Frowning, brows knit, I began taking the personality test again. It just didn’t make sense. I was a minister’s wife, a teacher, a public speaker.
How could I possibly be an introvert?
I talked easily with strangers, helped people make connections, and carried conversation when necessary. I made jokes at my own expense, shared my testimony without hesitation, spilled my guts for the sake of the Kingdom, and inspired others to open up as well. I even planned and hosted events, some of them in my own home.
Finished with the quiz, I hit ‘enter’ and waited for the results to calculate.
I spend my summers at youth camp, for crying out loud!
But there it was. Introvert. INFJ, to be exact, ‘the protector.’
As I read the description of my personality type, light began to dawn.
I discovered introverts aren’t the people-hating scaredy-cats I thought they were. They’re just as capable of loving and enjoying people as extroverts are. It’s just that interaction wears them out after a certain point that varies from introvert to introvert, and they need to refuel.
It all began to make sense, the urge to hide from people even though I’m not shy, the anxiety brought on by a sea of new faces even though people fascinate me, and the exhaustion that always followed an event requiring me to entertain or invest emotionally in others.
Suddenly, the guilt I’d felt over dreading long periods of togetherness with people I truly cared about, wishing I could escape meaningful conversation, and needing to lie low for a day or so after a period of intense socialization lifted.
I wasn’t cold. I was complex.
I had a name for the struggle inside, and in that moment, I wished I’d known it all along.
In the very next moment, I was glad I hadn’t.
You see, I know me. If I had known from the start that I could claim introversion as a valid excuse for not interacting with people or doing things outside my comfort zone, I would have.
I wouldn’t have initiated as many conversations as I did and would’ve missed the chance to encourage and be encouraged by people whom God placed in my life for that reason.
I wouldn’t have hosted people in my home and would’ve missed the opportunity to share life on an intimate level with those who are not my blood and experience a sense of family beyond the one I was born into.
I wouldn’t have formed some of the deeper relationships I formed and would’ve missed the chance to sharpen and be sharpened by others.
I wouldn’t have reached out to some who needed me only to find I needed them, too.
I wouldn’t have volunteered for responsibilities I didn’t want that prepared me for responsibilities I did want later.
I wouldn’t have attended events that blessed and taught me.
The list goes on and on.
As it was, I didn’t give myself very many outs and experienced time and time again the wonder and joy of watching God work in and through the shaky, overtired, emotionally spent jar of clay that I was, not because I was feeling particularly spiritual or compelled by Christ’s love in those moments, but often because I didn’t think I had a choice.
And thank goodness for that!
Now, that’s not to say I don’t use my being an introvert as an excuse now. I do. In fact, I really have to watch it.
When I’m tired, discouraged, and disillusioned—when I’m just plain old tired of people—I have to make an intentional effort pull my fingers out of my spiritual ears, listen to the Holy Spirit’s instructions, and go do the hard things He asks me to do. Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is something as seemingly insignificant and simple as having one more conversation I don’t have in me just in case there’s a truth He wants me to deliver, affirmation He wants me to pass along, correction that needs to happen, or a smile that needs to be shared.
Although I know myself pretty well by now, I have to trust that God knows when I’ve actually ‘had enough’ and obey Him, no matter the cost.
My fellow introverts, there’s a fine line between taking care of yourself so you’ll be of use to the Kingdom and using your own limitations as an excuse not to let God’s light shine through you. Your inherent frailty and limitations, they exist for His glory. They exist so He can prove His grace—the very grace this world needs to see, believe in, and receive—sufficient in human weakness.
Who am I to deny God an opportunity to glorify Himself just because I don’t feel up to human interaction? No one. And I didn’t before we were ‘introverts.’