Friday, May 19, 2017
Did You Know That I Am An Introvert? Or, I Hate Change, Part 8
My friend Jen introduced me to Introvert Doodles. I think I need my own copy of this book.
So, on Monday (4 days ago) I started writing my story, my real story for the first time since 2006. It's not like I haven't spoken anything true about my life in the last 11 years, but I was mostly telling people what was happening instead of reflecting about what it meant or how I felt. Or how the experience had changed me. "Hey, Internet, here's my soul." Right this moment, I'm feeling kinda ... shy.
People at church are talking to me about what I've written. I've seriously upset the usual chaos in the lives of my husband and my parents. Friends from childhood and high school who I haven't really connected with for years are sharing their hearts with me.
Since 2002, except for a maternity leave from 2006-2008 (thank you, Miranda), I have volunteered with the youth group (grades 6-12) at our church, Hope UMC in Voorhees, NJ. I'm on my third youth pastor. Seriously. For many years I was a (mediocre) small group leader for HS, then MS, then back to HS, but just the ladies. (For the last two years, I've transitioned into a position of prayer ministry, which fits me SO much better. Thank you, Dave.) Anyway, I used to tell the students, "I'm not an extrovert, but I play one on TV." I can put on the appearance for 3 hours on a Sunday night that I'm socially engaged and listening and actively praying for those in the building, and then I go home and collapse. Alone, because my husband's watching zombies. (I understand that The Walking Dead is an excellent television series but I need something a little more cheerful, thank you.)
The best thing I've learned in my years with other people's teenagers (the best kind) is that God honors your service, whatever it may be. All you really have to do is show up, and, truthfully, that's the hardest thing to do. Once I am out the door at 5 pm on Sunday night, in the car, on autopilot to church (we've been attending Hope since 2001 so I can pretty much drive there and back in my sleep), I am in my groove. But all Sunday afternoon I am dreading my departure. I tell myself, I can pray for these people from my house; why do I need to go to church? (While this is technically true, it's actually easier to do it there, especially when you're praying for specific things.) I whine and complain (to God) and count down the hours, but at 5 o'clock, barring illness or vomiting children, I walk out the door.
I listen to John Michael Talbot's The Lord's Supper which is a basic liturgy and also about 25 minutes long, which is the length of my commute. This helps me to put my brain in the right groove. Then in the parking lot, I read through Francis MacNutt's Prayer for Protection and head into the building. And I'm on duty until we turn out the lights about 8:30. I chat with the students and the other volunteer leaders. I usually participate in the large group session for the HS students, keeping my hand in, as it were. Then, after snack (and we have great snacks; we even have Snack Mommas and one Snack Dad), I walk up and down the hallways and around the worship space, praying. (If I just sat somewhere and prayed, I'd fall asleep. I usually need to be doing something to pray.) I pray for the students, for the staff, for my family, for friends who are ill or just had surgery, for hope. For help.
At 8 o'clock, when the students go home, I meet with one of the small groups of leaders (HS ladies, HS guys, MS ladies, or MS guys) and check in with them. I ask them how I can pray for them and after they go around the circle and answer my question, I pray for them. And then we're done. I go back to the parking lot and read MacNutt's Prayer to Be Set Free, and then I go home.
This is what I do. But what does it mean?
I heard God's voice. Not all the time, but often. Hope Church is a sacred space, protected. God is easier to hear there. I hear that I am no longer the beggar woman but the older son, and after this week, I know that signifies that God's blessing never left me; my eyesight was simply obscured.
I am encouraged. Our youth pastor recruits a wide variety of people to serve the students. And praying directly for people is an intimate act. It builds ties between people that last. They care for me as I care for them.
I acknowledge the discipline of prayer. The more you do it, the easier it is to step back into it, no matter how hard my week was. I have a set routine because, remember, I like routines. When my mind is distracted and I'm having difficulty focusing, pushing myself into the groove helps.
I leave my home life at home. (Although, in another year, Miranda will be coming with me to YG. That will be interesting.) Since Miranda was 2, my husband has given me Sunday nights off. He does all the parenting and I don't worry about it. I can go to church and be there.
When we don't have YG on Sunday nights (June - August because, well, summer and mission trips and things and Dave should really get a vacation sometime), my weeks feel out of balance. It's like my touch stone isn't there. I may not really register how important this time is until I experience it's absence. And it's disorienting. Sigh. I hate change.
But if I measured my efforts of service versus the blessings I've gained through my service, God's scale far outweighs my meagre work. When you give, you are blessed. When you serve, you are blessed. This is what our pastor, Jeff, call's God's economy; you can't out give God.
So, my introverted self is just going to have to cope. I can't stop writing. I wanted to go to bed an hour ago, but the compulsion to write overrode me. I'm on retreat, for heaven's sake. But I didn't bring the power cord for the laptop, so I better be efficient.