Iceskating, From Extrovert To Introvert And The Painful Process of Sanctification


(this is my second attempt to write this post. the first attempt failed miserably in pointing to Christ. a week after I published this post, i re-read it and realized that even though i was pouring out my heart, my default mode was to give the impression that I had the ability to change my behavior. Hopefully and prayerfully this edited version gives credit where credit is due....to God alone through Christ alone.)

Our city's local ice skating rink has a designated time slot for home school families. We have taken the kids to this activity about 4 or 5 times since moving here 2 1/2 months ago. The kids love it and so does the hubby. The hubby has actually split his days off from work so that he can go to church on Sunday and ice skating with the kids on Wednesday.  Since I don't know how to ice skate this has really been a blessing. Paul gets to re-live his favorite child hood pastime and he gets to teach the kiddos how to stay upright on the ice. 

As for myself, I get to go park myself in the "warm room", a nice toasty room that overlooks the freezing ice skating rink. I also get to have some lovely uninterrupted time with whatever book I happen to be reading at the time....and....ummmm.....the other home school moms.

Before I go on, let me say that casual idle chit chat is very difficult for me to do. I don't do it well. I used to. Not anymore. 

Let me add a disclaimer about my new found introvert personality and my former extrovert personality.

(Disclaimer starts)


 
I used to be an extrovert. I never had a problem speaking my mind, adding my opinion, or telling someone they were wrong if I thought they were wrong. I never lacked for words. I used to talk just to hear myself talk, even if it was just senseless idle chatter. I never had a problem striking up a conversation with strangers or new acquaintances and participating in casual chit chat. The chit chat was typically that of a shallow nature. Idle. Non edifying. Shallow flattery. 

"oh, your hair looks nice, where do you go to get it cut?"
"i love your outfit, it's so cute. where did you get it?"
"love your purse"

OR...if it was "semi" less casual chit chat, it would typically be about home schooling and it would look like this -


"oh, you home school? what curriculum do you use?"
"how do get your kids to do____________?"
"how structured is your schedule?"

Most of the "semi" casual chit chat I engaged in was basically to find out more information so that I could compare myself to them and to:

1) verify to myself that I was a better home school mom 
2) verify to myself that my kids were better than other kids
3) verify to myself that my home making skills were better, more organized or even worse- more "Biblical" or "God honoring" than other moms

Overall....still very idle...still very shallow. 

Through all my observations and interactions with women, including Christian women, there seems to be a tendency to do a lot of comparison. We tend to compare outfits, purses, shoes, haircuts, children's outfits, parenting styles, houses, jobs etc. Home school mom's are not immune to this either. They will compare who has better curriculum, child progress  and home making skills, along with all the other items I just mentioned. In others words, women are easily prone to:

1) covet the lives, children or home of other women
2) become boastful on how well we manage or live our lives, our children's lives or home
3)  we cover our covetousness or boastful hearts with silly flattering casual chit chat unaware that at the root of our casual chit chat our hearts are drenched in sin

It really is all very tiresome......but most of all...not at all Christ like. 

The Bible has a lot to say about idle talk or speech. One only has to look in the index section under "idle speech" to see that it comes in many forms. People tend to think that idle talk is only in the form of gossip but its more than just gossip. It's anything from corrupt talk to meaningless conversation, unfounded boasting, flattery, talking too much, idle folly etc. One explanation of idle talk is 

Loose or careless speech, often motivated by curiosity, which can lead to unacceptable consequences. Scripture emphasizes the importance of avoiding careless talk, and considering one’s words with care.

After moving to West Texas ( a.k.a. middle of no where) something changed in my interaction with other women. It didn't happen overnight mind you...but over the course of 5 years in the desert, I changed from being an extroverted uncensored chatter box to being a self-conscious insecure introvert . I thought it was due to isolated desert living. I can see now that it was not.

I started to notice a difference in my lack of desire to engage in random casual chit chat when I started teaching women's Bible studies. I slowly realized, through personal experience with women, especially, that my words mattered...all of them. Inside and outside formal Bible study times.

After leading 3 different Bible studies with 3 different sets of women over the course of 4 years, I painfully grew in an understanding and a wisdom I can only attribute to God and His goal to make me more Christ like, but not for my own personal glory and outward perceived righteousness but for Christ's glory alone. I learned that my words needed to be spoken with discernment and careful examination, especially when in the position of teacher. 

James 3:1 says "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness"

I knew this verse before I began teaching but didn't understand the significance or weight of it until I actually taught the Bible. Whenever I was careless or not discerning with my talk or speech, it never turned out well and Christ was not glorified. 

Christian women are the most critical audience when it comes to what other Christian women say. Sometimes the criticisms are helpful...sometimes they are encouraging......but many times they are just hurtful. 

What is interesting however, is that I learned the most about myself and my sinful reactive chatter box extrovert personality after harsh hurtful criticism. I learned that I needed to be slow to speak (James 1:19) I learned that I needed to know my Bible. I learned that most of all, I needed to trust, really trust, that God would give me what I needed to say, when I needed to say it...and HOW I needed to say it. (Luke 12:12) What tough lessons those were....especially when I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to be quiet when all I wanted to do was speak or retaliate for what was being said to me. 
 
I can safely admit that Texas did not turn me into an insecure introvert. God did. Through a process called sanctification

I know that people will read that and immediately say that God does not make people insecure. Well, for me He did and as hard as it is at times, I'm thankful for it. When I was not insecure with my words, I was the complete opposite. I was boastful and irritatingly secure. I spoke too soon and always felt like I needed to have the last word in any given situation. My fast talking secure boastful worded self always seemed to get me into trouble. I inevitably hurt women with my words but also got hurt as well. It was not pretty. It was very painful.

When the weight of my sin through my boastful fast talking self crushed me, I had no other alternative but to turn to Christ...and Christ ALONE.  

I wanted to speak good edifying words to my fellow Christian women but I painfully realized that sometimes my words painted a picture of myself that did not honor Christ's name. God saw the deep crevices of my heart, knew what was in there and even though I did not outwardly or purposely set out to speak idle chatter, my words always betrayed me.

Luke 6:45 says the good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks

Outwardly I truly believed I was a good person...I was a believer for heavens sake so that must have meant I was a good person.....right??? 

but......when I opened my mouth in any given situation, I was given the eyes to see that I was not....especially after what I said was hurtful or I was hurt. This revelation broke me and brought me to my knees in deep repentance. 

I realized that I was in the same predicament that Paul the apostle spoke about in Romans 7 18-20  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 

Paul is writing these words. PAUL!!! the super hero of disciples....right????

Who was going to save me from my default mode to engage in idle chatter? Who was going to rescue me from my mouth, my words.....my heart??? 

CHRIST DID, STILL DOES AND CONTINUES TO DO SO!!!!

WHAT......GREAT.....NEWS!!!!!! 

I can look back and be thankful for every painful experience I had with the women He brought into my life. I used to boast that I had words for every situation I found myself in. Now I am very self conscious of my words and I have realized that through repentance and a continued need to rely on the work of the Holy Spirit through Christ Jesus, which is definitely a GIFT from my Father,  I need to always rely on Him daily, hourly, minutely in every situation I find myself in with not just other women but also with my children and my husband so that I rely on Him to give me the right grace filled words at the right time with the right attitude....because I have learned that left to myself....

i can do some serious damage. 

I also find my new insecure introverted self very difficult to deal with... but then again....it leads me to Christ..over and over...and OVER again. 

J.C Ryle describes sanctification this 
way - 

"Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men".


  
In other words -

"as Christ works sanctification in us, the greater is our recognition of our own sinfulness. And it seems this is done for a purpose, for as we come face to face with our own corruption, we are driven to Christ as our righteousness, holiness and redemption, our all in all...our only hope before God. So sanctification is not so much about our own spirituality as it is about Christ and Him becoming greater"


(emphasis mine) (Read entire article HERE)  

(my disclaimer ends)

So....back to the "warm room" at the skating rink with the other home school moms. As I stated earlier, I've been in that room 4 or 5 times with some of the same moms every time. Not one single mom has spoken to me. No probing questions as to who I am or where we come from. I know I don't look like them so they might assume I don't speak English. (my attempt at humor) They talk and laugh, loudly, amongst themselves, about what curriculum they are using, how they structure their schedules, how cute a hair cut is and who grinds their own flour for home baked bread.

I know they are Christian women because they talk about their church activities or home making skills often and this is pretty typical Christian mom chit chat. 

These topics of conversation are not bad topics in and of themselves, but because I don't know these women personally, I don't know their own heart motives for their conversation. I am just an outsider looking in and remembering MY previous motives for MY shallow idle chit chat so I need to be careful not to jump in too soon.

I used to talk about all of MY church activities to show how much of a good Christian I was. I used to talk about baking MY own bread to show how much of a better home maker I was. I would use compliments as flattery so someone would think I was a nice person and accept me as a friend because I noticed the small details of their lives. None of MY motives were Christ honoring....rather they were ME honoring. 

I also find it interesting that they are self professing Christian women yet they have refused to engage in any kind of conversation with the "new mom", but that's a whole other blog post. However, to give them grace, I am well aware that they might not know what do with me because I am foreign to them. Being a Mexican evangelical/protestant/reformed Christian home school mom is a rare find. I addressed these statistics in a previous post HERE

This experience probably would have hurt my feelings or made me angry a few years ago but I have come to understand that Christian women like to form cliques. I wrote about these cliques in a previous post and you can find it HERE. Even though I have come to understand and accept that Christian women default to cliques, it is still quite jarring to actually see it but I have learned not to take it personal.

Today...one of the regular attending moms, loudly expressed to the 5 mom's in the "warm room" (I'm assuming this included myself)

"we are going to the _______________ conference, anyone care to know more? its really good!"

I looked up from reading my book and I looked in her direction. Was she speaking to me, I wondered? As I struggled to gain some confidence to say something meaningful she looked at me and turned away quickly without specifically addressing me so I went back to reading my book. One other mom inquired about what it was and they engaged in lively conversation about the conference. 

In moments like those...I feel a war is raging inside my person. I should say something nice....but I don't want to. I want to let them know I am a Christian woman too....but I don't want to give them the "in" to engage in a conversation with me because I am afraid of going down "that" path. So, what do I do???? I...... STAY.....QUIET!!!!! 

I am thankful that God has grown in me a discerning heart and tougher skin.

The "old" me would have probably said something that was not very Christ-like. 
OR 
The "old" me would have purposely engaged in casual chit chat at her very first "warm room" experience, not to truly get to know them but to validate that what she was doing as a home school mom was better than what they were doing.
OR
The "old" me would have gotten her feelings hurt because no one spoke to her and she would never have gone back into the "warm room". 

None of that happened so I can safely say there has been progress in my heart. 

I pray that God does bring another home school mom into the "warm room" that feels convicted enough to get to know me and my family. If it does not happen, that's "ok" too. We will continue to go ice skating because my kids love it so much. 

I've learned through personal experience that I don't need to jump into a conversation of idle chit chat with a group of women, whether they are fellow Christian women or home school women, so that I can feel accepted. Christ had already accepted me and that is enough. 

I've learned that I don't need to rush any women friendships for the sake of having lots of "friends". I can take my time, listen, observe and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me.

I've learned that having no fellow home school mom support is sometimes more edifying than having the company of lots of home school mom's that do not really bring anything encouraging to my family but instead take me down a path of shallow silly comparison chit chat. I find that I tend to rely more on Christ to get me through my day instead of my internal competition with other home school moms. It's quite liberating actually.

I've learned that saying nothing... but praying instead... does more for my heart and soul than letting someone know they are wrong or behaving non-Christ like.

I've learned that when I feel hurt by the behavior of "fellow Christian" women, that God sees, feels, and understands my hurt and gives me tougher skin to deal with it so that I am not easily offended. 

I've learned that I don't need to compare my household and children to anyone else and living for Christ is my only validation as a wife, mom, and home school-er. 

The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit has not been easy. However, Philippians 1:6 tells me some great news.  It says that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. That gives me great confidence and assurance, especially in the "warm room". 

I can trust that while Paul is on the freezing cold ice skating rink, guiding, teaching the kid's to stay upright, moving forward and when, not if, they fall down, that he will teach them to get right back up and do it all over again until they get better,  I can trust Christ is doing the same thing to me and my heart. 

Oh, how great my Savior is.