Today’s guest letter comes from Dan Locke, children’s pastor at Broadway Christian Church in Mesa, Arizona, and father to Samuel (2.5) and Peter (8 mos.).
If it weren’t for the fact that my two boys aren’t old enough to appreciate it yet, they’d be super impressed with my Mario Kart skills. Samuel and Peter are both well on their way to becoming the nerds that myself and my incredibly loving and patient wife are. When I’m not making my vain-glorious attempt at brain-washing the family into thinking I’m actually Spider-Man in disguise, I enjoy reading, writing, movies, baseball, football, camping, video games, Pokemon and miscellaneous computer tinkering.
I’ll just say it right up front: As much as anything can be known at two and a half years old, we know that you’re probably an introvert. You don’t like big crowds. Anyone other than Mom or Dad takes a little (sometimes a lot of) getting used to before you’ll say anything. You can’t go a full day without reading at least one book. There’s more, but perhaps the most telling sign was earlier this summer. We were at the first birthday party for the grandson of some family friends. The house was full of people, some you knew, some you didn’t. There were at least ten other kids under the age of five. At one point during the party, most of the kids were either outside, in the pool, or playing with other various toys and games in the living room. You weren’t with any of them. No, you had tucked yourself away in the playroom, very contentedly looking through picture books all by yourself. To be honest, it was exactly what I had been wanting to do for most of the party.
I don’t want you to think that there’s anything wrong with behavior like that. There are a lot of people who will try to tell you that being an introvert is not normal. I’ve already had someone ask if we’re going to get you tested for Asperger’s Syndrome. But there’s nothing wrong with you just because you’d rather sit down and read a book than go jump around in the bounce house with a bunch of other two and three year olds. Being an introvert means that God created you to appreciate silence, and solitude, and stillness. God designed you in a special way that allows you the ability to slow down and take in the nothingness that can envelope you when you’re alone. And He gave you the ability to find the small truth that He is speaking to you in that nothingness. That’s not to say, if you weren’t an introvert, you couldn’t do that. It just means it comes more naturally to you. God wired you in such a way that you will often find energy and fulfillment in being alone.
There are going to be people in your life who will try to force you into being an extrovert. They’ll ask you if there’s something wrong, or if you’re sad or lonely or tired, simply because you haven’t said anything for the last half an hour. You’ll sit off to the side at a party or at big family get-togethers and you’ll enjoy just watching how other people interact. And as you sit there just watching, not talking or dancing or playing The Bachelor Scene It, people will try to force you to “have a good time and enjoy yourself!” Don’t worry about it. They won’t understand that you don’t need to be in the middle of things just to have fun. It’s ok not to feel the need to sing terrible karaoke in front of a bunch of strangers just so you’ll “fit in.” It’s totally fine if you only want to answer the yellow Word Worm cards in Cranium, and leave the Star Performer cards to the rest of the team.
It’s ok to be an introvert. However, there’s another side to it as well. Being an introvert is not an excuse to be rude, or to ignore people. Your grandma will want to know how much you enjoyed the Lego set she got you for Christmas, even though you just sat in a corner all by yourself for the rest of the day to put it together. And she’ll want you to sit down and talk with her about the things you did over the summer, even if all you did was re-read the entire Wheel of Time series. There will be times you’ll need to put on an “extrovert face” and interact with people who need you to be an example of Christ to them. They won’t see Him in you, if you don’t let them see you at all to begin with. Trust me on this. Sometimes there are days I just want to crawl into a closet and read Spider-Man comics. But there are people who come into church on Sundays and they don’t know who Jesus is. And if I let my introverted nature take over, I won’t greet them, or let them know they’re welcome. And they won’t get to see that we have such an incredible Savior that He’ll take messed up goobers like you and me and use us to show His love to the world.
More than anything, I guess the bottom line is this. Don’t let people tell you how to enjoy life. Enjoy life the way God has created you to enjoy it. And I’ll do my best not to force you into speaking with too many relatives during the holidays.
Loved your letter. It’s why I wrote All By Myself, a children’s picture book affirming that it’s perfectly okay to be an introvert.