Well, here it comes again. The tightness in my chest; the nausea. The creeping sense of fear and panic. Why am I sweating so badly? I can hear the sound of my heart speeding up as I walk down the driveway into the backyard. “You can do this,” I tell myself. “It will all be over in a couple of hours,” I keep repeating this mantra as I am steadily assaulted by brightly colored balloons and what seems to be a hive-like structure of 5-year-olds – all running amok but with an underlying sense of order about them. It isn’t quite as chaotic as it first appears. They have all been here before, they know the drill. And, unfortunately, so do I.
I pray to my loving Father, “Help me, Lord,” as I begin the exchange of expected pleasantries, all the while, doing my best to keep the terror inside me from showing on my face. My God in heaven, how do I loathe children’s birthday parties…
Now, some of you may be laughing at this point. It does sound quite ridiculous, to be so afraid of something so benign as an afternoon filled with cake and small talk. But these gatherings terrify me. I can’t stand them. I am distressed from the minute another invitation comes home in a backpack, to the minute we pick up our goodie bag and head to the car. Why do I feel this way, you may ask? I can’t tell you. I wish I didn’t, but I have always, since childhood, been horribly afraid of group gatherings.
And for those of you that actually know me, please understand that it is not about you, or your lovely children. It is all about me. See, I am an extreme introvert; painfully shy – and the more people in the crowd (i.e. 20 parents standing around talking) the more my anxiety takes over and drives me into my inner cave mentality. That is why, in these situations, you will normally find me sitting in a corner pretending to oversee my child (but really he doesn’t even care that I am there,) because friends, I am most likely one labored breathe away from shutting down completely. It is true, this particular social convention creates more fear for me than is imaginable for most of you.
But, I would bet, some of you know exactly what I am talking about. In fact, I figure many of us out there feel exactly the same way when walking inside a church building. You know the struggles. Hoping that the preacher will forget the “handshake time,” at the beginning of the service. Not being able to walk into that small group because you won’t know what to say, or worse, being asked to introduce yourself to all these strangers. Or what about the “fellowship time?” You know, that awful 15 minutes when everyone stands around drinking coffee and “visiting” as we in the south refer to it. That’s the worst, because the introverts in the crowd can’t insert themselves into a conversation and we are pretty awkward feeling as we stand in the corner, nursing our coffee and try to look like we fit in. It’s a miracle of God than some of us even make it to church at all.
The reason I am bringing this up today, is not to tell the introverts out there to buck up and get over it. I am not telling you that your fears are unwarranted, or that believing in God will help you to get past them. It is on my heart today to write, and pray, for the extroverts, those that can make coming to church so much easier for the rest of us. For you happy, never-met-a-stranger folks, I am so overjoyed for you. It must be wonderful to stroll into church on Sunday morning with smiles and hugs all around. So I ask you, as followers of our Lord, please be kind and patient with the rest of us. Maybe, in your zeal to engage and catch up with others, you might look around, and include that person that seems a little out of place. Maybe you might pay attention and seek out those that don’t seem to have anyone else to talk with. And maybe you might be blessed with a sense of the Holy while doing it. Just a thought my dear, outgoing friends. Share a little of that joy you are carrying around with you. Be A Blessing!
How great Thou art! For You made me to be a member of the body of Christ. I contribute to my church family in my own, unique way, just as everyone does. Thank You for those outgoing and lovable folks that make friends so easily. I pray today that no one would ever leave our church feeling left out or unloved. Help us to create an atmosphere of warmth and welcome for each person that walks through our doors. And help us, each one, to be attuned to those than need that extra smile, handshake, or invitation. Create in each one of us, a heart filled with radical hospitality, overflowing with the love of Jesus.
In the name of my Salvation I pray,
ps. For those of you considering inviting my children to your next birthday party, please do not hold their mother’s craziness against them. My kids love parties, and will be most happy to attend. And I will be most happy to drop them off and pick them up in a timely fashion. LOL