Can the Church stand out in the time to come as a place that empowers us to say “no” in a world that demands “yes” all the time? For about a year now, a noteworthy book has been on my mind as it generated a fair amount of buzz on the radio & internet. The book’s title is Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking (it’s due out in paperback this week). You might be surprised to learn that, along with the majority of pastors, I am an introvert. We learn to function as extroverts when needed (and genuinely enjoy being around people), but much of our time is spent alone and in silence: studying, writing articles and sermons, preparing materials for worship, retreats, and committee meetings; or in one-on-one counseling settings. Author Susan Cain presents research showing that while our culture tends to emphasize the importance and success of “extrovert” characteristics, many of the world’s greatest innovators and leaders have been true introverts. But since we have learned to reward outgoing personalities (and negatively label quieter people as shy or withdrawn), Cain argues that we’ve forgotten the equal importance of silence and contemplation.
Even without Cain’s observations, we can see all around us the pressure to get involved in everything: a variety of sports, school activities, clubs, community organizations, classes, social groups, you name it. All of this is on top of a culture of workaholism, in which many Americans don’t even use their annual vacation time. We measure the rewards in job success and financial security… but what about the losses to health? To family? To faith? The Power of Introverts can be the power to say “no,” reserving the time needed for the care of quiet space in our lives. As we approach the season of Lent, I hope you will consider our opportunities for prayer (p. 6), Lenten workshops (p. 2), and the PSEC Lenten Awakenings (p. 6) as offerings that help you say no to more busy-ness and yes to some time for quiet, prayer, and self-care. Perhaps it will be the first step for us, as individuals and as a church community, to create more space for spiritual growth.