Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Disciple’s Life, Lived

“The Christian’s life as a disciple is lived in the world.”

Of everything I’ve read through almost all of Spencer’s book, that one sentence is, for me, one of the hardest.

I’m reminded of just how hard the disciple’s life is.

I’m reminded of just how far I’ve fallen short.

The key word in the sentence is “lived.”

I have to ask myself how much I’ve lived as a disciple, and how much I’ve floated, just treading water, simply and mindlessly staying in place.

Spencer says this about Jesus-shaped spirituality: it is personal and communal; it is mentored; it is saturated in the Scriptures; it grows in the context of service and the gospel; and it’s found in relationships.

Introverts read that, and we immediately feel the pain in “painfully shy.” Four of the five require the presence of others.

We’re not good thrown into a situation where we know virtually no one. We can’t start a conversation about sports or fishing or camping because we don’t do or follow those things. (For me, biking comes the closest, but it easily lends itself to being a singular sport.) Our worst nightmare: attending the cocktail hour at a professional conference where we don’t know a soul. It’s easy to spot us – we’re the ones who have something to read in our hands, usually the conference agenda, so it looks like we’re doing something (anything!) but only kidding ourselves that others don’t see how shy we actually are.

Many times, people see the shyness and think aloofness or superiority.

People wouldn’t believe how hyper-sensitive we are.

We do know how to do a lot of things people need, especially at church. We can participate in work days and paint and pull weeds and mow and edge. We can set up tables. We can wash dishes. We can take the minutes at board meetings, and people will marvel at how much we can report.

But to say Jesus-shaped spirituality is found in relationships is to run a cold knife of fear right into our guts.

This is not uncommon. Just this year, there’s been a book published about it: Adam McHugh's Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. (I haven’t read it. I’ve thought about reading it, and I probably will.)

It doesn’t mean we avoid relationships. If anything, we hunger for them; we just don’t know quite how to do them. And we notice and sense things far more quickly than the extroverts; that’s why a lot of seem to have similar kinds of gifts in the church, like helps, and encouragement.

But the absence of deep relationships can become normal, except it never feels normal normal. Familiar does not necessarily equate to normal. We know something’s off.

We know something’s truncated or distorted. Something’s missing.

We’re not created for loneliness.

We’re created for that Jesus-shaped spirituality.

Nancy Rosback over at Nance Marie has been leading us in a discussion of Mere Churchianity. Also see Fatha Frank’s posts at Public Christianity and Melo’s posts at Humming Softly.


S. Etole said...

As an introvert, I understand this well.

Kelly Sauer said...

This is so close to home for me. It hurts.

I've been walking into situations with my photography where I don't know my clients, but I am inviting them into my world and my life as I take their picture and learn their stories. I feel vulnerable all the time, because I know from experience the likelihood of real relationship coming through these encounters is slim.

Yet living like Christ means that I open me up and offer them the opportunity to miss me if they will - or to know me if they want to know me. Every time I extend my hand to a new person, I hold my breath, wondering how they will change my life.

I keep hoping I won't always feel so lonely as I do.

Anonymous said...

i find this to be true.
i am like this. a friendship or relationship almost has to happen out of a common interest, over time. in a way that i am not really thinking about it.

we all like to be acknowledged and loved and accepted by others. yet, there always seems to be a catch. we want unconditional love, perhaps.

there is always that not being enough, or not getting enough, jealousies, expectations and such things start to creep into our hearts. it ends up being a mess of feelings.

no wonder we hold back when we could actually stand-by and be with people.

people hold back or put up defenses in many different ways, i think. our hearts are so very human... and vulnerable.

you are right, we were not created for this loneliness.

we need Jesus
we need the Holy Spirit
we need the Father

we need the Love of God
in and through each of us.

Unknown said...

I know this fear of being misunderstood, of having nothing to contribute, of not being enough,... of people... and I remember how it used to be, and how it is now, and how I hope it will be one day. Even if it remains ever-painful, it is still better to find the loner and become a catalyst for change, to find the hurting and be a touch of balm, to find the doubting and help them ask better questions of the right source, to find the empty and pour out some of what we have. It is because there is a flow in, and it overflows, that I can step out and trust God to be the content within this broken vessel. Knowing this, relationship isn't quite so fearsome, even if it is still a risk. For I can never overshadow Christ while surrendering to his use.

Fatha Frank said...

I was just at a conference and was the guy you described. I've gotten better, but I'm still too withdrawn. I'm not as close to others as I need to be. I'm deceived by feeling like I'm "close enough". But that's not good enough.