Years ago my dad started a tradition. Whenever one of his children gets married he writes two letter. One for his child and one for their spouse to be opened on their wedding day. Being the fourth to get married I knew these letters were coming and looked forward to reading them.
Though my father wrote about many things in those letters, there was a common theme in both that has stuck with my husband and I through nine years or marriage. Dad wrote about cultivating a home that was focused on people. As he put it "We chose to clutter our life with people not things." In that one sentence he summarized a family culture I knew, but never knew how to articulate.
Josh and I have tried to make this a motto in our own home, though often it isn't always as easy as I wish it was.
In many ways I am a perfect storm when it comes to the need and desire for community. I truly believe that God places in his church a call to walk to through life with others. I think this is especially strong in women. Add to those two things my bent toward being an extrovert and you end up with some one who doesn't always know what to do when left to her own devices.
As a child my out going personality was easy to see in a positive light. Between my dad being a pastor and my mom working for the school I attended I was often expected to play greeter for the new kids and it was a role that felt natural and easy to me. People like outgoing children who smile and strangers and talk to the new kid.
Over the years though my desire to build relationships has started to feel like a burden. My outgoing personality and pension for initiating have become a personality quirk to be managed rather than celebrated.
In the age of social media, texting, and telecommuting it seems that the introvert is king. Search "introvert" on pinterest and you will come up with pages and pages of links on how to care for, understand, love, and be friends with an introvert. Search "extrovert" and you will find a number of links as well, most of them about introverts.
On the one hand I appreciate pieces like this. For most of my life my closest friends have been introverts and so insights on how to understand them are appreciated. On the other hand there is a small part of me the curls up and pulls back with every one of these I read. I fear that my desire to engage in friendship and build up the Church body is perceive as needy, clingy, obnoxious, and ultimately unwanted.
I have noticed a change in myself over the past few years. An unwillingness to initiate contact. When my husband and I purchased our home five years ago it was partly because we wanted more room to build community. We had a desire to have people in our home and use our space to minister to others. And yet I can't remember the last time we invited people over.
People are busy.
We are busy.
You can only hear excuses so many times before you start to pull back.
Before the door that once one wide open slowly starts to close.
You can only hear no so many times before you start to guard your heart against the inevitable disappointment.
A guarded heart is hard to share.
And so I find myself at times in a season of isolation. Holding every one at arms length, afraid of committing some social blunder. Afraid of being rebuffed again. Resisting the urge to reach out to others. Ignoring the promptings I may feel to send a text, make a phone call, or suggest a coffee date.
I can defend this behavior to myself to no end. Declaring I need space and that it is simply self preservation. I argue that I am pouring into my kids and husband and that those are the only relationships I have time for right now. I hide behind this "season" saying it will pass and I will make community a priority "later."
But we can only dodge the truth for so long. Eventually it will catch up to us and shine a light on all the lies we have been hiding behind. The truth is God designed His church, Women, ME for community.
So now what?
I have been trying to reach out more. To invite people into my life more. To ask a friend for coffee, to initiate a phone call, to text more often. To listen to the still small voice I had come to ignore.
At times the out come is balm to my slightly bruised, extroverted heart.
A friend thanking me for taking the initiative and extending a dozen different invitations over the summer.
A late night cup of coffee while our hearts are slowly being knit together.
The unexpected, initiated text from a friend who will never truly know just how much her reaching out first means to me.
And for the times when I feel rebuffed again, when I feel to weary to place my emotions on the back burner in consideration of a friend, there is God's grace. His gentle reminder that if I am full of Him and His love and provision that there is ALWAYS enough. That I can give love and attention and compassion and not have to worry that my tank will run dry. When I meet with Him first, and invite Him into all that I do, then there is more than enough to go around.
God made me this way. And so I trust He has a purpose for me. I trust that my friends, my family, and my church need people like me. Even if I do invade their bubble from time to time.