"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."