Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for such a beautiful morning. I pray that you will find time to enjoy His creation as much as His presence. Lately I have been preoccupied by several projects – my second draft of the dissertation, sermons for winter retreat, mission conferences and teaching materials on Pastoral Theology – something I have never done before. I covet your prayer for me in all these preparation in the next one and a half months. And starting from the middle of March, I will have non-stop (feel like it) out of the country traveling until October. My journey will cover China, UK, Africa, Canada, Mongolia, Indonesia and Singapore…Praise God for answering my prayer to witness His work in all over the world. Indeed, I thank you for your support!
Let’s go back to Kelsey’s book on Christian Meditation…We are still in chapter 2.
Since each person is unique, each one will have an individual way of relating the totality of his or her being to God. Other people’s ideas may be helpful, but only one’s own way which is uniquely individual and personal, will offer a relationship with the Other that is real and meaningful. Many of our fundamental divisions over prayer and ritual may well be understood as different ways in which different types of individuals prefer to relate to religious realities. When we love another person we try to understand and relate to that person just as he/she is, and we do not expect him/her to be a carbon copy of ourselves. My experience of God is that He is far more understanding than we are at our best. After all, He is the Creator who has made us and given us different ways of responding and relating to this world. Apparently He wants each of us to seek Him in whatever way is the best for us individually, and He honors each personality and does not try to force us into any particular pattern or mold in order to relate to Him.
Our task is for each of us to find the way that is best for oneself as an individual, by first learning how one functions best, and then developing one’s own relationships to the Other in that way. There are certain universal principles, of course, which must be followed. Beyond that, in order to find the deepest kind of relationship with the Divine, one needs to know oneself and the strengths one has been given so that they can be used in seeking and responding to God. Later on there is a time to try other approaches and methods. But until one has tested one’s own way, it is not wise to adopt another person’s meditational practice without knowing whether it will lead as far as one might go by following one’s own way.
It is so easy for a religious leader to assume that the way which is meaningful for him or her must be equally meaningful for everyone else. This has presented a real problem in many denominations, and also in religious in which the actual devotional practice of one leader could be made the rule for all. God experts those of us who seek Him to keep on growing, learning to use our personalities more fully so that we will be able to know and relate to Him more and more completely. This goal makes it even more important to know one’s own strengths and weaknesses so that each of us is prepared both to share with others and also to learn from them. At this point, trying out and sharing someone else’s way of meditating is important. Both for the leader and for the follower. This is one way that each of us can find hidden parts of ourselves and bring them to the meeting with God. With this in mind, let us take a look at our differences in personality structure and how they relate to devotional practice.
There is first of all the very basic difference between the extravert and the introvert, between one whose interest lies in the outer world of people, affairs and tangible things, and one who is comfortable being alone and turning in- ward. Since extraverts find meaning among people and in doing things, their prayer life will probably be geared to service with and to others. They are likely to find God more often present in the outer physical world than through inner experiences of quiet. Yet extraverts also need time for quiet and reflection; otherwise they have no chance to integrate what they have experienced among others and find its significance for their growth and their deeper relationship with God.
Introverts, on the other hand, already find the inner world fascinating and easy to deal with. They are very likely to have no trouble finding an inner experience of God’s presence, and then look down on those persons who find their meaning largely in the outer world. Since they enjoy quiet, it is relatively easy for them to find time to meditate and seek a personal relationship with the Other. Their need, then, is to be called back to the outer world in service to other humans and to society, which is difficult but necessary for them. Unless they will get out and deal with the realities of the outer world, both beautiful and sordid, their devotional life tends to become unrealistic and detached. Certainly it would seem that the introvert and extravert need each other if each is to find the deepest and most fulfilling devotional life.
In his tremendously important book Psychological Types, Jung has suggested that type structure may have been a basic factor in the great theological split of the Middle Ages when reason and revelation, the natural and the supernatural began to part company. In this clash between nominalism and realism, the nominalists were basically interested in the outer world. The realists were caught up by the inner world and its structure. This seemed to them to be the ultimate reality, For them the image or idea that came to the mind was more real than the outer physical thing which was mediated by sense experience. Because of this personality difference, neither side could see the possibility of getting along with the other, and so the conflict was brought to a head.
I tend to be introverted and my wife extraverted. We certainly have different preference and inclination on spiritual practices. Yes, it takes time for us to understand and appreciate our different ways in approaching God. However, the more I learn how my extraverted wife perceived God through people and services with others, the more I realize how I need to balance my introverted approach by being alone with God through quiet time. I saw how she could make spirituality more personable and dynamic in her interpersonal relationship with others. God created each one of our personalities differently, not for the sake of rivalry against one another, but for synergizing with one another, in order to accomplish a more holistic perception of God. By doing so, our life is enriched and the Body of Christ is beautifully decorated for His glory.