It’s all hard, Or, Would the introverts please stand?

When I decided to invite others to join me in transforming Texas Schmexas into a community blog, I began by brainstorming a list of friends I thought would be great contributors. I thought about my childhood friends who are in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, my college friends who are littered around the country, and my Texas friends, most of whom weren’t Texan either but only sojourning briefly in the land of Dairy Queen and ten-gallon hats while they or their spouses got graduate degrees.

The people I decided to ask to participate, I thought, were already living lives of intentional community, or so it seemed to me from the outside. Some were moms cultivating communities within their homes, some were even moms of multiples, which requires a dependence on community I haven’t known. Some had lived in community with others, some lived alone. Some had moved around a lot, some had stayed put. Some were married to professors or pastors, which positioned them in unique places within a community. Some were themselves pastors. Some were parents of teenagers, some of newborns.

When I asked each one to participate, I outlined why I thought she’d be great at it.

I knew, given the group, that most would say “no” to the invitation. Most would be too busy and would tell me so.

Except they didn’t.

Almost nobody said “no” because they were too busy. (Maybe two out of, say, two dozen.)

Almost everybody who said “no” had another reason, the same reason, for declining–

They didn't really like building community, they told me, and 
they didn't think they were good at it. They didn't really like 
doing the work of community because, in their words, they would 
rather be alone than be with people. They weren't the right 
people for the job. They had no business writing about community.

I appreciated the honesty. And I get it.

I really get it.

I, too, am one of those people.

Contrary to popular opinion, I am an introvert. I would much rather be alone, at home, taking a bath, than going to a party; much rather be alone, going to bed at 9 pm than having people over to my house; much rather be drinking tea and reading a novel than opening my home and inviting someone in.

It’s true. I don’t really like people.

If Texas Schmexas gives off the vibe that I enjoy this community stuff, that I find it easy, that anybody finds it easy, well, then I should just close up shop. Because it’s not.

Community is really, really hard.

Most days, quite honestly, I find it frustrating. Most days, it reminds me just how selfish I am. (The quickest way to learn how selfish you are is to invite people to whom you are not related into your home to live with you, to cook with your pans, to eat your food, to use your stuff.) Most days, I would rather order my books from Amazon than run into a bookstore. Most days, I would rather run through the drive-thru window at Starbucks than unlatch my child from her carseat. Most days, I would rather watch an old episode of Grey’s Anatomy than write a blog post.

It is always easier not to do community, than to do it, to work at it, to be it.

But we do it anyway, and it’s important. It’s what we were created to be. It’s part of the image of God in us, the imago dei, which is maybe why it’s extra hard.

God is loving; love is hard.

God is patient; patience is hard.

God is gracious; extending grace is hard.

God is incarnate; being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world is hard.

God is community; inviting people, sharing life with them, knowing them, paying attention–it’s all hard.

So, my friends, I hope you do it anyway. I know most people don’t want to write about it, and that’s okay.

Most days, I don’t either.

 

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15 comments on “It’s all hard, Or, Would the introverts please stand?

  1. Lisa says:

    I do tend to excuse myself when I’m wanting to hunker down in my house by thinking–other people love that community stuff. But surely even extroverts often just want their own comfortable, familiar thing. Thanks, E, for admitting it for us. It’s often not the thing that we most want to do, mixing with community. But just like a devotional, exercise, or so many other things that are good for us but don’t sound good at the outset, I feel like I’m rarely sorry I did it.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Lisa, I think you’re spot on when you compare it to “so many other things that are good for us.” I’ll confess that in the minutes before we leave to go and do something, be it a potluck at church or a friend’s party or anything involving social activity, I pretty much always say (at least once) “I really don’t feel like going to this.” J always just says, “I know,” and we proceed with our preparations of getting a one year old out the door. And you’re right–I’m almost always glad we did it. And not just because community is something we should do, but because it was genuinely a good time.

  2. Ryan says:

    I don’t have anything deep to contribute, I just wanted to let you know that I thought that this was one of your best posts. It was well written as well as spot on. Kudos

    • Elizabeth says:

      Wow, thanks Ry. I appreciate the encouragement.

    • Olivia says:

      Agreed. This is a great post!!

      There are so many aspects of it that I could talk about.

      Community isn’t easy, but we are made for it….Thanks for writing some things that we’ve all thought at one time or another.

      I think I need to go read it again. 🙂

  3. Ivy says:

    I agree with Ryan! This post is brilliant. I am one of the too busy ones, but I am also in the same boat with the rest of your friends. Being a part of a community is hard and working to build a community is even harder.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks, Ivy. “Brilliant” seems a little much, but I’ll take it! I think most of us are also too busy, in addition to just not wanting to or feeling like we’re not good at it–at least busy enough to feel like making community a priority would be an imposition on our time. I know I feel like that sometimes, and I have most of my days “open” (apart from a one-year-old)!

  4. Terri says:

    What I have loved in this community is the encouragement and example of people (like you) to do the right thing even when it is hard. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Michele Staley says:

    Great post Liz. I have struggled all my life not to be an introvert, but with God’s leading I have come a long way. I love reading your blog. Thanks for your insights.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi, Michele! Thanks for leaving a comment. It’s good to hear from you.

      For me, there have been blessings related to being an introvert, too. When I do carve out time to be alone (away from my child!) in reflection and prayer or to work on my poetry and other creative writing, I am rejuvenated. It makes me better able to go out into my community (or to care for my own little community here in my home), even when I’d rather not.

      In a way, being an introvert (defining it as someone who gets her energy from being alone, and often feels drained after being with others) makes it easier for me to make alone-time a priority because I can see the difference it makes when I don’t do it. I can sure be a grump!

      Thanks again for sharing.

  6. Darla says:

    Wonderful post, Elizabeth. For me, I need a balance of community/being with others and alone time. I have learned that being with others is only good for me when the others energize me. I now run away from energy-drainers. I no longer feel I have to be in community with others who leave me feeling drained of energy. I silently wish them the best and figure God will take care of them. Took me many years to learn not all community is good for me. So, now I have found a good balance in energizing community and alone time. Creativity requires alone time and Community helps us to know ourselves and feel that wonderful connection to that which is. Thanks for the tea and inviting me into your home. I hope I left you with loving energy!
    Love to you and Clara and Jonathan,
    Darla

    • Elizabeth says:

      Darla,

      I love this: “Creativity requires alone time and Community helps us to know ourselves and feel that wonderful connection to that which is.”

      That which is.

      Beautiful!

      Thanks for sharing, friend.

      Community pretty much always wears me out but it does remind me of what is most important.

  7. When I first read this I thought “ouch, did you really want to say THAT?” But I came back to read it again and yes, I know you are right….and right in saying it. It is good for people to know that we do the right things because they are the right things NOT because we feel like it. I like to mix with others and that is why I do what I do in my business….coach people and get messy. But sometimes when I am driving an hour to lead a Bible study with some inmates, I question why I even bother. But I do and as I am leaving the prison I am calling Gail to tell her how good it was. The reward is in obedience to what God has called us to do not in liking to do it or even the results because some times we never see the results. I love that you are honest and transparent.

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