I have attended the same church for about 2 years, after several years of non-attendance.1 I have been a member of this body for about a year now. Yet, I still have not made any real connections, or developed any real relationships with the other members. There are several barriers that I contribute to this. Now, someone might say that these are excuses and not barriers, but I prefer the previous term, because it is my hope that by laying these out there, that work can be done (on both sides) to make these barriers easier to overcome.
To start off with, I am an introvert.2 To most people, this means I am shy, but being shy really has little to do with being an introvert. For those of you who know me, you know I really don’t fit the definition of shy—I have few reservations about telling you what I think when the opportunity is right (which is part of the reason I started a blog, because I have lots of things I would like to get out there). No, I am an introvert—a person who is energized by having time alone, a person whose energy is depleted by being around others. I tend not to approach someone; instead I often wait to be approached to avoid the drain on my emotional and mental energy. Because of this, it is really hard for me to get to know others unless I spend a lot of time around them. And this, in turn, can make it difficult for others to get to know me—especially extreme extroverts, who just can’t relate to my need for time and space before I am willing to share with them anything, let alone the deepest issues of my heart (if I ever get to that point at all).
Next, I have trouble relating to many women in the church. Some of this might be attributed to my feelings of not fitting into this church’s definition of womanhood (or at least my perception of their definition). I am not a stay-at-home mother; instead, I work full-time outside the home in a higher-level management position. I don’t enjoy things like sewing or knitting, or small-talk over coffee or many other activities that are seen stereotypically as women’s interests.3 Most activities focused at the women of the church are just variations on these types of themes. I love to read and to study issues of theology and doctrine, which many churches still focus toward the men (if they focus on it at all). Because of my past struggles with SSA, I find I sometimes put up walls and shy away from deep friendships with women, in an effort to avoid situations where temptation may creep in. Obviously, with these issues, it is hard to develop the intimate friendships that other women have and make look so easy.
Finally, I am used to being part of very small churches (an average of about 10 families or so) where you get to know everyone very well over the course of time. I am still somewhat intimidated by the size of this congregation, which if I had to guess would say averages 150-175 at the weekly Sunday morning worship service (I know, really not very big by others’ standards), where I will never get to know everyone, no matter how long we attend there.
There is a quote from Rosaria Champagne Butterfield in her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith that says, “I think that churches would be places of greater intimacy and growth in Christ if people stopped lying about what we need, what we fear, where we fail, and how we sin.” This is what I would like to see and what I would like to be a part of, this is what I want for me and others in the church—that we would be people who know each other well enough that we can honestly talk about the things in our lives and pray for each other and grow in our love for each other and for Christ. I ask those of you who claim the name of Christ to pray with me and for me in this regard—that God would work on my heart and the hearts of others to break down our barriers so that this can be accomplished.
1. There are a few long stories related to the reasons for our non-attendance that I may or may not broach in future blog posts.
2. For those of you who understand MBTI-speak, I am actually an INTJ, which will tell you even more about me.
3. Providentially, my love for the game of softball has been beneficial to me getting to superficially know a few of the other members as I have joined a team from the church that plays as part of a local inter-church league.