My first of three reflections on introversion and Trinitarian theology.
As an introvert, I have a vested interest in the well-being of introverts. I am especially interested in introverts and their life in the church. Personally, and big picture scale, I’m starting to get the impression that the church isn’t doing a great job these days of fostering the introvert and their introverted identity. Try an anecdotal example to start: go to Amazon and search for books about “introverts in the church”. Now, go back and search for books about “extroverts in the church”. Did your two searches also pull up the same list of books, all focusing on how to be introverted in the church, like mine? I haven’t found many (any?) books on how to be extroverted in the church.
This leads me to believe two things: first, the church and Christian authors/publishers have a tendency to either treat extroverted identity as the default identity or something that needs no further help being developed in a Christian setting. Second, because so many books are being written about the introvert’s role in the church, it suggests to me that the church hasn’t met this felt need. In my mind, if the church was addressing this issue head on, we wouldn’t need as many books as we seem to now. As part of my class on Trinitarian theology, I want to spend three posts in the next week looking at how introverts participate ontologically in the life of the Trinity, and by extension thereof, the church.
We’ll first look at how the introvert fits, ontologically, into the Trinitarian life of God. Some people believe, whether genuinely or not, that introverts are anti-social. This belief can cast doubt on whether or not introverts are truly part of the Church universal or even a local church. Shouldn’t someone in a local church attend every single event? That introverts are anti-social is not the case: we simply recharge differently than others, and at times, need time to ourselves. But this myth can pervade even the way that we think about ourselves, so I think it’s important to deal with that. If we are as anti-social as we fear, how can we live in the social life of the Trinity?
It’s important for us to know that our participation in the Trinity is not predicated upon our personality type or traits. When Paul tells the story of salvation history, from God’s point of view, reminds us that God chose to adopt us out of love before we were born (Ephesians 1:1-6). He alludes to Moses’ speech in Deuteronomy 6, where he reminds Israel that Yahweh chose them as the special mediator between God and man because of his own love and faithfulness. This was not because they could offer him something special, nor because of their size or anything in them. This frees us from needing to feel valuable to God, and helps remind us that God loves us no matter how we’re wired. If he could use tiny Israel to change the world, he can use an introvert.
We might also be tempted to doubt our place in the church based on our own sociability. Thankfully, we are ontologically part of the church no matter how social we are. We are built into God’s temple, the body of Christ, because of God’s action. Look at Ephesians 2 now, in which Paul explains that Christ, in his body, has broken down the dividing wall that stands between all types of people. He is specifically talking about Jew and Gentile here, but I think it can be extended to include introverts as well. Introverts might want to skip social events at church to recharge, but I know personally that can come with guilt that says “if I miss this, I won’t be a part of this church”. This is simply untrue: we can miss events (when we need or want to!) and not need to worry about our ontological connection to the church. We are built into Christ’s body, and no amount of attendance at social events can change or bolster that reality.
And, finally, if none of this convinces you, go back to chapter one where Paul talks about the Spirit. When Holy Spirit indwells us, it is proof that God has sealed us for the inheritance that he has given us in his Son. This inheritance means that God has taken us in, even as introverts, as part of his family and won’t let us go, no matter how social we are.
So take heart! Introverts can still participate fully in the life of the Trinity, not based on our own merit, but God’s great love and faithfulness.