Well folks, ready or not, the holiday season is upon us. As much as I love my family and friends, this season can also be immensely stressful and draining for me, the introvertiest of introverts. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the festivities and the people that I get to celebrate with, but I also cherish the times of solitude, rest, and recharging that I plan for myself before and after holiday get togethers.
While it’s easy, especially this time of year, to get caught up in the fanfare of the large gatherings, or conversely spending too much time in solitude, God has been faithful to show me the sweet spot in between. As King David declares in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”
It is often in these times of dwelling, that in the background of the merriment and crowds, God uses a gathering within the gathering of just one or two other people to encourage me in my faith. In these small moments of big events, God reminds me of who He is and who He has created me to be.
While many of these experiences happen with good friends and family, one-on-one or in a small group, one time that sticks out to me happened just recently in a large church gathering. It was a Sunday morning and I was feeling particularly down. I almost didn’t go to church that day, feeling full of self-pity and loneliness. I was struggling with where I was at in life and feeling like God wasn’t hearing my prayers or at least not answering them in the way that I thought he should be. I couldn’t see his direction to a clear path. Not one part of my humanity wanted to go to church that morning, but that’s precisely why I knew I needed to be with God’s people.
As I was sitting in church, feeling sorry for myself, I cried out to God. I couldn’t tell you what the sermon was about that day, but I was praying prayers truer than I had allowed myself to say in a while. There having a personal moment amongst hundreds of people, I felt alone and unseen by God as I desperately tried to trust. As service dismissed, I began to wonder why I had even bothered going to church that day. Couldn’t I have prayed the same prayer in the comfort of sweats at home? Then a young woman approached me. I had never seen her before.
She had been sitting a few people down from me in the pew. She seemed nervous but said that she had noticed me during the service and had been lead to pray for me. She told me that she felt like God was urging her to let me know that He saw me, He hadn’t forgotten about me, and He had a plan for my life. She then handed me a prayer that she had written for me and told me I could read it later if I wanted and asked if she could pray for me right then. This was exactly what I needed that day. I haven’t seen that girl again since, but that “chance” encounter, that small gathering of just two people inside the clearly seen larger gathering of the church service, was orchestrated by God and blessed me more than that lady will ever know.
I am one who too easily retreats to solitude when times are tough. While some alone time is good and healthy, it is the sweet moments of being real with friends and allowing God to speak to and through me in day to day life that have the largest impact.
There is a reason we have the church, that God has called us to gather, and it’s not just spiritual, it’s scientific too. The New York Times posted an article in December of 2016 titled, How Social Isolation Is Killing Us. They reported that research shows all kinds of ways that isolation negatively affects us, makes death come more quickly for those who are sick, and greatly increases chances for things like heart disease.
God created us for one another, this is why he reminds us in Hebrews 10:24-25 to, “… consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
What does all this mean for us, for me? As this season of celebration approaches, I will still have times of introversion, but I will also relish the gatherings. And in the chaos of them look for ways to have smaller gatherings as I pray that God will speak to and through me as we celebrate. For there, his faithfulness is palatable and present. In a world that tempts us to feel alone, God reminds us we never are.
Karly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm of adoption.