Jesus was an introvert. At least that’s my conclusion. Extroverts get their energy and motivation from outside; introverts from within. When I talk with people to find out which they are—and it’s not always obvious—I ask them two simple questions.
1. You have the day off, and you’re feeling sluggish. Do you close the door and go to bed or call friends on the telephone?
2. You go to a party where there are people you know. After an hour are you ready to leave or do you get charged up as the evening wears on?
As you may have figured out, extroverts get on the phone and feel charged up from being around a group of people.
I’m an extrovert, and my tendency is to call friends. When I attend parties, I usually stay until they get ready to shut the doors, because my energy gets a boost from being around other people.
As I look at Jesus, it seems rather obvious that he was what I’d call an internal man. He frequently went away from his disciples to what the Bible calls a solitary place. There he prayed.
When the crowds followed him, at night he slipped away so he could be alone. In his famous scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, he took his three closest disciples with him. While they slept, he prayed—just Jesus and God.
Knowing that helps me immensely. During the first twenty years of my Christian experience, I devoured books, articles, and pamphlets about how to live the dedicated Christian life. They usually told me to do something of the Jesus style—solitude, getting away from others, and spending hours and hours alone.
That’s the part I always had trouble with: hours alone. Oh, maybe only one or two, but every day? I’m not fussing about it on the basis of the busyness of my life. It has to do with my personality, and I finally figured it out.
Those books, tracts, and articles were written by introverts and sold to us extroverts. Unconsciously, they tried to make us like them. Because they naturally turned inward, they assumed that was the way—the only way—for everybody who wanted to live a godly life.
I confess that although my tree is planted on the extroverted side of the fence, some of my branches lean to the other side. Probably everyone has some leanings the other way, and none of us are purely one type. But no one ever told me that I could be a godly person and not be like the saints of old who wore calluses on their knees from much praying and being alone with God.
Because I didn’t know that, guilt constantly nipped at me.
I couldn’t make my life function like those introverts such as my friend Kiki, who said, “If God let me choose my life, I would be content to get away from people and live the contemplative life.” Terry put it differently by saying, “I don’t really need people. I’m able to be by myself and enjoy my own company. Being with other people is like an interruption.”
My wife Shirley is a classic introvert. She finds deep joy in spending enormous amounts of time alone with God. She can be at home for ten hours and not talk to another soul or turn on the TV or radio, and she feels contented. That’s not a picture of me.
I’ve been working at this for a long time, and I can spend an occasional hour and say, “Hey, thanks, God, that was nice.” Normally a half hour passes and I’m ready for physical movement and something to happen. I’ve adapted by breaking my prayer times into two portions a day, and that helps.
I’ve finally come to accept that Jesus is my model—an introvert—but he also loves us extroverts. I expect I’m more like the personality of the apostle Peter. In the Gospels, he seems to do the extroverted things. I like that because Peter was as close to Jesus as any of the others. If not the first head of the church, he was certainly number one of the original apostles. For the first twelve chapters of Acts, the light focuses primarily on him.
Yet for many years I tried to change myself into the introverted type. It didn’t work. I tried to take on a personality that wasn’t my own. Perhaps part of maturing in the Christian faith is recognizing who we really are and accepting that reality.
This morning as I talked to the Introvert, I believe he understood. As an extrovert, I like the fact that he’s a good listener, and that I receive new energy just being around him. He understands that I pray better when I walk. I do my very best praying when I run for an hour before daylight. He understands that I get wearied after trying to pray on my knees for forty-five minutes.
In my prayer time today (and some of it was in a quiet, all-but-motionless position), I was able to rejoice that I’m all right as an extrovert. If Jesus could have a loving relationship with my spiritual mentor, Peter, it’s all right for Cec to be an extrovert. Instead of trying to structure my prayer and devotional time to look like that of Shirley or a Trappist monk, I have to learn to be the real me.
I don’t want to use my personality type as an excuse not to pray or read my Bible. Instead, I capitalize on the re-energizing I receive being in the presence of another. Instead of phoning two of my friends to lift my spirits, I’m learning to draw on the energy from being in God’s presence. I draw on that energy while my body is moving. I’m with Jesus the Introvert. (And I read recently that introverts are especially attracted to extroverts. I like that statement.)
The more aware I am of the presence of God in my life, and the more vivid that presence becomes, the more my extroverted personality flows. And the more I become the real me.
And God loves the real me, no matter who I am.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed. —MARK 1:35, NIV
Jesus, Perfect Man, Perfect God,
I am who I am, by your grace.
Help me value myself and the kind of personality you’ve
I’m yours, no matter who I really am.
And you accept me just as I am. Amen.
For more from Cec, please visit www.cecilmurphey.com.
Cecil Murphey has written more than one hundred books on a variety of topics with an emphasis on Spiritual Growth, Christian Living, Caregiving, and Heaven. He enjoys preaching in churches and speaking and teaching at conferences around the world. To book Cec for your next event, please contact Twila Belk at 563-332-1622.