Wednesday, September 22

Itinerating Introvert

I got tagged as “special” in 6th grade by the school psychologist for being able to put together a puzzle faster than any student in the district (16 seconds!) But my mother revealed to me later in life that she had asked that same psychologist why I was so quiet and “unexpressive”. Thankfully, She was told that I had “love bubbling up all inside me.”

You see, I was born with a gifting of spatial skills and a love of discovering new colors and patterns, but had the social skills of a marsupial.

As an itinerating missionary with the Assemblies of God, I have taken my inner-marsupial on the road. What better way to stretch my shy, introverted self, than to pour out my inner passions and convictions to a hundred strangers once or twice a week? That “bubbling fountain” has indeed continued to grow under God’s nurturing hand, but getting that fountain to spill out of my big shy eyes and sensitive ears is kinda’ tough some days. I’ve been known to wave my long-fingered, big-knuckled hands to express myself instead of my squeaky mouth.

My wife and I even have a private hand signal that I flash at her when we’re alone, in order for her to know if I heard what she just said, or if I’m in a bad mood, or if I’m in a good mood. (She once thought I was in a bad mood for six months, but I was only trying to see out from under the long hair I had at that time.)

In fact, there have been many times when Denise (a beautiful and amazing social butterfly) has carried the conversations with Pastors after we’ve sit down for a cup of coffee post-service. Many times I have unknowingly participated in the conversation only behind my eyes, and have suddenly realized that that awkward silence at our table was a group signal that I could contribute by adding something verbally to the mix. So I keep a mental list of short, interesting stories, or funny occurrences about life on the mission field. But there are still many moments when I’ve lost even these simple social skills and my smile seems made of plaster.

In the middle of this second cycle of itineration, I’m beginning to feel that all-familiar emotional exhaustion. My heart and my desire to reach people with the love of Jesus grows at an amazing rate as I share the vision with many dear souls. My passion grows deep and the call I feel becomes stronger and more awesome in its single-mindedness. But my restful days are more of an “unraveling” than an “unwinding.” I tend to run for the dark and emerge many hours later as one of them silent big-eyed, massive-eared marsupials that slowly munch June bugs under the quiet stars.

I was born into a Pentecostal Holiness tradition. My grandmother frequently burst out of her pew and started shouting a song during the Pastor’s preaching, while the men would start running up and down the aisles, and the drummer would start pounding a rousing beat loud enough to bring the roof down. Being a quiet kid, I was either sitting on the back pew drawing crude depictions of World War Two with a stubby pencil, or I was flipping through the hymnal trying to find the song with the earliest composition date (usually in Bold next to the title, or in the tiny text beneath the song itself.) So I coped in my own way.

As an adult, I have since become accustomed to holding hands with strangers while the pastor “does something a little different” to close a service, or breaking up into a prayer circle and hurriedly trying to put into a few brief words my latest and greatest emotional battle so we can take turns praying out loud with our heads close together. (I like your cologne!)

I’ve also learned that I can quietly feel God’s peaceful restoring hand when I become confused as to why I can’t engage or keep up with the fervent worship around me.

But somehow, when I step to the pulpit in big churches or small churches (in as many states and districts that I can sneak into) the missionary message we strive to share is understood. My heart is heard because I’m weak and incapable. My vulnerability empowers those who share my weakness to step up with courage, and calls others to join our media missions team in proclaiming with a steadfast and mighty voice the Love of the risen Savior all over the globe.

And that weakness that haunts our emotions and leaves us feeling incapable and poured-out on Monday mornings... that just keeps us from relying on our own power. Which, my timid marsupial brothers and sisters, is Biblical.