I am an introvert. That means two things: One, I make for a lousy pastor because I am shy. Two, I live most of my life inside of my own head.
In fact, there is a whole library in my head. I pull up a chair, turn on the brain, and pick some good books off the bookshelf. I have my favorites: The one on anxiety has a torn cover from too much use; then there is one on desires and another on opinions. There are a few others on time management and lots of books on politics.
Every now and then, some of what goes on in my crowded brain makes it into the public square, mostly in the form of articles or sermons.
Over the span of my life, however, I have found that being an introvert gets frustrating because things can build up sometimes. (I have met other introverts with the same issue.) I don’t get mad at people or get physically stressed. I don’t show much emotion. Instead, I tend to sulk, withdraw, or get moody when my thoughts get overwhelming.
When conflict arises, I withdraw into that library. I think, dwell, and worry too much. “Relax!” and “Get over it!” are two phrases my wife often tells me.
Then Facebook and blogs came along, and I quickly found that they brought some much-needed solace as an outlet for my brooding ways. At first, I found that social networking was so liberating–to express all of those thoughts quickly and freely!– that I abused those websites. My mantra became, “I publish, therefore I am!”
It eventually became a bit too much. I mean, who really wants to know whether I cooked mac-n-cheese instead of chicken nuggets for my kids on a particular night?
And Lent came along and I recognized that my abuse had to stop. Since that time, I have focused on setting boundaries on social networking during the last three seasons of Lent.
That first Lent, I “fasted” from Facebook altogether. The next year, I gave up using Facebook on my smart phone. The third Lent, I sold my smart phone for a simple cell phone and had my wife password-protect our computer to limit my time online.
I realized that I had to find healthier ways to interact with people. I increased my pastoral visits, spent time calling people on the phone rather than emailing them, and took time to visit some local eateries in town for breakfast now and then (Oaks Diner is the best!).
Yet, my use of social networks still continue, although not as neurotically. It’s actually become quite therapeutic in a way. The other day I was frustrated about a few things regarding my lack of exercise and self-discipline, and I wrote a status update saying as much.
Without that status update, my frustration would have been an on-going drama in the recesses of my head. But the update proved helpful as I got several online responses. A few people wrote supportive comments; one friend took time to text me and ask how he could help me or pray for me. That made my day.
Getting that frustration out allowed me to let some people in my life so that they could carry me in their prayers and encouragement. Even pastors need that now and then.
James’ epistle reminds us of the importance of “letting it out” because of the grace that others can provide when we become vulnerable in our communities of support: “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them” (5:14).
There are times to keep some things in, between you and the Lord; but, more times than not, it’s good to go outside and let others in to your life too. It supports the old adage, “We are, therefore I am,” and allows for “mutual love to continue” (Hebrews 13:1).