I am an introvert, and my personality type has fueled a meandering and bumpy journey that has led me in and out of Christian community, both as a layperson and as a pastor. This has been a journey of both self-discovery—as I have been learning how to make peace with my personality and to work out of it instead of against it—and of God-discovery—as I have been growing in my ability to see God's hand in my introverted life and ministry. On this journey I have been regularly accompanied by disappointment and hope, two companions that have worked together to push me onward.
I stand at a mailbox on a street corner in Princeton, New Jersey. As I stare at its familiar blue color, I wear only one winter glove, because the other ungloved hand clutches an envelope. It is a brisk afternoon, with the late winter winds gusting, negating the effects of the sun. New Jersey commuters, hoping to find a nonexistent shortcut through the married-seminary-student neighborhood, pass by me with puzzled glances at this scene.
It is the day that my potential for leadership in the Christian community has come to an end, without ever truly beginning. What I hold in my reddening hand is my resignation letter from the ordination process of my denomination. I have wrestled mightily with this process for four years, and just an hour earlier, I had resolved that I am not called to ordained ministry.
Eight years later, I have come to realize that my death matches in those days were not vocational per se but were primarily temperamental. Even before I began pastoral ministry, I was convinced that my personality excluded me from it. There was no room in ministry for someone of my disposition—or so I thought. In my mind at the time, ideal pastors were gregarious, able to move through crowds effortlessly, and able to quickly turn strangers into friends. They could navigate diverse social circles and chat about any number of topics. They thrived in the presence ...