So writes Nancy Ortberg in the summer 2013 Leadership Journal Sub-title, “Is there a different pathway to maturity for multi-tasking extroverts?”
Ortberg notes that the vast majority of devotional materials written in the past 2000 years were written by introverts. For them (big danger here of over-stereotyping), each day regularly starts with devotions – significant time spent in Scripture, prayer and other spiritual disciplines such as “contemplation, reflection, solitude, and journaling.”
I suppose the same kind of person delights in the personal spiritual retreat, being alone with God for days on end. But Nancy challenges this one size fits all approach to spiritual maturity. And I think with good reason.
I live on the border between extroversion and introversion. When I took the Meyers/Briggs Type Indicator twenty years ago, I came out as an introvert, the classic driven ISTJ, fairly typical for pastors, heads of companies, etc. And no surprise about the “I.” I’ve always had a shy streak, uncomfortable at parties, terrible at casual conversation, sometimes socially awkward; but with a desire to be outgoing and a drive to succeed.
But when I took the MBTI again a couple of years ago, I came out as an “E,” an extrovert. In fact, two letters changed. Now, I’m an ESFJ. Did I really change or was I more honest in how I took the inventory? Probably both, but I believe the latter is the better explanation. And I came to a better understanding that these traits say more about internal processing than outer expression.
Regarding the I/E distinction, I really didn’t move much, so close to the line both times that it really didn’t reveal a major change. The T/F (Thinker/Feeeler) change was far more significant, but I’ll have to write about that some other time.
So, how does a fence sitting I/E grow spiritually? And how do I shepherd and challenge to spiritual growth those who aren’t on the I/E fence, but clearly on one side or the other, maybe at one of the extremes?
I don’t want to miss the significance of some structure in the daily devotional pursuit of God. Without some limited structures in life, such things as eating, sleeping, bathing, teeth brushing, going to school and work, paying your bills, mowing your lawn…. wouldn’t get done and you would suffer the consequences. So it is with your relationships, including your relationship with God.
I’m not a highly structured person, but I must have some structure, especially in my walk with God or it will be neglected. Minimally, I follow a reading plan for daily time in the Bible, currently about two chapters a day that will take me through the whole Bible every two years, Psalms and the New Testament every year. I commend this plan in some form, more or less aggressive, for my church family.
Most mornings, after showering, dressing and breakfast, I retreat to the screened in porch (weather and season permitting) with my Bible and coffee. More than anything, it is reading the Bible, often out loud, that stimulates my mind, and feeds my heart and prayer life, thus drawing me deeper with God.
Other spiritual disciplines? Not in any regular pattern; and I get pushed on that. Journaling? I’ve tried it. Thank you, Nancy for reminding me that Jesus didn’t journal and that his writing in the dirt one day is not a proof text that Jesus journaled and so should we. But Jesus did take breaks, got away to pray in the early morning or late at night or all night. I’m sure I would benefit from more of that.
So read Nancy’s article. Don’t feel guilty that you aren’t like the supposed spiritual giants who spend hours every day in prayer and reflection. On the other hand, don’t use your idiosyncrasies or your MBTI as an excuse for spiritual neglect and laziness. If it’s important to have daily habits of eating, sleeping, and brushing your teeth, it’s even more important to put God in your schedule, to listen to Him speak through Scripture.
Yikes! I recoil at my own words, “put God on your schedule?” That sounds terribly unspiritual to say it that way. Doesn’t that just put God as another item on my list to check off each day and say “done with that?”
If that’s the case, we are still in spiritual pre-school, but unless we begin with some kind of scheduled structure to meet with God, we’ll never graduate from spiritual pre-school and move toward more conscious “practicing the presence of God” so that you begin to “pray without ceasing” and have the passion for “whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”
Then, God is not just on my schedule, but God is my life. We’re not there yet, but I pray we are going in that direction.