Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why We Need Introverts In Communities

"Often, in Christian circles, we idealize those people that have a "passion" for community. Those people who constantly want to be around other people and who love organizing and mobilizing social events are often considered those people who have the most "love"... And, let's be clear, those people are absolutely indispensable for the formation of relationships in a community."

- Adam S. McHugh, A Matter of Motivation

This subject is something I have been wrestling with a lot while living in community. Perhaps it's something I've wrestled with for a while, since I have, at times, felt inadequate being an introvert. I've felt like a fish out of water in most churches and Christian circles -- shying away from games, hospitality hour, and longing for moments of silence in services. Growing up in and around churches geared towards extroverted people, I've often wondered...

"God, why did you make me this way?"

This is a question I've posed in the last couple weeks. "God, why did you make me such an introvert, while at the same time calling me to live in intentional community?" As I hide away in my bedroom for the hundredth hour, I wonder why God thought I was cut-out for this lifestyle at all. Even more than that -- what about my housemates? Isn't it unfair to them that I prefer to be alone most of the time?

There are times I truly wish I were an extrovert. But the fact is that I'm not. And it's sort of unfair of me to question the way God "fearfully and wonderfully" made me (Psalm 139). Just as I would not tell a friend that she was inadequate for being an introvert, it's also not right for me to tell myself that I'm inadequate. And it's totally uncool for me to accuse the Lord of not making me correctly.

But it still doesn't answer the question:
How does a community benefit from an introvert?
How does an introvert benefit from community?

I recently started browsing the websites of other intentional Christian communities. I really appreciated the thoroughness and articulate nature of the Church of the Sojourners' website. Here's what I found on the homepage:

"Here at Church of the Sojourners, we seek to respond to Christ's call by living together family-style, sharing our homes, resources, and friendship, our weaknesses as well as our strengths -- not because living together is a requirement of committed discipleships, but because it is one real way we have found to provide us with numerous daily opportunities for forgiveness, humility, service, gratitude, worship, prayer, and other practicalities of sainthood which help build us into 'the full measure of the stature of Christ.'"

Living together in such close community gives us more opportunities to grow into the likeness of Christ. We wouldn't be stretched if we all had the same personalities, expectations, and ideas. We are different and it is in these differences that we make up the full body of Christ (Romans 12).

As I've mentioned previously, living so closely with others calls me to action. It is impossible for me to let destructive behaviors take hold because how I live affects those around me. Although we shouldn't have to live in intentional community to confess our sins to one another and extol one another, our American lifestyles tend to lead to isolation. When you don't have an intentional community keeping you accountable, it's easier to let sinful things take hold -- both because you don't have to own up to anyone, and also because no one is bound to notice.

Living in intentional community helps me learn how to confess, have difficult conversations, love others better, and figure out what it means to care for others by caring for myself. And I pray that living with a severe introvert helps my housemates experience similar things. It is through our differences that we learn more about Christ and what it means to follow Him daily.

As Adam S. McHugh writes,
"Love for God's people does not have to look for everyone like an overt, uncontainable passion for being with others. Love, as we know from the scriptures, is self-sacrificial, in which we lay down our rights and place the good of others ahead of our own."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Best-Kept Secret to Gluten-Free Living

This is a little off-topic from the blog's focus, but I thought it was pretty cool enough to share. And since I know a lot more of the world is going gluten-free, I figured it would be worth divulging a secret.

A little bit of background first: I am gluten-free (and also corn- and shellfish-free). This is not by choice, but by necessity. Since high school, I started getting random hives and allergic reactions to some unknown thing. It steadily grew worse until college, when I started going into anaphylactic shock and took a number of trips to the ER.

Finally, my allergist zeroed in on the culprit: gluten, corn, shellfish, and ibuprofen. These were all things I had consumed my entire life, but for some reason my body developed an adverse reaction to them.

Luckily for me, gluten-free living is all the rage, and this means more access to all things gluten-free and delicious. However, access does not always equal cheap. A lot of gluten-free things (especially flour) are extremely pricey. My plan was to just subsist off of rice cakes and protein, until my housemates discovered the secret to living gluten-free on a budget:

Indian-Pakistani Grocers.

No lie. My housemates went out on an excursion to (one of) our local Indian Grocer(s) and brought back...


These flours would probably run about $6-$8 per bag at the regular grocery store, and you'd probably get a fraction of the amount you see above. These flours ran about $2-$4 a bag.

I am so. excited.
And you should be too!

So go support your local grocer and enjoy eating homemade gluten-free bread and other goodies! Huzzah!

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Attitude Ickiness Check

Everything has been irking me lately.

I mean, I get annoyed if I see someone. Or hear them breathing. Ok, that's extreme, but I'm really on edge these days. It's almost as if my current attitude is: "The only people that should exist in the world are me, Gwendolyn, and sometimes Elliott."

(Sorry, Elliott.)

And I'm not really sure what's going on. Is it my introversion? My sleepiness? Or am I just being self-indulgent and snobbish? Whatever it is, there is an ickiness inside my soul that I can't seem to shake. And the feeling is (unfortunately) familiar.

It comes in different forms, but it always finds a way to lodge itself into my core. I'm reminded of the passage in James that describes these small "ickinesses" as leading to conception and giving birth to sin. When the sin grows up, it becomes death (James 1:15).

Guys, I don't want death.
But I feel it festering inside me.

If I were a hermit, or even living day-to-day in my own secluded apartment, I might be able to ignore the icky. If it were up to me, that's probably what I'd do. Ignoring it is easier than acknowledging it and having to deal with it.

But, as we all know, I live in community. And what festers inside and me affects those around me. My attitude is something my housemates have to deal with on a daily basis. I'm not an island. And so I have to fight it.

In order to do battle and rid myself of a destructive attitude, I turn to the Bible.
In it, I read the reminders...

"There is no one who does good, not even one."
Psalm 14:3

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
James 1:17

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13

The thing is that I honestly can't do good on my own. I can't just decide, "I'm going to have a better attitude," and click the switch. It doesn't happen that way. I can't do good apart from Christ, but I can do all things through Him. I can ask the Lord for an attitude change -- for the good that only comes from Him -- and watch Him change me. After all, He promises...

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you."
John 15:7

So, God, this is what I'm asking: that you change my attitude -- that you root out the ickiness, and fill me with love and grace and peace -- that you would allow me to bless those around me, and especially those closest to me -- that you would give me wisdom in knowing how to take care of myself so as to care for others -- and that all the glory will go to you, Father. I can do nothing good except through you.
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