Monday, June 13, 2011

Apparently, Being a Hermit Doesn't Work in Intentional Community

"If given the chance, I would be a hermit."

So writes Shelley Batdorf at Introverted Church, in a guest post entitled Parenting as a Spiritual Discipline. Although her post is geared towards parenting as an introvert (and thus, I was thoroughly intrigued), I couldn't help but resonate with her and relate some thoughts to my current experience.

When we moved here a month ago, my husband and I couldn't help but immediately notice the difference between our first community-living experience and our current one. Within the first week, we reflected on the biggest difference: we went from living with two introverts to living with two extroverts.

I guess it also doesn't hurt to mention that Elliott and I are both introverts. Well, he is a high-functioning introvert who is sometimes mistaken for an extrovert, and I ... well, I'm almost a hermit.

Ever since I can remember, I would happily hide away in my room as a kid -- writing and enacting stories, reading, playing, singing -- whatever it was, I could do it on my own and be perfectly content. Once I got to college and lived with various roommates, I would often steal away into my own room whenever I got home. When I was outside my apartment walls, the world forced me to interact with it. When I got home, I could embrace what I longed for: space and quiet.

Since coming to live in this new home, I noticed my hermit-habits popping up again. And quite honestly, I've indulged them. Nearly the only thing that draws me out of my room is the baby-in-my-belly requiring some sort of food. It takes a great deal of effort for me to think about going downstairs to simply "hang out." It's not that I don't love my housemates (I DO!) and it's not that I don't love spending time with them (I DO!) -- it's just not my natural instinct to be around people.

Yet, as Shelley Batdorf writes, "We all need other people, to be in community and to take our place within the Body."

So true, Shelley, so true. In fact, I wrote about this very idea only a few months ago. We are made in the image of a Triune God -- a God who is at the same time one and three -- who, from the very beginning, was in relationship with Himself. To fulfill our whole, created nature, we need to be in community with one another. We need relationships.

Unfortunately for some of us, that requires a little bit more work.

Through some awesome communication with one housemate in particular, I realized that in order to love my housemates better, I need to sacrifice some alone time to be with them. They have helped me understand how the extroverted mind thinks and how I can serve them. I have learned that I don't even have to do without my "down" time to be around them -- that even being in the same room helps them. I have learned that I need to be more deliberate about hanging out and being around, and that being a hermit all the time will do much more harm to this community than it will do good to myself.

And, in return, they respect my introverted character. Actually, I would even venture to say that they've done a better job serving me than I have done for them. Realizing that I need extra alone time and space, my housemates have provided it for me in abundance. It's definitely my turn to be aware, give back, and just be around.

"Community calls out into the world from behind our walls, to be with others even when we would rather be alone."
Thank you, Shelley!!


  1. Well, you know I can relate to the hermit/introvert parts. I am glad to know that God is working in you to bring you out of your comfort zone. You, Elliott, and your more extroverted housemates are in our prayers, and it's exciting to see what God is doing.

  2. When much of our life outside of "home" is spent in community, restorative retreat is often times necessary. Each of us is created with a biosystem and regenerative process that is unique. How, I seek, and oft times fall short in recognizing signs in either extreme, is by making sure my time in community with the Lord is my priority. He keeps me in perfect peace to release me to first, my husband, children, church,and the world. The Holy Spirit gives me wisdom to "see" with His eyes, and move at His prompting. Falling into His safe arms, as He carries me into places I may not have chosen to walk, bringing me sanctuary, at the bidding of His voice. To everything there is a season, in His time. Your community is about to increase, lean in very closely to those times of rest and solitude with Him. They too, are to be treasured. Love to you, Elliott, and little Pixie.

  3. Great post, Rachel!

    I do want to say that I think that calling Elliott a "high-functioning introvert" is just a means of covering up the fact that he's an extrovert! just kidding :P

    In all seriousness, though - I'm not too sure that I'm an extrovert. I know that I can be boisterous and gregarious at times, but I'm not convinced that I enjoy being around others more than I enjoy being around myself. Although I like to bounce ideas off of other people, I always spend hours, days, or weeks mulling them over in my lonesome before the thoughts spill out into society.

    Admittedly, I haven't spent much time investigating the characteristics that distinguish extroverts from introverts. Perhaps guided inquiry into the literature on psycho-social dispositions would be of some help to me as I seek to determine which category I most appropriately stand within.

  4. I actually like being a hermit sometimes. . .actually once you have kids you'll desire to have more hermit time!!!! I miss it!!!

  5. Well, you know I can relate to the hermit/introvert parts. I am glad to know that God is working in you to bring you out of your comfort zone. You, Elliott, and your more extroverted housemates are in our prayers, and it's exciting to see what God is doing.


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