Sunday, October 14, 2012

Introverts in the Church, Part 1

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. 
"Pooh," he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet."
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand.
"I just wanted to be sure of you."
My friend Greta posted this Winnie the Pooh photo and caption as her Facebook status this morning, and I brazenly stole it and shared it as mine. I had  taken a brief coffee respite from reading Introverts in the Church by Adam S. McHugh, and this little excerpt from one of my favorite childhood series of books was like a timely visit from a dear and trusted friend. I had this little epiphany that these characters were always so near and dear to me precisely because so many of them were introverts. Tigger and Roo were extroverted exceptions, and Eeyore - well, Eeyore was just cranky. But then again, he may have had to spend too much time around Tigger and Roo . . .

So . . . before going back to my book (Tiddlee-pom, tiddlee-pom), I reflected just a bit longer about why I found Piglet's words so moving. It seemed to me that Piglet expressed in just a few words what my introverted self has been trying to discern about my relationship with God in a number of wordy blogs. "I just wanted to be sure of you."

I suppose it would be nice if I would just let Piglet have the last word on this one, but as I am reading in McHugh's book, introverts often have a need to write things down while they find "further clarity and coherence." The subtitle of the book is "Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture," and while I am only half-way through the book, not only have I learned and affirmed much about myself, but I feel certain that if you are an extrovert living with an introvert you would find many, many mysteries revealed about the introvert in your life. And introverts, there are helps aplenty about surviving life with your extroverted other with your sanity and your relationship intact. What follows are a few excerpts to encourage you to read this excellent book.

I began this blog again recently precisely because I felt a desperate need to process my thoughts about life, teaching, relationship and especially my relationship to the organized church. It was affirming to me to read McHugh state: "Introverts benefit from regularly setting apart longer periods to gather up the fragments of their lives and thoughts, and to present them to God through prayer or journaling. To rest and reflect are countercultural activities in our world, and they enable us to step out of the hurried, relentless activity of our culture and to observe the larger direction of and patterns in our lives."

Even as I read Introverts in the Church, my life continues to play out more like an Introvert-OUT-of-the-Church-Trying-to-Figure-Out-the-Church. This morning as I read I began to understand myself as I relate to the church, shed a bit of guilt for myself and withdrew a bit of blame from the church.  If I didn't understand this about myself, how can I expect the largely extroverted church at large to recognize it? McHugh says, "The journey of introverts into a community, however, is better conceptualized as a spiral. They take steps into a community, but then spiral out of it in order to regain energy, to reflect on their experiences and to determine if they are comfortable in that community. They move between entry, retreat and reentry, gradually moving deeper into the community on each loop. . . . Sometimes introverts need to step outside of a community for a period of time, even after years of faithful participation. . . . These outward movements are often not an indication of spiritual atrophy or waning enthusiasm, but they are simply part of normal introverted patterns. . . . They can lose themselves in community and need to retreat to solitude in order to be restored into shape and to find the power to give themselves fully to others when they reengage."

I need more reflection on this, and am eager to get back to the book, so with that, I will give McHugh the last word.  For now.


  1. I feel understood after reading this. And I am going to go request that book from the library right this very moment.


  2. Brenna, I think you will love it. Let me know!