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I was on the phone with a friend recently who said that he and his wife were feeling guilty for actually enjoying lock down. I understood the sentiment.
Janice and I are both only children and so are very used to our own company. We have our daughters locked down with us. This is almost perfect for us.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. A friend lost a friend to Covid 19 this past week. We are aware of the grief. We have members of Fitzroy on the NHS front line. We are anxious. My father has dementia and is in a Residential Home. We are frightened.
Yet, in the every day lock down we are more than surviving. We are thriving. Fitzroy’s nerve centre has moved to our kitchen table. Janice is phoning around the congregation, doing Rhyme Time with the toddlers on Zoom as well as the Woman’s Group. I conjure Sunday morning’s service, lead the Zoom Prayer meeting and keep a handle on pastoral care, neighbourhood outreach and other projects.
Life is full if not as mad crazy busy as the “normal” life we used to live. It has been time consuming learning all kinds of new technical operations but for us there have been lots of advantages.
I have been on a journey, understanding something about myself, for a couple of years. Writer Donald Miller put out a piece on the hard work that the introvert has to do in company. It struck a chord. It was like he was describing me.
Yet, me an introvert? Who would think? My office is a lecturn in front of a full Church. I have led communion to 20,000 people. I have made crowded rooms across the world laugh out loud as well as hopefully communicate something of God’s grace and imagination.
This is true. Give me a crowd, the bigger the better. Push me out before it and something deep within me decides to go for broke. If they are going to laugh at me, I might as well ham it up. Maybe I can grab their attention. I believe that without doubt that it is what I was born for.
However, send me into a room with no introduction or reason to be there and I am the last person who will walk across and introduce myself. I am, below the hoopla, very shy. I become that only child who didn’t learn interaction with brothers and sister. I sat in my music room and played The Beatles. On my own.
So reading Donald Miller was a relief. He explained my struggle. He understood. The extrovert refreshes in socialising. The extrovert refuels in crowds. The introvert is working his or her socks off in any group dynamic. Even though I am looking confident and extrovert on the surface, my inner core is running like a marathon runner to keep up. It is exhausting.
So, during this lock down, Janice and I have rested from that hard work that we believed we are called to. We really have had sabbatical. We understand the struggles our friends are having being cut off from social groups. We understand but we are not struggling.
In fact we are beginning to struggle as we start to imagine the coming out of lock down. We are aware that this idyllic cocoon we are in is soon to be over. We are bracing ourselves. We know that it will mean party time, a celebratory overload of the social gatherings that tire us out. We will want to be there but we are readying ourselves for the hard work.
I suppose that I am writing this to say that for the vast majority this lock down has been a mental stretching. Mental health has been rightfully high on the agenda of those of us who pastor and care. As lock down lifts us introverts are simply asking that our mental struggles would be equally considered.
Indeed this respite has been unprecedented (how many times have I heard that word!) for us shy folk. The norm stretches our mental resources all of the time. As introverts have been gentle with extroverts during lock down, please be sympathetic to us as it lifts!