A Letter from an Inquiring Introvert.
I suppose I should have set up an appointment to talk to you after church or talk with you on the phone. I have even heard some of my friends say I am trying to, well, sort of take the easy way out by writing a letter. But here is the thing: right or wrong, I don’t feel like I can really connect with you. I don’t blame you, either, just so you know. I think it’s a bunch of different things all conglomerated together that has created this problem for me. And I dare say for many others too.
I (we) feel that because you might live quite a different life from us normal folk it might be tough to relate, you know? Again, I am not laying blame here. I (we) love you for doing what you do! I know you—and your family too—have forgone all kinds of things that we average folk take for granted. For example, I know of some denominations that, for appearances’ sake, have to forgo the biblical blessing of wine! Others have decided to never set foot in a movie theatre. So I am definitely not trying to insinuate that we don’t appreciate you.
To complicate matters, I worry that you may have already made assumptions about me. I know you are probably better than the average person when it comes to not making assumptions, but I realize that you are human too. Because, after all, your church is of the rather excited kind. And that’s cool! I come, in part, because of that very excitement. The only thing is that I am more on the—forgive the category—“introverted” side. So I fear that when you don’t see me jump up and down and wildly raise my hands high over my head at every chance you will think me less spiritual. Probably my face doesn’t always exude intense emotion either, nor do I yell “Amen” at your points. (And here I will say a heartfelt “thank you” for not insulting us by asking stupid, superfluous questions like “Are you there?” or “Are you awake?” or other such bilge. You probably know we wouldn’t be at church if we didn’t value your insight.)
And then I also wonder if you think me overly holier-than-thou when I don’t come up for prayer at every opportunity like some of the other good people in the congregation do. So when, for example, every third Sunday or so you call for people who “really want to dedicate themselves to God” to come up, I seriously wonder what you think when I don’t come forward. And yet I have dedicated myself to God. Please believe me. I do love God. I just don’t feel compelled to come to the front to demonstrate it. I prefer to talk to God on solitary walks and such.
But then you said what you did about valuing being authentic and real. And I was like, wow. I wonder if this pastor really means that, because that’s exactly what I am being now. And to tell you the truth, if I wasn’t what I am being thusly, I would be being counterfeit and treacherously insincere. I take great solace in the parts of the Bible that talk about silence and solitude. (Plus, I also inspect my motives for communing with God alone. I once read something from Thomas Merton that went to great lengths to clarify the uses of solitude and silence in his walk with God. Here are his words on the matter
I came to the conclusion that one of my biggest crimes in this world was introversion, and, in my efforts to become an extrovert, I entered upon a course of reflections and constant self-examinations, studying all my responses and analyzing the quality of all my emotions and reactions in such a way that I could not help becoming just what I did not want to be: an introvert. (Seven Story Mountain)
After much searching, what Merton “discovered” was actually quite Augustinian: it was, essentially, this: if solitude and silence do not serve, or have love as their final aim, they are worthless. I think all our proclivities must be regularly searched for motivations that might be egotistic or self-seeking. Yet I see that as a double-bitted sword, for both the introvert and the extrovert.
But I worry sometimes that you think I am really just being—that oh-so-unfashionable phrase—a lukewarm Christian.
And yet I assure you I am being real. And so I guess my questions to you are these: What does authentic look like? What does real look like? Was Jesus only a wildly loud exuberant extrovert?
Does authenticity come only from doing “radical” things that are loud and rambunctious and overtly public? Does worship strictly come from the outside? (Here I laugh to myself, because of course I know you don’t think that. After all, not too long ago you quoted the verse about true worship coming from the heart.) And yet at this church it seems I am in the minority. I love the church, but I feel out of place. And then when the worship leader says things like, “Give Jesus a big shout-out to show Him how much you love Him,” I know what she is saying, but just to be clear, I wouldn’t want my spouse to give me a shout-out to show love. But good thing we are all different.
Truthfully, it doesn’t even bother me that much. But then when you were mentioning about being real and authentic I couldn’t help but notice some of the other folks getting all, like, “Yah!” and “Preach it! It’s all about being on fire!!” and “We have to be fervent, totally!” This brought to mind books like the popular ones that emphasize being radical: David Platt’s Radical comes to mind. And suddenly I began questioning myself.
Of course, radical generally goes along with physicality, it goes along with volume, and it goes along with a certain amount of blunt kinetic energy. It seems to me that when I read various books from respected authors (like, for example, Andrew Murray, Brother Lawrence, and Edward Bounds), they talk about sincerity rather than physicality. And, of course, I realize there are different flavors of church that different people are attracted to for various reasons. So probably my other, more energetic brethren and sistren who go to Anglican churches, for example, might feel just like me, but for the opposite reason! After all, we all are differently gifted. It makes sense that gifted Christian football players probably don’t enjoy spending hour upon hour in a poorly lit library, nor do the bookworms really enjoy the excitedly screeching coaches of contact sports.
So back to my question: Can you expound on just what else worship might look like to the authentic and real quiet type of congregant? What do you think of books like Adam S. McHugh’s Introverts in the Church? Or are there others? And also, I ask sheepishly, what do you actually think of us quieter members of the church?
a slightly bashful and questioning introvert