I’ve been wrestling with this topic for years.
My thoughts are based on the following foundational truths.
1. I am an extrovert. A raging extrovert! I know a few 3 year olds who are as extroverted as me, but other than that I am almost in a league of my own.
Extroversion is NOT about personality type – it’s about energy management. Extroverts are energised by being with people. Social and relational engagement not only fills their love-tank but actually fuels them.
Time alone is therefore de-energising. For me, if I had an instrument that showed my energy levels you would see it start to plummet the minute I said goodbye and hopped in my car. Extended time alone sees me resembling those ballerinas in jewellery boxes who just get slower and slower and the music gets painfully strained until it all … just … stops.
I have learned to not make any important decisions during those times – regret would be inevitable. To reflect on any sense of my general health, life satisfaction or optimism for my future in the middle of extended alone time would not actually be indicative of how I really feel, think or am.
[** see here for more info on Introverts & Extroverts]
2. Devotional time with God is important. Infinitely so. Jesus modelled for us a rhythm of life that includes withdrawing for intentional time for reconnection with Father God. Disciplines that draw us to meditation on God’s word, listening for His voice and realigning our heart and will with His, are necessary for our spiritual and emotional flourishing.
You may already be ahead of me on this – but those two truths can actually be in conflict. The idea of “quiet time” or alone time with God being energising or life-giving is contrary to the natural experience of an extroverted person.
An introverted person doesn’t need to be encouraged to spend time alone or in quiet. They crave it naturally because they need it for their own re-energising and even coping. The discipline of devotions or quiet times is more about being intentional – consecrating that alone time for the purposes of deepening and energising their walk with God.
But for the extrovert it actually becomes a double discipline. The discipline to seek time alone and the discipline to seek intimacy with God in that place.
My greatest sense of God’s presence, my most intense moments of growth and nurture, my deepest experiences of God’s transforming power, and my most clear sense of His leading and revealing, have all happened in non-alone times. I am also an external processor (not all extroverts are) which means my ability to see and interpret the things God is saying or doing is exponentially enhanced by sharing the moment or experience with another person; out loud.
I do my daily Bible reading with the use of an audio app. Hearing the words spoken aloud is far more useful for my receiving and understanding than silent reading. When something is powerful or convicting or confusing – I repeat it out loud in order to confirm its meaning. Even my quiet times aren’t quiet!
When I do a prayer walk, extended retreat time by the beach or an intentional time of seeking God on something – any revelations or illuminations have to be shared with a third party before they really take root in my heart. It’s as though they are not really real until they’ve been confirmed by communicating them with another person and having some sense of affirmation or shared understanding of their significance. Any time we are “sent off” to spend alone time with God I use a fair portion of it preparing to share what God had laid on my heart with other people. I need to hear it outside my head and have the collaboration and engagement of others to confirm its life and meaning to my circumstances. That’s not a function of insecurity or lack of trust in God’s word to me or even any doubt that it’s God’s voice I’m hearing or His direction I’m sensing. It’s a function of personality and temperament – knowing who I am and how I operate.
Someone once said that books on quiet times are written by introverts who don’t need them and read by extroverts who feel guilty they can’t follow them! I don’t have the research on that but I can definitely appreciate the point.