say what?

two years ago a group of friends and i were at a national church conference, and over lunch we discussed the session on small group ministry we’d all just attended (without previous planning). the hour wore on, and the intensity of our conversation ebbed and flowed as people jumped with their ideas, passions or concerns. toward the end, someone said “we haven’t heard from you, amelia — what do you think?” i sat there blinking like an owl, then said, “well, i’m still thinking. i have to absorb everything like a sponge before i can talk about it.” at which point the friend sitting next to me grabbed my arm and pretended to wring it out like a sopping sponge. i think i blinked some more.

this year i’ve inadvertently been learning a lot about my personality and temperament. i’ve known for a long time that i’m an introvert with a mostly phlegmatic temperament, but now i’m learning how those terms describe the way i go about life and interact with other people. i’m not entirely sure whether this is the result of self-absorption or whether God is saying “look, child — this is how I made you, and I made you that way for a reason. now figure out what to do about it.” either way, i have a lot to ponder about the benefits and drawbacks of my personality.

communication is one area where i have a lot of opportunity to grow.

i never thought of myself as a quiet person until i started working and my colleagues commented that i didn’t talk much.

i knew i disliked the “participation” grade component that a lot of my college courses had. it basically meant that you got points if you talked, and, the more you talked, apparently the more points you could get. what i learned from those classes was that some people can talk a lot without saying anything. my american literature professor, when he handed out our pre-finals grades on the last day of class, looked at my card, looked at me, and said, “with a grade like that, we should have heard more from you.” how do you explain to anyone (let alone an 82-year-old absent-minded professor with egg on his sweater) that you have to think about something a lot before you can talk about it, and, even then, can only discuss things the way you did in your essays because they were written?

i was at a party sort of gathering last night and, during the course of humorous conversation, someone, for reasons i now forget, said “amelia doesn’t talk. amelia writes.” (i have a feeling he said it with a semicolon rather than a period, which i applaud.) then he went on to qualify it by saying he was sure i talked, given the correct circumstances.

i love that description, though, because in many cases it is spot on. i could practically write an e-mail or instant messenger novel to someone because it’s all writing — i don’t have to say it out loud. i can, to a certain extent, say whatever i want to without reservation. and sometimes i get in trouble for that very reason. i can be extremely personable and chatty and use a lot of exclamation points (appearing quite, quite sanguine, as a matter of fact), and then, in person, i clam up or get tongue-tied or seem aloof … or just don’t say anything at all.

maybe i’m having a beautiful time but just don’t feel the need to talk. i don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

but too often i let my introvertedness take over and i won’t go out of my way to talk to people, even to show hospitality and make them feel welcome when they’re the new person or outsider. i do so appreciate hospitable, loving people who make you feel at ease just by the way they talk and include you (even if they don’t know you from a hole in the wall — that has happened multiple times this year and has been such a good example and challenge to me).

where the rubber hits the road is the gospel. st. francis reportedly said something like “preach the gospel — if necessary, use words.” certainly the transforming power of the gospel and Who Christ is should shine through in everything we do, but ultimately we need to use words to explain it. so many times i’m afraid, for a variety of reasons, to say anything … and so i don’t. that’s not merely a matter of introversion, i know. and i know God isn’t telling me “you must be an extrovert in order to be a good christian and tell people about Me.” that’s kind of silly.

i love that He is my strength, though i am weak, and He has the power to change me and transform me into someone who can’t help but speak of His goodness and His glory, His blazing righteousness and His awesome love.

i can write that to beat the band. now i want to learn how to speak it.