My sister and I have a long-standing joke that she’s my “Wake Wingman.” I’m an introvert and so immersing myself in large crowds has never been my thing. Small talk can be draining for me. I also internalize emotions and wakes are brimming with feelings. My sister, on the other hand, is a gregarious, extroverted, social being. She always knows what to say, and large crowds of overflowing emotion bring out the best in her. So whenever possible, I tag along behind her at wakes. I mean I literally stand behind her the whole time, glued to her side. As we work our way through the line, she says something to the neighbor or co-worker and I nod my head in agreement, offering a sympathetic look or a gentle smile if appropriate. We’ve been doing this for years and it works for us.
My expression of sorrow is no less sincere; it just has a different delivery method.
It got me thinking about the challenge for introverts to live out the message of Jesus. Jesus was all about relationships. Love your neighbor, help the poor, gather in communities to pray. For some, this comes as naturally as breathing. Serving a meal to a hundred patrons of a soup kitchen would leave an extrovert feeling energized and ready to take on the world. For me, I would want to crawl under the covers and turn out the lights. Not because I don’t love my neighbor. Or I don’t care about helping those in need. It’s just harder for me. Being an introvert means that you’re more energized by time spent alone rather than with people. Social crowds can quickly sap the introvert of energy. There’s a tendency to seek out quieter, less publicly stimulating environments.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t put your faith into action, particularly at times of the year when we’re reminded of the importance of doing so. And so I offer you:
AN INTROVERT’S GUIDE TO ADVENT
WRITE. Introverts need time to think about what they want to say and how they want to say it. Writing is an ideal outlet for this kind of communication. Use correspondence to live out Jesus’ Great Commandment. For the remainder of Advent, send one email or note each day to someone you care about or admire. Tell them how you feel. Plan for bigger goals in the New Year. Start a blog! Join an online Bible study.
LISTEN. Introverts are gifted at listening and their calm, gentle demeanor is the perfect balm for someone in distress. The holiday season can tap into loneliness and sadness for a lot of people. Look for opportunities to lend a listening ear to someone who needs it. A meaningful one-on-one connection allows you to be Jesus for that person, and to see Jesus in them.
PRAY. Quiet prayer comes naturally to introverts and what better time of year to embrace the silence and stillness than Advent. Seek out a moments of quiet solitude as often as you can. “For God alone, my soul waits in silence.” (Psalm 62:1) Try new forms of silent prayer like meditation or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Use this holy season to deepen your relationship with God.
BE CREATIVE. Many churches and faith communities offer opportunities for community service at this time of year. If helping others by being in the thick of the action doesn’t work for you, find ways to help behind the scenes. Instead of mingling at a fundraiser, volunteer to help design the flyer, or stuff envelopes. Your contribution is no less important because you weren’t “in the spotlight.”
STRETCH. Don’t let being an introvert become an excuse. It’s a huge temptation for introverts to hide away rather than engage with the world. Look for ways that God is gently challenging you to stretch out in faith.
Whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between—my prayer for you this Advent season is that you will seek ways to grow in your relationship with our loving God, as we await the coming of our Savior. Come, Lord Jesus, come!