In the previous post, we covered some practical steps an introverted pastor’s wife can take when feeling emotionally depleted to prepare to socialize with congregants. In this post, we’ll pick up where we left off but focus on our hope in Christ.
At this point, many of you might be sort of shrugging your shoulders like, “yeah, it can be emotionally exhausting to interact so much, but it’s only one night.” For me, and many others, the big deal is that my husband is an outgoing extrovert. He will go out of his way to talk to people, introduce himself jovially, include new people in hearty conversation as easily as old friends, and will make up excuses to be around people because he just loves being around people. When my husband invites me into this whirlwind of communication and camaraderie with unfamiliar people, nothing less than the supernatural presence of Holy Spirit will suffice to keep me from looking like a wide-eyed toddler marveling at all the talking grownups can do.
Sanctification Includes Socializing
I want to be careful here because often introverts are unintentionally made to feel there is something “wrong” with them when that isn’t usually the case. Yes, there are definitely extreme versions of any behavior or personality trait that are a reflection of the Fall interfering with God’s good creation, but people, as a whole, are made to be different from one another by God for the benefit of the body – introverts included.
God’s ultimate desire for us on this side of eternity is to be more Christ-like. I’m always quick to point out that Jesus often withdrew somewhere by himself to pray, spend time with the Lord, and refresh for his next task (Luke 5:16, John 6:15), but Jesus also spent time with close friends and complete strangers. In modeling my behavior upon our Savior’s, I do need to seek solitude, but I also need to socialize with others.
Though being more introverted is “how I was made”, I do know that through the brokenness of sin, my seeking out quality alone time can become selfish. I might run to that good book I couldn’t put down instead of THE Good Book and try to refresh in something other than Christ. Yes, reading for pleasure is something we get to do because God, in his goodness, gave us language, the written word, and creative storytellers, but if I know I’m feeling depleted, nothing less than God’s perfect Word will recharge me the right way.
Trust in the Lord
If I’m already caught up in the action with no real way to withdraw, I can pray. I can trust God to sustain me so I don’t put my foot in my mouth, so I don’t make a fool of myself and my husband, so I stay engaged in whatever conversations I find myself in to listen and love others well. It isn’t about me and my comfort. It is about honoring the work God has given me to do in support of the pastor – my husband – and to enjoy the unexpected that comes from that. Ministering to others, showing them love in Christ by being present, and maybe even finding a new friend.
Know You Aren’t Alone
Sometimes, I just speak up if I’m already spread too thin, “I’m feeling a little quiet tonight so I may just listen. I am on the introverted side and haven’t had much down time, but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to get to know you better.” Chances are, if you’re with more than one person, one of them will pipe up, “I know what you mean.” A chuckle will usually follow, someone will tell a story or two of how their social exhaustion resulted in an awkward encounter, and the mood of the room seems to get that much more casual and intimate.
Ultimately, when you are seen as a person and not just a “pastor’s wife”, God’s people do understand. The important thing is to convey your interest in them, so they don’t take it personally. Definitely, there will be people whose expectations of what you should be are immovable, but that’s not up to you to try and protect. Let Holy Spirit move in their heart, and allow yourself to be stretched as you can be to honor God, your husband, and for your own long-term sanctification.