I have always been quiet and reserved, preferring a small group of close friends or a good book in a coffee shop. I HATED being called on to answer in class because I process information internally, and that can take awhile. I am happy to be the listener rather than the talker, particularly in large group settings.
For a long time, I felt like my personality disqualified me from cross-cultural service.
All the amazing workers I read about growing up seemed fiery and determined, pioneering entrepreneurs who could preach to the crowds with ease. I am nothing like that. Who was I to join their ranks?
My years of overseas service were stretching, to say the least. My introvert tank was regularly depleted by relational, “front porch” ministry, which meant sitting and chatting for hours at a time. Starting up intentional spiritual conversations created knots in my stomach and tension in my shoulders, requiring a long recovery time and abundant chocolate.
So often I longed to be someone else. To have been created with a different personality. I found myself praying regularly, “Lord, I feel like you called me, but couldn’t You have made me more outgoing and less fearful? Where is my place?”
I wish I could tell you story after story of how God used my personality specifically for His glory, or how being quiet somehow actually came in handy. I wish I could tell you my prayers no longer contain questions about why I am the way I am, or that I’ve grown and matured so much that all the negative aspects of my personality are gone.
But I’m not there yet. I’m still navigating what it means to live authentically for the Kingdom in all the expressions of an Ennegram 6, ISFJ, introvert- all that makes me who I am. I still question, still shrink back and stumble and try to take another courageous step.
For me, part of taking those steps is celebrating when I do. As I try to become at home in my personality with grace and humility, I look for areas of growth and cheer myself on there.
It also helps to have other cheerleaders on the journey, people who love us for who we are and also desire to help us keep growing. My teammate in Cambodia knew how hard it was for me to speak in the local language, let alone jump in to a conversation with strangers. While we were still in language school, we visited a fishing village and stayed with a local pastor. The pastor’s wife took us around to meet different families, and in one area a group gathered around to check out the two foreigners. An opportunity opened up where we could share Truth, and everything in me wanted to shrink back and let someone else do the talking. My teammate nudged me forward, pushing me into the spotlight and giving silent encouragement that I could do it. And I did.
When I stop thinking about becoming someone else and really look at the beauty and diversity of all the personalities God has created, I marvel at how He desires to use each of us. Not one of us is disqualified from serving Him, whether we feel like we are too much or too little, the wrong combination of letters, or disliking those labels altogether. He pulls us together to be strong in the areas where others are weak, to be filled with His Spirit when our own strength is gone and to journey together as we figure out how to be all He made us to be.
Have you ever felt like you were disqualified from serving the Lord because of a certain aspect of your personality? How do you celebrate your growth steps along the way?
Are you preparing to return to your passport country after serving on the field? Are you in the midst of settling in to a new normal? Our Re-entry Kit is designed just for you! The kit includes a live class on May 22nd, hosted by Danielle Wheeler and Sarah Hilkemann, as well as access to a private Facebook community to help you process your re-entry journey, and a timed email series that shows up right in your inbox with tips and encouragement. Check out the re-entry toolkit by clicking on the button to learn more!