I’m not sure how many of you have watched the amazing series, “The Chosen,” but if you haven’t, do. I won’t go into all the details, but just know that it chronicles the life of Jesus like no other show I’ve ever watched. It’s real, inspiring, emotional, and eye-opening. In a word, it is relatable.
There are many lines throughout the episodes that have caught my attention, but one that stands out is when Jesus told Thomas, the infamous “Doubting Thomas,” “Maybe don’t think so much.” I’ve always said I would probably be that “doubting Thomas” and to hear Jesus say those words to a fellow deep thinker hit home and made me think. In a good and healthy way.
Another line I connected with is when Jesus tells Simon, “Get used to different” after He invited tax collector (and possible introvert?) Matthew to join the other disciples and follow Him, raising many an apostolic eyebrow.
It’s not uncommon for introverts like me to overthink and not like surprises. It is our nature to notice and observe everything, boast a knack for details and empathy, and have a deep desire to solve problems and feel compelled to act. At the same time, we crave solitude and quiet. This includes our prayer and worship time.
In studying introvert strengths and how they make me different from extroverts, I’ve learned so much. It’s no secret that introverts prefer intimate and genuine small social settings so it should come as no surprise that I, and many a fellow introvert, do not like big stadium-sized churches. Those giant, energy-filled gatherings do not feed my soul and neither does their rock-style music and hands-in-the-air worship. It all makes me uncomfortable. And that’s okay.
As “The Powerful Purpose of Introverts” author and introvert Holley Gerth writes, we introverts ask ourselves, “Why does everyone enjoy the loud music, feel the need to join a ministry group, and love going on retreats but I don’t?” In a nutshell, because it’s now how we were divinely created.
Many introverts say faith is central to their lives and find our spiritual moments while reading in a quiet place or participate in a small group study. We relate to God and draw near Him better in more intimate settings and ways. Yes of course I love going to church, but the church we attend is smaller in nature and since it’s Catholic, is not prone to what I like to call “Six Flags Over Jesus” services. And please know I’m not judging or criticizing, just observing as a good little introvert does. Those mega-churches serve a purpose and change lives. They’re just not for me.
Many who know me well are often shocked to learn that I’m a full-blown introvert. They say things like “But you’re so outgoing and fun.” Yes, I for sure can be but only around those who give me peace. I can sense it in a heartbeat and my comfort level increases immediately when I do.
Introverts often feel awkward in a crowd, especially one in which we don’t know a lot of people. We don’t feel awkward because we’re shy or stand-offish, we feel awkward because people matter to us and we are wired to connect. Just not on an arena-sized level.
Think about it, big church services feed right into an extrovert’s wheel house. They emphasize emotion and outward signs of faith, which often make introverts uncomfortable. None of it leads to happiness for us, which should be one of many goals of attending a church service.
Spiritual experiences should give us a sense of connectedness, reduce (not increase!) stress, and boost our mental health and happiness. Turns out to extroverts, “happy” is synonymous with enthusiastic, excited, and ecstatic while introverts feel “happy” when content, fulfilled, calm, engaged, peaceful, and satisfied. Modern day culture’s extroverted spin on this concept complicates things for introverts who feel best with minimal external stimulation. Extroverts are wired to spend energy, so an active service is perfect for them, while introverts are wired to conserve energy.
Learning all this released a “light bulb” moment for me as it explained why I’m not big on retreats despite being highly faith-filled and religious and why a recent bible study I joined was ultimately not for me.
I love bible studies and was so thrilled to join one I’d heard about for years. However, as I became a regular attendee I never felt myself with the reading assignments or the discussion. I also never felt comfortable with the opening and closing praise music videos complete with standing, raised arms, and other “six flags” moments. I love and respect the women who jumped right in and I tried and I wanted to, but if I’ve learned anything about being a card-carrying introvert, it’s to never ever try to be something or someone you’re not…especially an extrovert.
Enter my new bible study that’s much more intimate and comfortable for me. If someone asked “WWJD?” the answer would be both! In His “only Jesus could” perfect way, Jesus was most likely both an extrovert and introvert. He preached to millions but often also went away to pray quietly and alone.
And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.
Throughout the Gospels it is noted that Jesus went off for private prayer, including:
- After the multiplication of loaves, Mark 6:46 says “He went up to the mountain to pray.”
- “He went up into the hills to pray” after choosing His 12 apostles, as recorded in Luke 6:12.
- Before the Transfiguration, Luke writes in 9:28 “About eight days He took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.”
- Matthew 26:36-45; Mark 14:32-41; and Luke 22:39-46 all document that before the crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus went to pray alone.
- As only Jesus could, He also preached what he practiced and invited the disciples (and ultimately all of us) to do the same when he instructed them: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” in Matthew 6:5-6.
Like Jesus when he’d go away to pray, introverts are often energized by solitude and recharged from the inside out and from our ideas and feelings. Our souls. It’s where we’re happy. And secure. It’s where we find our strength.
Jesus was a quiet leader and is proof you don’t need to be an outgoing or brash extrovert to lead. Jesus, the most influential leader ever, focused mainly on just 12 people, traveled less than 200 miles from His birthplace, lived only to age 33 and spent 30 of those years in obscurity, was King of all kings but was born in a humble manger not on a throne or in a castle, and came as a baby not as an expert. Doesn’t sound like much of an extrovert to me. Can I get an Amen?!
There should be no argument that it’s more important to lead with inspired standards than inspiring personality and that sometimes silence is golden. I’m all for hanging with 12 of my closest and most loyal friends, but I can also sit and read for hours on end and am never bored when alone in my home. I take inspiration from the above examples of Jesus doing the same and from the apostle Paul who instructed, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life.”
This is somewhat easy to do as an introvert. Putting to use my analytical mind and retreating to reflect and pray give me more energy than any rock ‘n roll church service or prayer group can. Gerth writes about this and the nine “Sacred Pathways.” I lean toward the Contemplative path in that I feel closest to God through spiritual intimacy and quiet moments as well as the Intellectual one as I love to learn something new and the resulting “aha moments” about faith and God. I am also predictably in the Traditionalist pathway by loving God through rituals, symbols, repetition, and routine. They all fit the mold of an introvert’s tendency to like an orderly system, scheduling, and planning and are perfect for my cradle Catholic upbringing and life journey. If there is anything that incorporates quiet moments, repetition, and rituals, it’s a Catholic mass!
Most introverts love order and planning so perhaps a favorite scripture verse of ours should be John 13:19 in which Jesus says, “From now on I am telling you before it happens so that when it happens you may believe that I am who I am.” Nothing like giving a perpetual planner a little heads up to prevent them from becoming a doubting Thomas. I believe!
Gerth’s book has inspired and taught me so much. God doesn’t compare us to anyone else and neither should we. At some point we need to stop trying to be someone God never intended us to be and be who He carefully created. He made me brilliantly and beautifully an introvert and I embrace it with grace. No doubt about it.