Tag Archives: fellowship

Discovering me.

10 Feb

A while ago, I was prompted by my friend Brittany to take a personality test. I was diagnosed as a INTJ (Introspective, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging). One description that I found of my personality profile said this:

“Other people may have a difficult time understanding an INTJ. They may see them as aloof and reserved. Indeed, the INTJ is not overly demonstrative of their affections, and is likely to not give as much praise or positive support as others may need or desire. That doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t truly have affection or regard for others, they simply do not typically feel the need to express it. Others may falsely perceive the INTJ as being rigid and set in their ways. Nothing could be further from the truth, because the INTJ is committed to always finding the objective best strategy to implement their ideas. The INTJ is usually quite open to hearing an alternative way of doing something.

“INTJs need to remember to express themselves sufficiently, so as to avoid difficulties with people misunderstandings. In the absence of properly developing their communication abilities, they may become abrupt and short with people, and isolationists.”

This description has stuck in my mind. As time goes by, I am seeing the truth of this about myself. I don’t express my emotions very much. I did when Travis and I were dating (or at least I feel like I did). But falling/being in love can’t really be compared to how one acts in normal, everyday life. Now that I’m married going on 4 years, I am back to my normal keep-my-emotions-locked-up ways.

Don’t get me wrong – I am emotional and definitely let Travis know when I’m upset about something. What I keep inside, however, are my positive emotions. I am quick to point out how Travis hurt me but am I just as quick to point how he makes me happy or feel blessed? Sadly, no. And with my friends, I often walk away thinking to myself, “Wow, I really enjoyed that time with her” but I rarely say it to her face. My most common form of encouragement is a comment about someone’s cute jacket or earrings, not their inspiring testimony or uplifting insight.

I have been convicted that not only do I need to move beyond trivial, vain compliments, I also need to encourage my fellow Christians. A few weeks ago, I went to a bridal shower. Even though there were a lot of women there I didn’t know well, one woman told me that she admired my boldness in introducing myself to her and another woman commended me for being open about my marriage struggles (and exhorting the Bride-to-be to cling to Christ). I left the shower on clouds. I felt so loved and blessed by those women sharing those things because they proved that God has been working in me. I feel inspired and compelled to do the same for other women.

The only problem is that for me, saying things like that feels uncomfortably vulnerable. It’s putting my heart out there, in plain sight, and inviting heartache or misunderstanding. It’s the same reason why I keep my spiritual struggles to myself, often not even telling my husband about them. Telling another person requires vulnerability.

But alas, I feel God is calling me to move beyond my comfort zone and to encourage others. For a long time, I wasn’t even capable of recognizing things to commend in others because I was so self-conscious and jealous of other women that I couldn’t see past what they had that I didn’t. As God has led me to trust the life He has given me, however, I have been able to let go of the standards and expectations I had constructed and now I find myself more able to see, appreciate, and value what other women have to offer. Their gifts don’t diminish mine – I can appreciate them while appreciating the gifts God has given to me.

To put this into practice, today I brought cookies to my friend Cathy along with a card sharing my heart about how much our friendship means to me. And I closed my note with the words “I love you.” Which is true but as soon as I wrote those, I felt exposed. Vulnerable. Was that too weird? Will she be freaked out? Do friends even say that to each other? But I felt God urging me to put myself out there. Be radically honest and open. Encourage others even when it’s uncomfortable and scary. So I gave it to her. (But I didn’t ask her to read it in my presence. Baby steps, people.)

Over the past several years, I have racked my brain and over-analyzed my personality, wondering which characteristics were good and which needed to be redeemed? My realization that I can trust God to bring into light the things that need redeeming is being proved true. My avoidance of people out of fear of awkwardness and lack of encouragement to others out of my fear of vulnerability are being exposed in God’s holy and searching light. And instead of feeling condemned and guilty, I feel called to live in a better, more God-glorifying way. I feel freedom. I feel love. It’s amazing how God works like that.

Craving fellowship

24 Jan

I am amazed at God right now, at the way He validates what I’ve been learning about Him and life through experiences.

I’ve been enjoying my new days of freedom after discovering why I can trust God to run my life. But Satan is a sneaky little devil. He never gives up. Instead of conceding defeat, he will use other circumstances and get me to do the exact same thing as before: take responsibility.

Once I felt freedom from the guilt of needing to do more and to make my life look like I thought it should in the big picture, I started having a battle with the everyday things. Specifically watching TV. Again, it started with a good desire. I had been convicted that TV watching, with a few exceptions like Bones and The Office, is a huge waste of time. The majority of the time, I watch TV not because it’s exactly the thing I want to do and it makes me feel good but because I am tired and don’t want to think. I just want to veg out. And as I turn off the TV when it’s time to go to bed or out somewhere, I almost always think, “Well, that was a waste of time.”

So I desired to cut back on the TV watching and to find other activities that are as soothing and relaxing as TV, but more productive. That way I would still get to relax but with things that would add to my character instead of detract from it. But Satan took that good desire and distorted it. I could no longer watch TV at all, even my favorite shows, without feeling guilty. It was wasting precious time! I could be doing so much more – like writing that book I’ve been dreaming about or accomplishing tasks on my to-do list. Once again, my freedom to do whatever my heart desired evaded me. I felt trapped, pinned down by invisible forces.

I knew I was missing some truth. What was I not believing?

The more I thought about it, I realized that my struggle wasn’t really about watching TV. I was bored. And lonely. I was sick of finding stuff to do on my own – I wanted to spend time with someone else. Maybe that was why TV appealed to me – it was an impersonal form of human contact. I didn’t feel alone with the TV on.

Lucky for me, I had a bridal shower to go to last night, where there would be lots of Christian women to fellowship with. Even though I expected that I wouldn’t know most of them, I was excited. I usually leave events like that feeling energized and reinvigorated. And that’s exactly what happened. I met some great women, was very encouraged by 2 of them, and left the shower feeling so loved and blessed by God.

As I drove home, I connected the dots of things God has been revealing to me over the past several weeks. I love people – the time in my life that I’ve been the happiest and most fulfilled was as a part of Campus Outreach in college. I felt like I belonged there, I had some amazing friends, and I was around people all the time. I’ve always thought of myself as a loner, as a person who prefers solitude to being around others. Now I see that I love being around others, but I need solitude to recharge. And at this stage in my life, I have so much solitude that I am overly charged and need to seek out places where I can deplete my stores.

Whereas a year ago, I would have praised the value of fellowship and said that I wanted to be more intentional about spending time with friends, it would have felt like another thing on a to-do list. When I thought about how much I failed at spending time with others, I felt condemned and guilty. I didn’t feel inspired to change. But now, I see my own need for fellowship, my own heart craving for it, and it is something I want to do – need to do. So far, I have asked 2 friends to hang out (one of whom I had lunch with today!) and I have plans for more. I am so blessed!

The best part about it is that this has been the desire of my heart for the past 2 years and now that I’ve finally surrendered my dreams for my life to God, He is doing in me that which I had so long tried to do, but failed at. A. W. Tozer says it worlds better than I can:

“The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.”

This is the blessed truth of the gospel – that we can rest from all attempts to prove our worth, to earn our salvation, to redeem our lives. We can rest in Christ’s sufficiency because of His sacrifice on the cross. Like the song says, “I am changed in the presence of a holy God.”