by Mary Rabe
My personality has always been a bit of a conundrum, even to myself. See, I love people. I care so much about others, and I long to have deep relationships and genuine connections with them. At the same time, I am almost always most content and at peace when I am alone at home! I’m pretty sure it’s because I know I am free to just “be” when I am alone, not distracted or hindered by the drive to serve and love others well, or the fear and anxiety that I’ve done something wrong.
My brain can drive me absolutely insane when I am with others. It is constantly running, processing every single little interaction, each and every word I speak (as well as how I say it), and even the most miniscule reactions of others.
“Did I say too much?”
“Why did he look at me like that?”
“I wonder if I hurt her feelings?”
Sometimes, things get so bad that my brain doesn't stop at just questioning the things I do or the responses (or lack thereof) from others. No, it moves on to label and judge me as a person based on the often-faulty conclusions it comes up with.
“I shouldn’t have said that. I’m pretty sure that came across all wrong. Why can’t I just get this right? I’m such a loser.” No wonder I prefer being home, where my brain can’t find as many things to pick apart and fret over! I’m learning, though, that God created me--and all of us as people--to be in relationships with others here on earth: to build connections with fellow believers so we can journey this life together, and to reach out to those who don’t know Him with His love and mercy and grace. There is a balance, here; we don’t rely on people above and before Him, or find our worth and value in them; but we are still called to love, and we simply can’t do that effectively if we are withdrawing and staying home (even if that really is so much easier to do, I know.) I’m still wrestling through all of these things, striving to find that balance, but these are the things God has shown me so far:
I must find my value and worth in Him, not in others. “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7) When I base how much I matter on how other people respond to me, it gives the devil a huge foothold in my life. As someone with social anxiety, I have to be especially on-guard against this! If I am not, I know my mind will run rampant with the lies Satan likes to use against me; but when I have a solid foundation of being rooted in who God says I am, it acts as a shield against those lies and helps my mind to stop the constant racing and have peace.
God created each of us to fulfill a unique calling and ministry, and we can’t do that if we are always at home. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV) Do you believe this? The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that God has planned special work that only we can accomplish. So in the harder seasons of anxiety and wanting to withdraw, it helps me to remember this truth, and to think of social events and interactions as a ministry and act of obedience. If I can remember that I am leaving my “safe space” of home as a ministry done in obedience to God, it somehow removes some of the pressure on others and myself. It gives me the ability to leave things to Him more, and removes the expectation that others will somehow fill a need for me.
It’s ok to just stay home sometimes. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14) At the same time, God knows exactly how we are “wired” and how He designed us. He isn’t surprised that my favorite thing is to stay home and enjoy my little family, or even sit alone in my room with my cat. These are the things that fill me up the most, and sometimes that is exactly what I need in order to more effectively do the step above of going out to minister to others. I’m not broken or flawed because I need more time alone with God and my thoughts, and neither are you. Finding a balance means sometimes staying home and letting God fill us up so we can in turn pour out that love to others.
I know what a struggle it can be to find a balance in overcoming our withdrawing tendencies and still respecting our intrinsically introverted design. I hope that the things God has taught this socially-anxious-but-still-wanting-connections introvert will help each of you in your journeys, too.
Mary Rabe is a fellow sister-in-Christ learning how to let go of control and just trust her amazing Heavenly Father to take care of things for me (which is why she chose the word “raphah” for her blog; it’s actually the Hebrew word for “let go”). She is still learning, growing, and being refined in this grand adventure of life with Christ, and she can’t wait to share all that He teaches her about letting go and letting Him have control. You can read more at her blog www.raphahmama.com .
You can also follow her on Instagram!