A fun question to ask someone as you get to know them is whether they consider themselves an introvert or an extrovert. In essence, the answer to that question provides some insights as to how that person is refreshed. An extrovert is refreshed when they are around other people… the so called “energy in the room”. The introvert, on the other hand, is refreshed by finding a quiet place, alone with a good book. I am both… weird. I found out a few years ago they call that person an ambivert. I sometimes find it hard to navigate the idea of Christian community, sometimes relishing the idea of a crowd and other times resenting it. However, community isn’t always about a crowd.
Almost 18 years ago I was asked to lunch by a friend. I always respected my friend and knew him to be passionate about his faith and always eager and bold to share it with others. My friend was participating in a small group of business men who would get together weekly for the primary purpose of learning the Bible. However, in addition to that time together in the Bible, the desire was to build deep friendships. I was asked if I would be interested in leading that group. I was honored to be asked.
The past 18 years has taught me a lot of about what it means to be a part of something God puts together, like a body. I have learned a lot about other people; I have learned a lot about the Word of God, and I have also learned a lot about me. I have observed with great delight (most of the time) the wonderful variety of characters that God calls. The variety says something about how God thinks… which is always a mystery and when observed is absolutely endearing.
Let me explain the format of our group meetings. First of all, everyone is welcome, and I mean everyone. A person can attend once and then come again weeks later… some people come once a year and others come weekly. You never know who will be in the room. There is usually a time of prayer, a time of short testimony (where someone shares in 10 minutes or less, their story) and then a discussion on a Biblical topic that has been assigned for the day. The simple format and group seem to attract an incredible variety of people, whose personality profiles would push the limits of your best tests. I have often observed characteristics of God through the various people that have attended this group. Let me indulge.
Where we are
I observed that God loves us where we are. We have seen people at their worst and yet were loved despite their situation. Think about a time when you were at your worst. Who reached out to you? Who loved you despite being tough to love? I am reminded of some in our group who were awaiting a prison sentence for some white-collar crime they had committed. The crimes were different as were their sentences. The group not only helped them prepare for their sentence, kept in touch with them and their families while in prison and then loved them back after their release. They are better today because they didn’t just hear about the love of God, but experienced it.
I have observed the patience of God. He sees the picture when it’s finished and is willing to allow us to take the journey. Yes, He loves us where we are, but He also loves us too much to keep us there. I have seen people come and go, some with a shallow understanding of God shaped by years of an image of God as the angry taskmaster that must be pleased or else. I have also observed people who have been shaped by His Grace and their arrogance, self-proclaimed superiority and success sobered by their own failures. I have attended and facilitated funerals of those who passed away and in the process was able to meet those who loved them dearly and get a glimpse of the “man at home.” I have observed men weep, men curse, men laugh, men sacrifice. I have seen fragile men, strong men, bold men and weak men. I have met men that live in regret and others that have not yet learned that lesson. I have met humble men and arrogant men. I have met men that are difficult to love and others easy to. Each time I am reminded at how God looks at each of us. Yes, He is a patient God.
Lastly, I have been reminded that its more about the small steps then the giant leaps. I often live with the fear and question, as many of us do, that if someone truly knew the “real me” would we still be loved and accepted or would you be dismissed? I believe that many of us carry this burden that we pay God by living a life that pleases Him. However, since we feel like we have fallen behind, we begin each day with a deficit. The new day gives us another chance to make up some lost ground, and the pressure mounts. We need a spiritual homerun or perhaps a hail Mary. However, that’s not how God sees it. I think He’s much more tolerant and interested in the day-to-day journey… knowing it’s a bit raw and challenging. Remember, He made you the way you are but He is also at work in you to finish what He started.
Tuesday Night Testimony
In conclusion, God has created all of us to be connected to another. Therefore, whether you are an introvert, extrovert or ambivert… we are still in desperate need to find that group, that person, that community, that place that we belong. The place is important because we can’t hide there, eventually the true you is exposed. A God-created community is a beautiful thing. I find it amazing that as you walk with God a while you will see things in community that you may or may not see if you were to try and rush the journey. Tuesday nights has been that for me. It’s not always easy, but its real and lifegiving, and I have been gifted a front row seat to watching God work in the lives of my fellow man, and in the process, He has worked in mine.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.
Read more articles by Stephan Tchividjian at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/stephan-tchividjian/