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