One thing that I am learning about myself, often painfully and reluctantly, is that I just might be an extrovert. This is only notable because I have considered myself an introvert for as long as I can remember.
The thing that I don’t often let people know is that I am a “hopeless romantic.” I am not completely sure what is always meant by this term, but for me it means that there is something appealing about deep emotional battles and even deep pain is acceptable, should it reveal something good and right. Poetry speaks to me very vividly. The irony is that I am not very prone to show great emotional response or excitement, even though it simmers under the surface. For me, this always meant that I must be an introvert: I am most genuine in my own thoughts and in those times alone with God.
As long as I have considered these things, I always thought that when I had a long day, the best thing for me, the thing that would bring me the most encouragement, would be time alone to “decompress,” as my wife and I are fond of saying. The problem is that as I am alone with my thoughts, all the struggles of the day seem to compress into those simmering emotions all the more. My attempt to respond to life, as a good introvert should, seemed to lead to very strange cases of melancholy. What could an introvert do? Maybe it’s not that simple.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews encourages the saints to not “neglect” meeting together as is the habit of some in the church (10:24-25). For the introvert it is easy to “neglect” meeting with fellow saints. When my identity becomes a narrowly defined personality trait or tendency, it is easy to neglect the richness of the life God has called me to. These labels for the way that we tend to be can often excuse our sin, and become the basis for so much of our pride and self-righteousness. We relish our unique personality traits rather than looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Instead I look to Chris the introverted, intuitive, abstract thinker, enemy of God before he was reconciled by the blood of the cross.
Knowing my natural tendencies is a good thing. God has created me uniquely, and he knows me better than I know myself. But, were I to truly realize my natural tendencies, I would still be a slave to sin. The Lord has encouraged my soul, heart, and mind more in my interactions with other saints, His Body, than ever before. I have to truly consider others better than myself when I step into social situations that I would normally shy away from. That simple obedience and self-forgetfullness is truly life-giving. God wants to pierce through tidy little categories that we like to create about ourselves or others. He is the answer, not any system of social psychology that makes much of us.
God does not call us to anything but joy in His glorious presence. Any aspect of myself that I think I am sacrificing to attain that is a welcome exchange. Oh God, that you would show us the reality of that exchange.
So sings he, charm'd with his own mind and form,
The song magnificent-the theme a worm!
Himself so much the source of his delight,
His Maker has no beauty in his sight.
See where he sits, contemplative and fix'd,
Pleasure and wonder in his features mix'd;
His passions tam'd, and all at his control,
How perfect the composure of his soul!
Complacency has breath'd a gentle gale
O'er all his thoughts, and swell'd his easy sail:
His books well trimm'd, and in the gayest style,
Like regimented coxcombs, rank and file,
Adorn his intellects as well as shelves,
And teach him notions splendid as themselves:
The Bible only stands neglected there-
Though that of all most worthy of his care;
And, like an infant, troublesome awake,
Is left to sleep, for peace and quiet sake.
– William Cowper, “What is Man?” (excerpt)
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be;
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.
So shall my walk be close with GOD,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.
– William Cowper, “Walking with God” (excerpt)