Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The quiet King

kw: spiritual musings, human personality

I am reading a book about personality, and a comment made by someone the author interviewed set off a train of thought. When someone interviews for a job as a pastor at a certain church, if their Myers-Briggs score starts with an "I", they are told, "think twice…I am sure our Lord was an Extrovert."

I immediately thought, "Really? Read your Gospels again, fool!" Jesus frequently withdrew from the crowds that came to hear him speak, to "desert places". He often arose early to pray alone, and more than once the disciples went out looking for him. He avoided the crowds when his miracles made him popular, but spent half the night talking privately to Nicodemus. At Sychar in Samaria, he refrained from going into the city, sending his disciples to buy food.

The extroverts I know avoid time alone. Those extroverts who are spiritual much prefer prayer in a group to private prayer. A defining characteristic of an introvert is, not total avoidance of people, but the need to recharge from time spent socially, by time spent alone. Extroverts get a charge out of social contact. Some almost cannot abide periods of solitude, while introverts require them.

Jesus an introvert? Yes, most assuredly. The Bible is full of effective, introverted leaders. Moses comes first, terrified of being sent to Pharaoh. Isaiah preferred writing to speaking. Jeremiah, the "weeping prophet", tried to avoid public speaking, but found that the word of God was "a fire in my bones". Even Paul the Apostle wrote that he was despised when he spoke, and that his writing was more effective. I sympathize with that; my father trained all of us boys to speak publicly, but my experience is, I need downtime after a speech, where my more extroverted boss loves to jump right into a glad-handing working of the crowd.

In our local church, I am considered the leader (we don't have formal pastorship), yet I find delegation of almost everything suits me better than "running the show". Now being in my mid-sixties, I'd retire from it if I could. Fortunately, the congregation seems to be mainly stamped in my mold, so they understand my quietness. I think of the church here as a protected enclave from an "Olympic athlete" model of Christian life that has come to be the norm. I'd rather be in the "upper room" with a few, than in the crowded marketplace, though I can handle either one. Am I like Jesus? I don't know, but I recognize that his personality was best suited to private teaching, once a public speech had got the attention of a curious few.

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