greeter…

So there are the two sides of the situation. On the one side, God made me who I am. I can’t force myself to be a people person, and I will never be someone who meets someone and bam! Instant friend. I have my strengths as an introvert–great with small groups, great listener, absolutely ready to pray or talk one-on-one, overwhelming love for my middle school girls–and I have learned (am learning) how to balance those with my weaknesses.

On the other side, God has called me to love people. Maybe not as a greeter at church events, or as the one who goes out into the lobby to find the moms new to the church and encourage them to bring their babies to the nursery. It’s so easy sometimes to avoid talking to people and tell myself it’s because I’m an introvert and it’s exhausting and anxiety inducing.

But when that middle school girl walks in to the student center and looks lost and uncertain, I can get over myself and my insecurities and go welcome her. When standing in a Jamaican nursing home with instructions to go into the residents’ rooms to pray with them, I can pray, Oh God, I don’t know how to do this and I’m really freaked out, and then do it anyway.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to be people we are not. He does ask us to trust Him to change us and grow us into Christians–little Christs. And to do that, we need to lift our eyes off our own insecurities and fears, turn to God, and say, Ok, God. What do I do next?

I will always be an introvert, and Jesus will use me just as I am. I don’t have to worry about being different. All I have to do is turn to Jesus.

The Ultimate Superhero

Superheroes have taken over the box office in the past few years and show no signs of slowing down. Most of us have seen at least one superhero movie, and captain americasome of us have seen all of them. From Captain America to Batman, Wolverine to Superman and every hero in between, superheroes capture our attention.

Anyone can enjoy the movies, not just comic book fans. From Christopher Nolan’s dark and gritty Batman trilogy to the much lighter Fantastic Four, there is a superhero movie for everyone. For the kids, there is the family friendly The Incredibles. Marvel’s The Avengers and the future Justice League film offer teams of superheroes fighting evil together.

Why are we so drawn to superheroes? What makes masses of people who have never picked up a comic book flock to the movie theater to see the latest superhero blockbuster?

Superheroes save people. They save New York City and Metropolis. They save the world from the forces of evil. Every superhero has superhuman abilities we can never match. None of us will ever experience a genetic mutation that enables us to fly or control fire. Although technology has made great advances, it has not yet given us the Iron Man suit or the Batmobile. With these powers and strong superman-batmanconvictions, superheroes make the world a better place.

Superheroes fight on our behalf and do what we cannot, yet they struggle with their own problems at the same time. Each hero still has flaws and imperfections and they are not all powerful. But Batman and Iron Man and all the others represent the best of humanity. They are hope.

In recent years, the real world has seen a lot of difficult events. There is no Superman or Professor X fighting evil in the real world. So we look to fiction to provide those heroes, often never noticing the superheroes walking among us everyday. They have no superpowers or spandex. The real superheroes are those who do what is right every day and think of others before themselves. If you want to see a real superhero, look around. I think that Katie Davis, a young missionary to Uganda, is a real superhero. Check out her incredible story in her book, Kisses from Katie.

But the most incredible superhero does not come from a movie or a comic book. His costume is not colorful and he has no genetic mutations. His name is Jesus, and He wants to save each and every person on earth. He has the power to do so. Jesus has already suffered on our behalf, as superheroes do in every movie. No evil exists that He cannot defeat.

Superheroes are fascinating and entertaining. Why are we drawn to them? Because we are searching for a savior, but they will never measure up to the Savior.

Why Write?

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I am a writer.

I’m not a published writer. I’m not always a very good writer.

But because I love to put words on a page that express something, whether that be a story, a message, an emotion, an idea–I’m a writer.

When I was younger, writing was all about the stories that are trapped in my head, banging away at my skull. You know that quote about writing and schizophrenia?

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

-E.L. Doctorow

Well, I confess that the characters in my head are almost as real as the people around me. Believe me, I’ve gotten some strange looks when I’ve said that out loud, but just ask any fiction writer and they’ll tell you the same thing.

Now that I’m older, I still have stories that beg to be told, but I also write some nonfiction. I don’t count my academic papers in this category, but the creative essays or rambling thoughts I put down on paper. A lot of this ends up being focused around my horse, which is awesome. Poetry–well, as my friend Katie and I say, “We were not born under a rhyming planet.” Or any poetry planet, for that matter. It just doesn’t work for me.

I used to struggle a lot with using my writing for God. I still do, but I’ve realized that even if God Himself isn’t present in person in my writing, I work to use themes and ideas that reveal Him and His love for us. I like to start my characters out broken, and then try to heal them, and I hope that even if God isn’t in my story, people can see His hand in it. There are plenty of stories I come up with that don’t directly honor God, and I have to decide if I want to put that on paper. Sometimes the point is showing the brokenness of this world. Sometimes that story should not be written at all. It’s something that I continue to wrestle with.

I want to influence other people through my writing. I want to make them think, even for a moment, about seeing things differently or about something that is completely new. I’d say I want to change the world through my writing, but that sounds pretentious. I do want to change one person’s world. I don’t know who that person is or how it will happen, but if I influence even one person positively, I’ve done well.

Some of my favorite authors have had tremendous impacts on me at different points in my life. Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion trilogy. L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon trilogy. Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness. I could go on and on, but the point is that writing can change people.

I want to write so that I can touch someone else the way those authors touched me. I want to make them feel the emotions of the characters, feel the beauty or ugliness of a description. I want to write so powerfully that it takes people’s breath away.

Can I do that? Not yet. Will I ever? By the grace of God, yes.

Why do I write?

I want to give other people the same pleasure reading my stories that I get from reading others.

I like to make the words represent the pictures and characters in my head.

Writing is how I make sense of the world around me.

I want to be God’s hands and feet in this world, and this is the talent He has given me.

Because sometimes I just want to tell a rockin’ good tale.

Because I always have a story.