Would you believe me if I told you that I used to throw up before going into a new group where I didn’t know anyone? Because that is 100% completely true. On the way to the airport the morning I flew out to the conference where I ended up meeting my future husband, I puked in my dad’s car. And that wasn’t the first time…nor was it the last time.
I was born an introvert, through and through. I liked people, but I got my energy from being alone. And I was painfully shy. My younger sister still reminds me of the time our mom sent us into the gas station to pay for drinks and I made her do it because I was too afraid. As I turned from a child into a teenager, I relied on others to introduce themselves first and seek me out. The mere thought of having to go up to a stranger and start a conversation invoked incredible anxiety in me.
And then there was the time that my 17-year-old self sat in my mother’s car crying, because I was too afraid to go into my first college class. It was silly, and she made me go anyways, but I promise you I really was deathly afraid.
Then somewhere in the space of the next three years, I changed. Or rather, God changed me. Over and over and over again He put me into situations that were out of my comfort zone. But the funny thing was, each time I stretched out of my comfort zone, my comfort zone only grew.
Today, I feel pretty comfortable going almost anywhere and talking to almost anybody. It’s still a challenge for me and I’m still most definitely an introvert. When it was my turn to lead the small group discussion at Bible study last month, I did so with a knot in my stomach. I honestly still hate calling people on the phone, and I still hate public speaking, but I can obviously do them both when necessary.
What’s my secret? I’ve come to realize that God is so much bigger than any piddly little fear I may have. Furthermore, when I focus on my fears, I become self-focused rather than God-focused. When we are so focused on our own fears and anxieties and insecurities, we’ve taken the focus off of God and put it squarely on ourselves. My guess is that, if you’re an introvert, your world probably does revolve greatly around yourself and your enjoyment of alone time. And there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert if God made you that way. But I don’t believe that He made you an introvert so that you could use that as an excuse to be self-focused. If anything, He wants to use your introverted ways to show you how big He is…to show you that He’s got you right in His hand, and that He can be trusted.
To quote Nelson Mandela (although, to be honest, I feel like I’m quoting Princess Diaries here…anyone in my generation know what I’m talking about?):
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
When we give in to our anxieties and let them keep us from acting, going, or saying, we may just be doing exactly what the devil wants us to do. He knows that if he can keep us living according to our comfort zone that we will never live life fully as God intended. He knows that if he can keep us blaming our introvertedness for our inability to act, that we will never step up and realize the bravery and courage that God has instilled in us.
We all have fears and insecurities and comfort zones. But, friends, God didn’t create you to live in those fears and let them dictate your life. He never intended you to use your introverted self as an excuse to keep you from living and working for Him. God didn’t make you to dwell and act in fear. God made you brave.
“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
*PS: This post is the combination of some thoughts I’ve been mulling over for a while, and the Bible study I’ve recently studied…Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God. It’s been very challenging for me…and I highly recommend it!