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To my fellow Christian introverts: The struggle is real, I know

by | 27 December 2016, 2:11 PM

After reading this piece, an extrovert had something to add, as always. Read To my fellow Christian extroverts: The struggle is real, I know.

We are made introverted for a reason. It’s not a liability – but it shouldn’t be an excuse, either.

I am an introvert.

To be exact, I’m an INFJ. Out of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, the INFJ type is believed to be the rarest, forming less than 1 per cent of humanity. We are the most introverted of all introverts.

As an INFJ, I struggle in Church. The need for me to even be physically present in Church, amongst the people, can be daunting.

I’ve lived with the perception that the Church loves the extroverted Christian, and the extroverted Christian loves the Church.

The extroverted Christian is the person who might rally the people passionately, be the first to befriend any visitors and the last to leave because they are always busy chatting with others. They seem to radiate charm, passion and confidence.

But for us introverts, there seems to be just no room to breathe comfortably in Church.

We face challenges that others might find baffling. There’s the inevitable round of greetings: “If you’re visiting for the first time today, stand up so we can welcome you!” Then there are the painful icebreakers: “Get up, find someone you don’t know and tell them what you’re thankful for this week!” And there’s the much-dreaded public prayer: “Let’s have Introvert end the meeting by leading us in prayer!”

So it’s easy for introverts like me to feel discouraged and out of place in a church setting. Sometimes it just seems like we introverts just aren’t as good as “being Christian”.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been sat down and challenged by well-meaning church leaders, who tell me: “You’ve got to be more outspoken!”, “You need to be more assertive when leading the team!”, “Why do you stutter when you pray? Why are your prayers so short?” and even “Why are you so anti-social?”

😔  Introverts are so misunderstood. So, to help you, and to help us, here’s …

THE EXTROVERTS’ GUIDE TO INTROVERTS

1. We’re not anti-social – we just prefer smaller groups

Introverts are not anti-social just because we don’t fancy social gatherings and we prefer to have one-on-one conversations. Introverts like to be alone more than we like to be with large groups of people. Introverts restore our energy by spending quality time with ourselves, or an individual person instead. Spending time with large groups of people can be draining and frustrating to us.

In a church setting, introverts sometimes may choose to only speak to a single person at any one time instead of an entire group of people. Just because you don’t see us rallying a crowd of people, or hosting a group of new visitors, doesn’t mean that we are spending our time in church hermitting and being anti-social.

2. We’re not sulking – we just want some space

Introverts are also largely misunderstood for being unhappy and upset all the time.

My life group once decided to go out to a restaurant with a live band playing. The lights were so dim, the music was so loud and there was so much chattering around me. It was overwhelming, and I kept quiet for most part of the night because I felt drained just being in that place.

Later that night, my leader asked me privately if I was unhappy about something because of what she saw as my “glum” demeanour. The truth was that I wasn’t unhappy about anything. I simply felt too overwhelmed by my noisy and crowded surroundings.

3. We’re not helplessly meek – we can be effective leaders, too

A huge misconception about introverts is that since we are so introverted, we have no leadership skills.

When it comes to areas of serving in church, some of us may prefer more behind-the-scenes roles. People tend to expect us introverts to volunteer for the more “silent roles” by default. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t serve in the more “extroverted” roles, as an usher, worship leader, preacher or even the senior pastor.

The misconceptions about introverts could potentially result in the culture where unique individuals are brushed aside and dismissed. But we are all made different and unique; we shouldn’t be expected to fit into cookie-cutter stereotypes. God uses all kinds of people for His purposes. Many leaders in the Bible didn’t feel capable of doing what God asked, but He found use for their strengths and even their weaknesses. God saw potential and used them powerfully – regardless of personality type.

INTROVERTED, BUT NOT SELF-FOCUSED

Some of us are naturally louder and more outgoing, while others are just naturally inclined to be quiet. I believe that God made me introverted. I am naturally quiet and this is part of God’s perfect design.

My inclination towards quietness and solitude helps me to know myself better. It helps me to understand things better. It helps me work better. It helps me to focus on God. Sometimes, in my quiet moments, I hear the most wonderful things from God.

I see why He made me an introvert. But that doesn’t mean that I allow myself to stay in my comfort zone all the time.

My natural inclination is to shun people and stay home alone, rather than to be with the crowds and serving people. I believe this inclination can become self-centred and selfish, if I’m not intentional in my actions and interactions.

God calls us to be willing to deny our desires (Luke 9:23). The Christian life is a life of self-denial. It is a life of saying, “Even though this — staying home alone, opting out of gatherings, choosing to remain silent – is what I want, my identity as a servant of God compels me to do something different instead.”

I’m slowly learning that at the end of the day, introvert or extrovert, these personality traits are merely what we are and not who we are. If we elevate these traits and choose to let them control our lives, we’re using them to justify selfishness instead of selflessness.

We are all made different, for good reasons. But our strengths (introspection) cannot become our weaknesses (the refusal to connect with the people of God). So, to those who still think I’m an anti-social hermit – I’m working on it. Give me some space.

/ christina@thir.st

Christina is a designer and a writer. She is an INFJ who loves matcha, beautiful typography, good books and sad music. She also dreams of raising her own pet penguin one day.

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The day I lost my dad

by Jolynn Chia | 18 October 2017, 1:06 AM

I have been a control freak most of my life.

My core belief was in the importance of control. If I lost control, I’d lose everything I’d ever worked for and wanted. I believed I deserved everything I had because I’d earned them with my very own hands. I didn’t have a personal relationship with God then, and it was a false sense of security.

That life fell apart the day my Dad had a heart attack and passed on.

Even during the funeral, I was still trying to control every aspect of it. I had to. Who could blame me? My Mum was so depressed she couldn’t do anything, my two younger siblings barely knew what was going on and my relatives were either overseas or busy with work.

In reality, I was reluctant to do anything because all I really wanted to do was to sit at home and cry.

I especially hated having to arrange the funeral because I found Dad’s sudden death unbelievably ridiculous. He was just cycling two days ago, and he had never complained of any heart issues. I was so angry at God. How could He punish me like that? Why?

I tried my best. I wrote the eulogy while settling endless administrative matters. I hosted guests whom I appreciated but could not welcome heartily because I had just lost my parent and felt utterly deprived of space to weep. I was exhausted sharing anecdotes of my Dad to people who might not have met him in person. I even tried to ensure that the eulogy was delivered calmly, yet mildly humorous so as not to bore my audience.

Control, control, control. I didn’t sleep a wink.

But even in that dreadful week, God showed His faithfulness to me. Every day, I received encouraging and comforting text messages. Friends and church mates whom I thought I never had a connection with came regardless and grieved with my family and me.

The second night, I dreamt of my Dad queuing at Heaven’s gates. And when choosing the Bible verse for my Dad’s plaque in the niche, my sister and I searched randomly on the Internet until we chose Daniel 12:3 for its beauty. A week later, I found out that chapter features the archangel Michael, which is my Dad’s name.

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)

If you’ve ever had to purchase a niche position, you’d know that the eye level ones are the hardest to get. All the eye level niches were crossed out from the availability chart by the time we received it.

Nevertheless, the day we went down to the columbarium we learnt that the number “0414” was the only eye level niche not taken up. April 14 was Good Friday, the same week my Dad passed away in. I think he would have liked it. It was a divine gift.

I knew all these things happened because God wanted to reassure us that even the suffering of life is part of His divine plan, and He is with us every step of the way. He would never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

But this truth felt far away on the darker days.

I came to harbour a quiet bitterness towards people who did not understand my pain. I mean, how many people in their mid-twenties have had experienced their parent dying overnight of a heart attack with no warning signs at all?

How many people could truly comprehend, empathise with and relate to the deep regrets and self-hatred I had in my heart? How many friends could I cry with? How many people saw how it fractured my life?

Even my Mum and siblings had different ways of dealing with grief, oscillating between denial and distraction.

My grief was uncontrollable. It would come like a thief in the middle of the night, in the day, during bus rides.

I did not trust that anyone would understand my experience, and most people understandably did not have the courage to probe. My grief was uncontrollable. It would come like a thief in the middle of the night, in the day, during bus rides.

But just when I thought the darkness would never end, God mercifully brought two sisters-in-Christ who had similar experiences to journey with me. They graciously saved me from falling into the Devil’s crafty lie that no one cared – not even God himself.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Over the months that have passed, God has met me personally in my grief and hopelessness. He’s been there in my loneliness, purposelessness and anger. I can say this with all my conviction: It has been an arduous process, but He has not let me go. Though my whole world might fall apart – I know I will never fall out of His love.

As a former control freak, I’ve now accepted that I cannot control everything that happens to me. But I do know that all that has happened is of His divine will, and I’m letting that be enough.

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by Esther Lo | 17 October 2017, 4:41 PM

When the Holy Spirit came mightily on the day of Pentecost, it was in a room where the people of God were assembled together.

“…they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:23-31)

Powerful things happen when the people of God assemble together in unity.

It has always been on my heart to write something with the songwriters in our youth ministry for God’s glory. I believe that my church is called by God to write and produce songs that glorify Him and equip the local church to worship together.

Some of us from the youth worship ministry in my church had gathered to write a fast-tempo song for our upcoming album. Having never worked together before, this was the first time we wrote a song together. As we were brainstorming, we thought of what Jesus did at the cross: He surrendered His life for us.

And just as He sacrificed His life for us, we want to give our lives back to Him as our response in joyful surrender.

We ended up writing this song more quickly than anticipated. We were pleasantly surprised at the result and fascinated by how organic the process was. It started off with just a few chords. Then as we sang melodies over it, along with a few placeholder phrases, the lyrics somehow developed and we had a full, fast tempo song which all of us fell in love with.

It eventually became one of the key songs for our church album. Today as we pray over it, we believe God can use it to bless many other young Singaporeans.


Generations Worship is the youth worship ministry of Cornerstone Community Church. Their album “Lean On” will be released on November 17. Pre-order starts October 21. A night of worship will also be open to all on Nov 17 at Cornerstone Community Church to celebrate the album launch. Follow their Facebook page for more updates. 

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Am I still a female if I’m unfeminine?

by | 16 October 2017, 12:37 PM

I was never a feminine girl.

Just ask my grandma. She’ll confirm that I used to be punished with the boys for being a nuisance during kindergarten. We’d face the wall as our punishment – and I would invariably be the only girl standing among a row of boys.

At home, my mom would often berate me for being chor lor (uncouth) as I liked to sit with one foot propped up on my chair. She wasn’t a fan of the habit I picked up from my Dad; it made me look like a Chinese coolie, she said.

More recently, in my university days, my female friends would laugh at my lack of empathy. Memorably, I once dozed off in front of a friend who was droning on and on about her problems.

Aiyah, Siqi thinks and acts like a guy lah,” my friends joked. I laughed along. I really didn’t mind the label they slapped on me. I thought it was accurate.

Until I became the leader of an all-female cell group.

IDENTITY CRISIS

I became painfully aware of how different I was after I was thrown into this group of girls. Having to intentionally reach out to them on a regular basis, my stunted emotional intelligence in the realm of feminine conversation proved to be a barrier in relating to my cell girls.

I just wasn’t girly enough.

Soon, I began to question something I had never thought about, something I had never cared before: My identity as a female.

That night, I cried myself to sleep. I was afraid there was something wrong with me. I felt like a disappointment and a failure. I was even afraid of what God would think of me.

Comparing yourself to others is poisonous for the soul.

In an attempt to become more feminine, I began to imitate my other female friends. But I could never measure up; I wasn’t as gentle as this girl, as relational, as patient. I found myself constantly miserable and tired from chasing other people’s shadows.

Comparing yourself to others in this way is poisonous for the soul. I ended up feeling even more confused about my identity. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

That was when it hit me: I was worried about going against God’s design, but I was now doing it all the more.

God didn’t create me to impersonate others. I’m unique (Psalms 147:4) and crafted with a specific purpose (Ephesians 2:10). I was dead wrong thinking I could “create” my identity by trying to be like someone else.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t model ourselves after our Biblical heroes. There’s a difference between imitating people and imitating Christlike values. While I can’t express compassion the same way my friend does, I can learn from her to be more empathetic in my own way.

I’m called to imitate Christ, not to be a poor copy of somebody else. When I try to imitate others, I’m only losing out on how I was uniquely created by God and what I was designed to offer (1 Corinthians 12:18-20, 1 Peter 4:10).

CHRIST IS IDENTITY

It took me a long time to understand that my identity is only determined by my Maker.

People may say that I act like a tomboy, and some days I feel like the most unfeminine person on earth – but ultimately it’s what my Creator says that truly matters.

It took me a long time to understand that my identity is only determined by my Maker.

I’m a female because that’s what God made me (Psalm 100:3).

All I need to do is to simply abide in God, obey His Word, and I know He will lead me to become the person He created me to be (John 15:5, Romans 12:2, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Sure, I may not be feminine – I still sit like a coolie when I eat my meals at home – but I’m me. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Me.

/ siqi@thir.st

Siqi loves to eat. Except for peas, egg yolk, cucumbers, livers, intestines. Among others. She also happens to be a writer.

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How often do you talk to someone you love?

by | 16 October 2017, 12:07 PM

My cell leader recently asked us this question: How do we build and maintain a relationship with God?

His answer: The same way we would with a romantic partner.

When you’re in a relationship, you talk with your partner throughout the day. You send them little snippets of what you’re up to, update them on your plans, get their opinions on which dress to buy.

When you love someone, they maintain a strong presence in our mind. You want to know what they’re up to, and you want them to be involved in your life. You talk about anything and everything. Even if they’re not there physically, you stay connected by phone, Facetime, WhatsApp.

I’ve had seasons of my life where I knew what it meant to be in love with God. Hope – confidence in the things to come – is a byproduct of this intimacy.

Shouldn’t this be the same way we look at our relationship with God? Since a relationship is built on intimacy, how can we say we love someone when we don’t even talk to Him much — or at all?

How many of us pray as a last-ditch attempt to get help? When we’re desperate and have already exhausted all other options? How often do we reduce God to a mere emergency hotline?

My relationship with God has seen me through some of the darkest and toughest times in my life. I can’t deny the love that He has for me; I’ve seen His promises come to pass.

I’ve had seasons of my life where I knew what it meant to be in love with God, not from afar. This kind of love is invigorating. It gives everything clarity, and it helps me to make sense of things even when things aren’t going well. Hope – confidence in the things to come – is a byproduct of this intimacy.

But if I have to be honest, I can’t say that it’s like that now. But in such seasons I bring to mind the joy and peace that were my constant companion during those seasons of intimacy. I want to make it a point to intentionally pursue Him, hopefully with the same passion that He pursues me with.

So I pray.

I take these prayers as mini-conversations with God. Rather than fixate on fixed slots and the ritual of prayer, I’ve come to learn it can happen anywhere and everywhere. It can happen on the way to work, when I’m in the middle of a meeting, when I’m on the bus home.

Wherever, whenever. The point is to stay plugged in.

WHY SHOULD WE PRAY?
It’s our gratitude to God for all that He has done and will do (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
It’s the walking out of our faith (1 John 5:14).
It gives us His peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
It gives us His wisdom (Jeremiah 33:3).
It’s how we acknowledge HIs sovereignty, and surrendering our lives to Him (Proverbs 3:6).

God wants to know everything about you, so feel free to tell him about anything that’s on your heart. Prayer doesn’t have to be long or repetitive (Matthew 6:7), it can be without any agenda apart from just being with God.

Praying calms the raging seas that are our hearts. The stillness that Psalm 46:10 talks about is not just about some physical silence. Instead, it’s found in the silence of our hearts’ whims. This comes with the assurance that He’s got everything under control.

Make prayer your lifestyle, not a checklist.

If you haven’t been making time to talk to God, try doing it today. Talk to Him about whatever you’re doing, and share with Him whatever is weighing on your heart — the same way you would with someone who’s close to you.

And if you’re praying for a breakthrough, take heart. Keep pressing in, trusting that God won’t let you down (Luke 18:1-8). Constant prayer is our best shot against doubt, discouragement and fear.

Make prayer your lifestyle, not a checklist.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Article list

To my fellow Christian introverts: The struggle is real, I know

The day I lost my dad

#THIRSTACOUSTIC: Take Me

Take me, take this life

Am I still a female if I’m unfeminine?

How often do you talk to someone you love?