My head bobbed up and down as I sat snuggled on the couch. It was the last night of our college church retreat, and everyone was staying up extra late, playing games, eating late-night ramen, and relishing the joy of being away from home, hanging out with friends, and being young. I wanted to stay up too, but my heavy eyelids refused to get with the program.
My friend looked over at me and, seeing my stubborn denial of needing rest, encouraged me to get some sleep in my room. I knew she was right, but I wanted to stay where I was and let the sweet noise of the people around me lull me to sleep right there on the couch.
I’ve thought back on that memory often — how much I wanted to be around people, how much comfort I felt in their presence. It’s made me think I’m more extroverted than introverted even though I’ve always scored close to the middle on personality tests. I thought I knew myself then, but the path to knowing ourselves often becomes more defined as we experience life.
The pandemic brought that kind of clarity for me, as it did for so many of us, about my values, who I am, how I function, and even how I encounter God.
When life was busier and my calendar was full of meetings and coffee dates, kids’ activities and church events, I used to crave a quieter, slower pace of living. I would long for vacations or time off or even breaks in the middle of the day, thinking those would suffice and give me peace. It seemed normal — even right — to fill my days with people because it was mutually life-giving . . . for the most part.
I had a pattern of spending too much of my time and energy with people that I’d become exhausted, then resentful for being so tired. Yet I kept going at the same pace because as much as I wanted quiet and slow, if I were honest with myself, I was actually afraid of both.
What would I find if I quieted my life, my schedule, my days? What would I see about myself that I might not like? What would God say about me or to me that wouldn’t be easy to hear?
Thankfully, the days of quarantine forced quiet and slow in a way I never had a chance to in my life before. Being raised as a pastor’s kid, who then grew up to be a pastor myself, I had believed I ought to sacrifice myself — my time, energy, space, finances, and even my identity — in order to meet other people’s needs. So I became a learned extrovert through a mixture of nature and nurture.
But when I didn’t have to be the extrovert I thought I had to be, and all I had was quiet and slow, I was surprised by what I found — I found respite. Instead of restlessness, I experienced calm. Instead of feeling forced to be “spiritually productive,” I saw God inviting me to Himself in a way that was more in line with how He created me to be — with lots of space and grace to be quiet and slow.
The quiet allowed me to reflect and be grateful for the present moment. A slower pace gave me time and space to pay attention, to form my thoughts into words more carefully, to see how God was moving, and to hear what He was saying.
When we know ourselves better, we get to know God better. It wasn’t that I didn’t encounter God in my people-filled, busy days, but it was easier to get caught up in doing things for Him. No matter how many times I learn that I don’t need to earn God’s approval or love, I need to learn it again. In the quiet, He invited me to be with Him as He is with me. I am loved, not because I can put into practice my learned extroversion but because He loves me just the way He made me.
I don’t need to be an extrovert to see or experience God. I can be the more introverted me that I really am, and in the quieter and slower pace of living, I understand Matthew 11:28-30 better:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Leave a Comment
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
God know us better than we know ourselves Grace. I have we sister the youngest in my family. Not saved. But has 4 kids. All different in there own things that they like to do. Some Football the we Girl Brownies. The other Cubs Scots. So it all go in my we sisters home. Before the pandemic. I can remember one day my we sister saying it is so lovely. Not to have to rush home from work. Make sure the kids one or either of us as their Parents. Kids have done their homework. Then check it. Make tea and out the door on so many nights of the week to one of the kids activities. It was crazy my we sister said. Then picking them up. Getting tea dishes washed. As some night it would be both us as Parents. She said as two things would be on in different places. Having to pick them up on the same night. So my we sister said the dishes didn’t get done until later. Then I heard my we sister say one day. When the pandemic set in we hall had isolate. Things were for the kids cancelled. It so great too have no running in the car to do. No rushing to get home to get homework done and checked. Then tea and back out the door to take them to their activities. She sighed. It good to be able to come home. Check the online school work one of us as parent. Then the other can start tea. Then we can get the dishes done. They are not left until we come back from picking them up. No rushing around. We can get the kids to bed that we bit earlier. So we both as parents can put out feet up and rest. It just lovely she said my we sister. But the activities she then said we’re good for the kids to be involved in. Then we had a bit more time to spend with the kids too. Which was nice. Both us she said as parents were not as tired. This taught me lesson. We can be so busy caught up in Church things ourselves. Plus helping other people. We forget to take time and rest for ourselves and in God. We then get drained ourselves. God didn’t want us ever to get like that. That is why he said we must take rest and look after ourselves. Our we will be tired even as tiredness will set in. We feel if don’t do go to Church women meeting or prayer meeting. Instead of missing it for one week or two. To get rest in God. We become come so tired we haven’t got time to spend in God’s word or prayer. Or we can’t contrate on it if we do try to spend time with God in Prayer and Reading his word. As we are falling asleep. God would not want that. Now the Pandemic lifting and things in Churches starting up again. Even before the pandemic even started. We have to be very careful. That is why God gave us Matthew 11 verse 28-30. To come along side him and rest. As our bodies need it. Plus to be refreshed to spend time with God in prayer and his word. Thank you for what you shared Grace. You spoke what was so true and from your heart. It spoke to me too. Keeping you all incourage in my prayers. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little Co.Fermanagh N.Ireland. Xx
Grace P. Cho says
Yes, to come alongside Him and rest. I pray we can both do that, Dawn!
Janet Trenda says
Lovely- thanks for the invitation to be real.
Grace P. Cho says
In it together!
Beth Williams says
I find it interesting how God gets our attention. Often times we feel we must go & do for God to earn His love & affection. Not so! He only desires a relationship with us. One that involves lots of conversations, Bible reading & study. Jesus says “Be still & know that I am God”. He asks us to stop striving & just be with Him. It is then when all is quiet that we really truly get to know God. That is also the time we can hear Him. Putting margin in our lives helps us to slow down enough to understand ourselves better & then we can get to know the God of the universe.
Grace P. Cho says
Mmm love that Psalm 46:10 reference! Yes and amen!
Henry Lee says
Grace…Thank for your sharing…I learned now to know God more than before after retirement from work especially thru this pandemic as I spend more time with God reading Bible and think of his message daily and pray with His Words daily…I began to learn more of myself as I spend more time with God with His Words and in Prayers..
Grace P. Cho says
I can imagine how retirement is such a transition. We find ourselves and God in new ways in different seasons. I pray that this season for you is a gift and an invitation to come near to Him again, Henry!
So very true! “When we know ourselves better, we know God better.” I have known this in my own life, being thankful and accepting of God’s design – The way He created me! The way I used to see myself in all the flaws and quirks are His special and unique way of loving me, down to the last curl on my head! Thank you for this beautiful message : )
Grace P. Cho says
Love that, Carolyn!