Some people have asked about this summer–how it was, what I’ve learned, where was I all that time?–and I’ve told something different to each person. This summer I traveled almost 5000 miles before July, then worked as a camp counselor in Texas, walking the same roads and paths over and over, for six weeks. Both parts of the summer were very, very good. However, so much happened that it’s hard to pick one thing to write about–so starting out, I had no idea what to title this blog post or even what would go into it.
Then I read an article a friend on Facebook shared, called “An Introverted Christian.” In it, the author, Tim Challies, talks about the tendency to label ourselves as either introverted or extroverted, and how those labels can, if we’re not careful, make us selfish Christians. Our personalities are certainly involved in how we relate to people, and we’ve been given different strengths and weaknesses, but, the article suggests, it’s all too easy to use whatever personality type we identify with as an excuse to, say, retreat from people rather than engage with them.
I think that’s what I’ve learned this summer, along with everything else that’s happened. Going to Sky Ranch was incredibly hard and decidedly out of my introverted comfort zone. I related with the kids well, but when it came to developing friendships with other counselors, I was intimidated and fearful. Three weeks in, I felt miserably lonely; I questioned why I was there when I couldn’t belong; and my mind went through a list of all the ways I felt different from my fellow counselors. I’ve realized since then that those thoughts were not from Christ, but at the time–holy cow!–it was really hard not to keep thinking them.
That weekend, (the one where I bawled my eyes out on the phone with my mom), God used my co-counselors to encourage me while, at the same time, kind of calling me out on the worries I’d been letting consume me. They reinforced the beautiful truths that God is in control of all things; that His plans for us are good; and that no one was at Sky Ranch on accident or by mistake. When I started focusing on negative thoughts, my mind was distracted from the purpose He had for me. Funnily enough, the verse we were memorizing together was Psalm 23:7: “For as a man thinks within himself, so he is.” We had a time with that verse, trying to get in firmly in our minds–but it helped, so much, to realize the power of my own thought habits. [It was also slightly terrifying:)]
I don’t really want to come across as saying “positive thinking will make everything better!!” I think a certain kind of optimism cheapens the reality of a broken world, and I am not for glossing over some deeply unjust things, just so we can perpetually have smiles on our faces. What I have learned is that, when we are pursuing God’s purpose and obeying Him, Satan will try to distract us, in any way he can. This summer, he used my personality, along with self-doubt and fear and worries, to try and distract me from being fully engaged in my situation.
I’m not saying being introverted is bad. Not at all! Being quieter and thoughtful can be such a positive trait in me–and I know that, in several instances this summer, God used me and the way He designed me to speak to others. What’s crazy is that, if we’re not careful, we can start to define ourselves by what’s most comfortable to us. So say our bent, or inclination, is to be with people all the time and get energy from them. I would assume a struggle would be in not finding our self-worth from other peoples’ words and attention. Then the hard part would be being alone and still knowing you’re more than OK in Christ.
For me, what’s hard is feeling I belong. And it’s all too easy to retreat from an uncomfortable situation and be alone with my thoughts (which are sometimes good, sometimes worth nothing), rather than stay and trust that God has me in that uncomfy situation for a purpose. Maybe He needed an quieter voice there, or someone who can listen.
All told, it’s a wonderful, freeing knowledge to know that God didn’t make anyone wrong; that yes, we are given different personalities, gifts, strengths, and weaknesses; and that I am called to follow Him even into situations that are scary for me–situations where I feel inadequate and out-of-place–trusting that He holds all things.
Here’s the link to the article I mentioned: