Tag Archives: introverts

The Stay-at-Home Missionary

28 Feb

It’s not often that I am moved to blog about a sermon I hear at church (though it does occasionally happen). Today we had a visiting speaker, Aaron Elder (who, despite his name, was almost unbearably young), and some of the things he said particularly struck me. That makes it sound as if our regular pastor’s sermons are not striking, which is unfair. They are often excellent, usually challenging, and if they suffer from using the phrase “what would it look like” more often than is warranted by normal use of the English language, well, so do Aaron’s. But maybe I was just ready to hear what Aaron had to say today – or, more accurately, what God had to say through him, because in any really good sermon the mouthpiece fades into the background.

Anyway, Aaron’s sermon was mainly about missionaries, and how we are all supposed to be missionaries. He dropped in some quotes by big hitters (he was almost apologetic by the time he invoked Kierkegaard; I was ready to cheer) and one of them was from Charles Spurgeon:

Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.

Of course this is hardly a new concept. I’ve heard any number of times the idea that we can’t all go abroad to be missionaries, but we can and should all spread God’s message of love where we are. I probably have a slightly different angle on this from most people, having been a missionary abroad; when asked what our mental picture of a missionary is (as a precursor to telling us we’re all missionaries), I think about my former friends and colleagues – although I have to admit that this image fights for space with the stereotypical image of a middle-aged woman in sensible clothes and besandaled socks.)

Anyway, when we were all being encouraged to think of where our ‘mission field’ is, I was, not for the first time, thinking “I don’t have any colleagues. I don’t have many friends, and many of the ones I do have are overseas.  I see my neighbours rarely. I don’t have a mission field.” Most people have to deal with a lot of people every day, whether they want to or not, but my work is just me and a computer, and that’s the way I like it. Even when I’m interpreting Albanian, I’m only supposed to be a human version of Google Translate (albeit a more accurate one); I’m not allowed to interject my own thoughts, any more than a Babel fish does.

However, while I indulged in this none-too-positive thinking, God* suddenly drew my attention to the fact that in a few weeks I’ll be speaking to over 200 people about St Patrick. In the week of St Patrick’s Day I’m visiting a school, talking to the whole of S1. Then I’m giving a talk on “Who was the real St Patrick?” at Govanhill Neighbourhood Centre the same week, on Friday 18th March. Neither of these talks are going to be evangelistic – I’m not luring people in and then preaching hellfire and damnation. But I will be speaking about another missionary, good old Pat, and mentioning why he went off to serve the Irish – which was of course because of his belief in God, and that God had sent him.** So while I may not have colleagues, or even many friends (don’t shed any tears, I do have some, and they are lovely!), I have a remarkably privileged opportunity that most people don’t get. Of course, I’ve also got my books, read even by people I’ve never met (so I’m told), so there’s a lovely, arm’s-length mission field – a Christian introvert‘s dream 😉

Where am I going with this? Nowhere really, except to observe that sometimes things can become new and fresh even when we’ve heard them a hundred time, and that perhaps even I have a mission field, even if it is limited in time, or extended in virtual distance.

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*How do I know / why do I think it was God? It’s hard to be 100% sure when it comes to divine communications, but they do happen (if you’re a Christian), and they come in a number of different forms, from the unsettlingly supernatural to the surprisingly mundane. In this case, while mundane, the subject came to my mind unbidden, and in a completely different light from how I had seen it before, while I was in a prayerful, open attitude. That doesn’t prove anything, but I just thought I would explain since “God spoke to me” can be a rather confusing and ambiguous statement for the uninitiated.

** In his case it was a vivid dream in which he received a letter from the Irish – a little closer to the supernatural end of the scale.

The Great British Turn Off

31 Aug

I understand that the 2015 series of the ever-popular Great British Bake Off is now underway. Or will be shortly. Or was recently. I’m not exactly sure of the details because I have never been the least bit tempted to watch it. That’s not because I don’t like baking. In fact, I love baking and am well known amongst my circle of acquaintances for my excellent cakes and biscuits. I do so much baking that my little niece thinks “recipe” means “a book that tells you all the things what you need in a cake”. So why do I dislike the Bake Off?

Until recently, I explained that to myself and others by saying that it was the competitive element that put me off. Baking isn’t supposed to be a competitive sport, it’s an enjoyable pastime. When lots of people bring baked goods along to an event, the fun is in trying and enjoying all of them, not in declaring one the winner and rejecting the others. But that doesn’t really explain it. I mean, I don’t object to the kind of baking competitions where you make the goodies at home and then take them along to be judged. I’ve even entered competitions like that in the past before, and written a heart-warming, tear-jerking and fairly well-remunerated short story for a woman’s magazine on the subject.

I could say it’s the stupidity of baking in a tent. (You need a constant supply of water and electricity, and no wind blowing your icing sugar around so let’s hold it – in a tent! Ideal!) Or I could object to the hosts or judges. But actually my problem with it clicked when I read an article on introversion and it mentioned baking as an activity introverts can use to recharge. That’s it! Baking is a solitary, peaceful activity. If you make it into a big public thing, with everyone shouting and making noise and peering over your shoulder, it becomes a trial to endure, not a source of relaxation. My objection to The Great British Bake Off, it seems, is that I’m an introvert.

(As an aside, it’s also a slight quibble I have with the Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. It’s an excellent cause, but I have to disagree with their statement that “cake tastes better together”. Cake most definitely tastes better alone.)

It’s normal for writers to be introverts – lots of deep thoughts, internal monologue and spending time alone with computers, paper, pens and books. (I love stationery – not sure if that’s connected.) But it’s not always easy to tell who’s an introvert and who isn’t, unless you know them well. I can be quite the social butterfly, in fact, meeting new people, remembering their names and making amusing small talk, but I couldn’t do it all day. In fact, if I spend all day with large groups of people, even people I like, I will be ready to burst into tears about nothing at all by the evening. I need time by myself to chill and recover, doing things like reading, watching TV, and baking.

The article that mentioned baking has a great explanation of introversion described in terms of mobile phone batteries. The basic gist is that it’s not that introverts can’t do outgoing, social things, it’s just that it drains the batteries, which then need to be recharged. It’s a good article and I would recommend it. I would also recommend that you try my baking if you ever get the chance, and read my writing (naturally). But don’t stand over my shoulder while I’m doing it, giving me marks out of ten. This is not the Great British Bake Off.

Introverts Unite