Beyond Our Cookie-Cutter Comfort
Introvert, extrovert, melancholy, type A, amiable, INTP, ESVJ, lion, beaver….we have probably all heard of these different personality “types”. Chances are, you know what your “personality” is, either from taking one of multiple different personality tests, or simply from having people comment about it your entire life. Comments like “You’re so shy!”, “Boy, you sure do talk a lot,” or “You’re such a people person,” begin to craft our puzzling personalities. As humans, we try to figure out ways to better understand ourselves and those around us, choosing to lock onto even simple things like comments or “personality profiles” in order to attain this.
For someone who just LOVES people, these “profiles” can be helpful in aiding them to make some sense of the person who would rather read a book in the quietness of their own home. When they understand that it is a matter of “Extrovert vs. Introvert”, it clicks. “Oh, I’m an extrovert, and Melanie must be an introvert – that’s why she doesn’t have people over much or go to many parties.” Suddenly, that which seemed out of the grasp of reason to the person who could not understand why anyone would ever want to be alone makes sense! There is a box, and they have discovered that Melanie fits in it. They have also discovered their own personal box and they know for sure that it is different than Melanie’s. It makes sense, not to mention it’s actually quite comfortable and snug.
We relish the comfort of being in our personal boxes. When someone questions the way we act or think, we can point them to the fact that we are an “INTP”, and that ALL INTP’s act and think that way…so what we’re doing is perfectly reasonable. It’s almost like a club, if you think about it: When we meet someone else, we whip our our “INTP” badge and compare it with their “INTJ” badge. We feel less self-conscious about our quirks or differences, and more like we are actually who we are supposed to be. We may even think we have a right to say “that thing” in that less-than-kind way because..well…it is who we are. We can almost feel ourselves becoming proud of our little title. We might say we are “comfortable” with who we are. Well, that is the truth. We feel secure in knowing who we are and who we are supposed to be. At least, according to our personality type. It gives us something to work with and, not to mention, something to aim for. It gives us humans the boundaries we long for – a desire that was originally created in us in order to point out our need for God and His good laws. However, we get so comfortable in our personality boxes that we are hesitant – unwilling, even – to step outside of them. It is a terrifying and difficult thing. If we do something that is totally outside of our personality box…doesn’t that mean we are trying to be someone else? Are we being fake? And then if we do something that is not what a “INTP” is supposed to do, like going to make small talk *scream of terror* or something that is uncomfortable for us…what if people ask us to do it again?! And what’s worse…what if God asks us to keep it up? What if it does not stop with that ONE area? What if God asks us to do MORE uncomfortable things? What if our lives become TOTALLY uncomfortable for us……..auuuuggghhh!?!
And this, my dear friends, is where this article comes into play. This is actually EXACTLY the place that God wants us to get to. Uncomfortable? Yes. Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (ESV). Our lives, our bodies, our time–it belongs to God. If we call ourselves Christians, we are essentially handing over the “keys” and rights of our lives to God. Not that they were ever really ours to begin with, but when we make the statement to God that our lives our His, it shows Him that we are serious about wanting Him to be the King. Not our own desires. Not our guide-lining “Myers-Briggs 4 personality letters”. Friends, when we truly love Jesus, He will ask us to do things that are uncomfortable for us. “Living Sacrifice” is not just an eloquent verse–it means we sacrifice ourselves to Him. We give up ourselves to Him, living the life He asks.
The Lord is continually putting me in situations that I would never have chosen for myself. Situations that stretch my faith, situations that teach me important lessons (especially humility) or situations where He asks me to go completely outside my normal introverted personality. It is terrifying at times, yet we must be willing. Willing, as Paul says in Romans 12, to surrender ourselves completely to God, as a sacrifice for Him to do with whatever He thinks is best. To accomplish, this we must be willing to let God bust us out of our personality boxes.
There are times I find myself being stubborn. I can often put up a good fight in my heart against what I know God wants me to do. “But God,” I say, “I can’t do that! I’m not outgoing enough. You should probably ask someone who is better at talking to strangers.” or, “But God, I need quiet to recharge – it is part of my personality. I don’t think I can handle having those people come over today.” But do you know what happens when I just obey God, and do what He asks me to do? He blesses it. He gives me joy in the situations I might be tempted to be miserable in. He gives me words to speak when I have nothing to say. He fills my heart with His love for people, so that helping them seems more desirable to me than my own comfort.
Do you know what happens when I resist the Lord and convince myself that He would never ask me to wear my INTP-self out? I miss out. I miss out on growth that God wants to do in my heart. I miss out on spreading “the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV).
“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11 ESV). Our personalities ARE part of who we are, but if we are Christians, Christ is our “personality box”. WWJD should be our “four-letter” description. Even if we are tired introverts; what would Jesus do?
Just like the rest of our sinful nature, our personalities are fraught with tendencies that go against God’s love and holiness, needing to be re-shaped by The Potter’s hand. Our old selves, including our very personality types must be laid on the altar with the willingness for God to shape and change us as He sees fit. It is through these numerous (and sometimes painful) changes that we are being made more like Jesus! All of the sinful tendencies we have hold us back from being able to truly reach out to people with the pure love of Jesus. Yet, as these are carved out of our hearts and lives, we are slowly – bit by bit – able to live, act, talk and serve more like Jesus. By God’s grace, as we let Him tackle the stubborn parts of our personalities that we hold on to, it is like letting God remove the veils that are over our lives so that those around us can see Jesus more clearly through our lives!
As long as we hold on to what we feel are our “rights”, we will be missing out on what God could be doing in and through us if we actually let Him have full control over our lives. What if we stopped dictating what we think God would ask us to do based on our perception of “INTP”? What would happen if we surrendered our discomfort enough to actually hear and obey God’s voice? What would he be able to accomplish through us, His human vessels? It is hard, but not a thing that is too difficult for us to bear. The more we surrender to Him, the more we see His trustworthiness. The more we let Him use us as He wishes (and obey Him!), the more we are able to see His own power at work through us! It is then that we can begin to understand that Jesus does not ask us to do anything in our own strength – for, indeed, we have none – but He Himself supplies with His own strength for every single situation and task He sets before us.
We never have to fear that we aren’t qualified, nor good enough at coming up with things to talk about, nor “a lion”. For, that which our Lord sets before us, that is the task He cannot wait for us to lean on Him to accomplish. He will fill us with Himself, and make up for all we lack through the power of His Holy Spirit. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20 ESV).