Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.John 6:15
When you are in ministry, one of the phrases you hear ever so often is “It’s all about people”. This is so true, yet needs explanation. It is too easily mistaken and abused to pressure people into a certain kind of behaviour. I do not even say that it is done consciously.
This phrase in itself means that all we do has to be for the people in the end, because God made this universe for man and relationship. But a key component in this sentence is the phrase “in the end”.
Too often, it is used to mean or understood as: whatever you do that is not directly in relationship with people is—questionable.
I am a thinking introvert. Some would call me an overthinking introvert. I am by no means socially anxious, yet challenged. Not that I cannot talk to people—commonly introversion is confused with shyness, and I ain’t shy for sure. I comfortably talk in front of a few as well as many or even thousands. Been there, done that.
But what I thrive on is talking in small groups up to four people, myself included. The smaller the better. I love concentrating and focussing on a topic, and see it from all possible angles. For an outsider, it might look as if I were jumping from faith to microbiology to computer programming, math, physics, philosophy, history—all personal, church and human—and back. But there will always be a common thread—like our understanding of work, just to give you an example. Or the congruence of science and the Bible.
But focussing outwards, involving others, relating to people, especially socialising is draining my energy. Give me an evening with eight people eating ice cream, sipping coffee, sharing memories and daily life stories, and I am smoked after 2 hours. I hardly have the energy to reflect on what just happened. I am toast.
Give me ten hours of great connecting, without small talk and niceties, driving home a point, with one person, and I am doing great. Or give me a day or two with nobody around, just me and my God, and I come back highly energised.
Too little Time alone
Too little time alone, as I had it for quite some years, can have terrible results with me. I cannot sleep because of constant thinking. I cannot breath because I lack space. I cannot focus because of lack of sleep. I feel drained constantly, and life becomes meaningless because I cannot meet my standards nor use my abilities.
I get sick and tired, literally.
How did I get here?
I took above phrase and misinterpreted it, amongst other things. I had it mean “be with people and invest into them as much as possible”. I tried to be everybody’s friend. I tried to meet them where they are, talking about the weather or other voidness and vanity. I tried to include whoever was close into my conversations. I tried to hold back with knowledge, even with speaking time. And I failed miserably.
I believe at my core that we all know in part. We learn from each other, and throwing together, sharing freely what we know, collections of parts become bigger parts of the full picture. Thus I love to speak out, and expect others to do the same.
That is in utter conflict with above behaviour I adhered to for so long.
This all culminated in me not meeting the expectations of others nor having my needs met. I was tired because I did what was absolutely tiring to me, and still people saw me as the socially challenged person unable to just chat or enjoy what they saw as a most agreeable gathering.
Was I the best I could be for those people?
By no means.
We are not all extroverts that thrive on relationships and small talk. Socialising is their fuel. It is not mine. Thinking is mine. Analysing, reasoning, strategising. Finding solutions. Even finding weak spots. Seeing the big picture, thinking interdisciplinary, building associations where they do not seem to exist. Finding matches.
I am no math genius, nor am I a computer geek. I just see principles and architectures. I can find the hidden structure.
But only when I am up and running.
People business as I interpreted kept me from being my best for the people. My best by complementing them, not becoming them. I am so sorry that I have not lived up to my potential for you, but tried to become you so we can relate.
I am so sorry.
I believe that the church at large has great problems, as does the world. Let me name a few regarding the church: complacency, irrelevance, hyper-conservativism, fragmentation, disunity. And the world: water, food, electricity, sand, health, climate, rebellion. The list could go on.
Not living up to my calling and my best, not becoming the son of God I am, means to prevent the solution, even to become part of the problem.
My part: contemplation about those big issues. Instead of ora et labora, pray and work, it’s to pray, think, and connect. Ora, pensa, connecta.
Connect both the dots and the people.
That way, I truly become about people. Becoming what God made me to be ushers in the future and allows God to finally live in our midst, the goal from the beginning, for eternal fellowship. At least I do my part.
Jesus withdrew so many times. It was his custom to withdraw for prayer. Before he called his apostles, he withdrew for a night. He withdrew with his disciples when he saw that they were in need. And he withdrew when people wanted to make him king and both the timing and their motives were wrong.
I have to come into a habit of withdrawal to draw strength. I just cannot be at every gathering, every happening. I miss my call.
I have to develop a mature understanding of phrases as “it’s all about people”. Actually, I am going to rephrase it just for me: look that you are your best, and put yourself to the service of the people. Because, in the end, it’s all about people.
How would you put it?