Most of my life I have lived to avoid them. I go to matinees at theaters so there will be no one in front or in back of me. I take advantage of early bird specials at restaurants not for the deals, but to escape the crowds. And I wake up early to go shopping for the sole purpose of purchasing my groceries before the throngs descend.
To defend my behavior, I vehemently claimed to be an introvert. “It’s who I am” I declared, “and I can’t change. I have my husband, my kids, my sister, a few close relatives and friends, and I don’t need additional people in my life.”
But when my husband served as an assistant pastor, I realized that avoiding people wasn’t going to be so easy. As a pastor’s wife, I was expected to be involved with church activities and to interact with the members of the congregation. People didn’t understand an unsociable pastor’s wife. So, with much private grumbling and dragging my feet, I performed my duties, all the while wishing that the smiling, warm hearted, loving people would just leave me alone in a corner with Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, or the Bronte Sisters. Unfortunately, they always found me, (the people at church, not my literary heroes) and hugged me, and were nice to me. The nerve!
I especially remember one talkative lady who would grab me at the end of morning services to have a long chat. She was one of those people that get a little too close to you in a conversation. Week after week as I conversed with this space invader, I’d find myself taking small steps backwards to distance myself from her, but she countered my every move backward with an aggressive step forward. On more than one occasion we traveled from the back of the church all the way up to the pulpit, and in one instance we moved from the foyer, across the courtyard, and into the children’s ministry classrooms in another building. I often wondered if she recognized the extent of our travels together.
On other occasions, my quest to evade my fellow humans spurred me to hide in my van, reclining back the seats so I would be obscured by the tinted windows. I also found an oasis in bathroom stalls. And yet, those irksome people seemed to be half bloodhound because they always sniffed me out. They were determined to befriend me.
My husband, who has the audacity to believe that we should not just say we believe the Bible, but actually live out our belief, frequently told me that I needed to love the people that God placed in my life. He pointed me to Scriptures that talk about loving our neighbor, or verses like I John 4:20 which reads, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” Or Proverbs 18:1, “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise counsel.”
I hate it when spouses use Scripture to correct you, don’t you? It seems like you just get comfortable in your life and your selfish ways, and they come along spouting divine counsel.
But, back to my people predicament. Even though it galls me to say it, I know that as Christians we ARE supposed to love people and be involved in their lives. That doesn’t mean we have to be Edna extrovert, attending every Ladies Tea, or Christmas Sock Exchange, but it does mean that introverts have to make an effort to get to know people and encourage and care for them. God tells us to love people, and to help people, and to fellowship with people, and I’ve learned through experience that God knows a whole lot more than I do.
And so, as much as I hate to admit it, I know I must give up (or at least minimize) my evasive ways. I must shun the seclusion of bathrooms and my van. I must face the music, or rather the masses, saying goodbye to Elizabeth Bennet, Trotwood, and Mr. Rochester, and hello to real, currently living flesh and blood human beings. It will be tough, but I know I must fight my lifelong aversion to those pesky things we call…