I’ve never been a quiet person, which may explain why I struggled in seminary with the class on spiritual formation. I believe there’s a bias in spiritual development toward the introverts, people who can sit still for long periods of time for prayer or meditation. That’s not me; I like movement, and mental stimulation and engaging conversations. So I’ve had a hard time learning how to grow spiritually without using the traditional introvert models.
I was thrilled to find a book called “Spirituality for Extroverts” by Nancy Reeves. Reeves, a psychologist and spiritual director, is also an extrovert, and also had a difficult time finding resources on how to feed her extrovert spirituality. So she wrote a book about it.
Reeves has several suggestions for how people can grow their faith in ways that are more outwardly focused. Some of those include:
Singing – I love to sing. I always have. I’m not making any claims about the quality of what comes out, but I find singing to be a wonderful way to praise God and connect with my own spirituality. Find a good Christian or worship CD, learn the songs you like, and then add your own voice to the mix. I find myself humming a Christian song at various points during the day, and the lyrics to that song become my prayer.
Spiritual Friendships – When we have a God question or a faith struggle, to whom do we turn? Those conversations are spiritual practices, and our own soul can be nurtured by the dialogue that occurs. I have a close circle of people who provide with soul sustenance and help me grow as a pastor and Christian simply by being a part of my life.
Moving Prayer – We may think prayer has to be a hands-folded, head-bowed experience, but there are really as many ways to pray as there are people praying. Walking in nature is a great way to connect with God (provided you are not chasing around a golf ball and cursing!). Walking is not only good for our God-given bodies, but can help us escape the demands of our lives. What about walking from room to room in your house and praying for the daily activities that take place there?
Reading and Writing – While these activities don’t always involve others, they are still ways of interacting beyond yourself. I am an avid reader and enjoy my time with a good spiritual book, which for me becomes a conversation with the author. Similarly, writing for me is a way of articulating my thoughts and feelings about God and my own faith.
Exercise – While Reeves doesn’t specifically list exercise as a spiritual discipline, I have found it to be that for me. When I exercise with others (like playing basketball), I am nurturing my friendships with other Christians. When I exercise alone (like on the treadmill), I can use that time to pray or listen to Christian music. And the commitment and discipline of an exercise routine is good practice for us as we seek to live committed, disciplined lives for God.
As with any spiritual growth, there needs to be a balance between the inward and the outward. In my relationship with God, I often times spend too much time talking and not enough time listening. But I’ve also found that there are times when I need to be active in order to better connect with God. I’m thankful for Reeves’ book, which lets me know that extroversion and spirituality aren’t mutually exclusive.