I couldn’t handle it. I was utterly spent, and every bit of lingering strength I could muster was being used to hold back the torrent of exasperation building in my chest.
The day had been long – no, interminable – and I felt barely cognizant of its events. All I could feel now was the two-years-and-counting buildup of unrelenting demands. The obvious ones were the diaper-changes, meal clean-ups, and the need to coddle the steady onslaught of back-sprains triggered by lugging car seats to Timbuktu. But the more taxing demands were on my spirit – my patience, my attitude, and my resolve were being constantly tested, and it took every fiber of my being to endure it.
But at last (praise the Lord!), the long bed-time routine had arrived! (A routine which really wasn’t “long,” but when the last vestiges of strength dissolve at lunchtime, twenty minutes feels like two hours.) Yet tonight yielded extra resistance; a fight broke out about bed-time prayers, the music was too quiet, the night light was burnt out, the binkies were dropped over the bars of the crib…on purpose.
When I closed their door behind me for the fourth time, it suddenly became too much; in a few short hours, the cycle would begin all over again, and I couldn’t handle it.
So I walked into the living room, fell to my knees, and let out a scream of rage before I crumpled to the carpet in a heap of sobs.
There, in a fetal position, with my poor husband kneeling over me in concern, I knew I had failed; I had failed to be the mother I had always wanted to be, and the hope that maybe, just maybe, there was still a chance for me to overcome my failures and be that mother, had vanished.
The next few days were a haze of numbness and despair. But deep down, I was asking myself, How do I live as a failure while I am inescapability responsible for maintaining the life of two small children?
My shame was prompting me to obsess over the question “why?” Why did I feel incapable of this task that billions of women have undergone – even been called to – for thousands upon thousands of years? I couldn’t make sense of it.
Here I was, the introverted woman I had been for twenty-seven years who had felt, until now, that introversion was a beautiful part of her character. After all, it allowed for deep moments of contemplation and a capacity for indulging in the delight of artistic expression. Yes. It was in my introversion that I found my meaning – my purpose – my identity.
But now I was asking myself, As a mother, do I have permission to be an introvert?
Suddenly, my introversion felt like an evil I had to overcome – a fault in my character I had to eradicate, and I deemed it impossible.
Yes. The millstone had been thrown around my neck and I was destined to drown in the lake of my mis-placed desires; my two years of longing for children had brought into being something my inherent character couldn’t handle, and souls were at stake.
But there is grace, my friends, because a few days later, I happened upon the book Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy by Jamie C. Martin, and before I even knew what I was doing, (bless Amazon’s one-click ‘buy now’ button!), I ordered it.
I devoured the book faster than I thought possible and as I turned page after page, my seemingly disparate knowledge about motherhood and introversion coalesced: it was possible to be both an introvert AND a mother, and they were not mutually exclusive.
I spent several days thinking about it. I already knew that the soul-structure of introverts was designed to love silence and solitude, and that we reveled in the ability to ride the river of our own meandering thoughts. I knew that our strength, centering, and energies came from turning inward – seeking answers in quietude, prayer, and reflection. And I knew that from these habits, we introverts emerged refreshed, strengthened, and more confident of who we are. These habits are God’s gift to us, and they form the cornerstone of our characters.
But parenthood naturally deprives us of this strength we so readily rely upon. So why had it taken me so long to figure out that being an introvert spilled into all areas of my life, especially my parenting?
It was no wonder I felt guilty – angry, confused, defiant – I was struggling to defend the territory not only of my sanity, but of the way I related to the world and its Creator. And if I couldn’t relate to my Creator – if I couldn’t quiet the noise long enough to discern how best to be His child – how could I expect to parent children of my own – children whom I desperately hoped would know and love their heavenly Father as I did?
As I finished Jamie’s book, the realization was slowly dawning on me that parenting and introversion are not enemies, they are allies: introversion is a built-in way to shape our children’s character and nurture their well-being.
So before long, I sat down and began to compile a list of all the ways my ‘failures’ could be re-purposed in a redemptive direction:
These realizations were not a magic bullet, and as I later learned, that little list I made was only the tip of an iceberg that plunged deep into the seas of God’s unfailing love.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come?” (Psalm 121:1 ESV)That Scripture verse was intellectually familiar to me, but until this point in my life, it was not empirical. The grand “help” I sought didn’t come from potty-training charts, A++ kindness jars, rewards systems, energizing moms’ groups or an implausible abundance of emotional availability. No, “my help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” and that same Lord made me, Christina, and He gave me children to whom I am steward, not savior.
And as that reality began to crystalize, I began to fixate upon the hope it offered, for it seemed that deep in the shadows of my heart, I caught some glimmer of refractory light.
I had spent the first two years of motherhood feeling like my introversion was a flaw that needed reformation. But it wasn’t.
Instead, it was like I had painted my own identity with an unpracticed hand, not knowing that underneath my rendition was a beautiful mural, painted by a master artist, awaiting the long (but rewarding) work of restoration.
And as the years go by, I am starting to believe that God gave me my children, partly to help me begin that work of slow restoration alongside Him.
I used to imagine the Christian life as a journey from point A to point B. But as I age, and grow alongside my children, I think a more apt analogy is that of coming full circle, because as I learn to train up my children into the Christian faith, I have grown more aware of my own feeble efforts to achieve the same growth for my own soul.
As a young woman, I believed my introversion was a gift (and it was), but I hadn’t (and still haven’t) fully mined its beauty. What is gift for, if not to be used? Was my gift null and void just because I had birthed children? I am not sure that God’s gifts work that way. Mysteriously, a gift to us from God offered back to God is abundantly multiplied. And the apostle Paul tells us to offer ourselves – our WHOLE selves – introversion and all, as a sacrifice to God.
We were conceived in the mind of a pure and Holy God and, as King David said, knit together, cell by cell. Because the mastery of our Creator is irreproachable, so is His authorship of our innate character. And because God’s salvific work is irreversible, we can trust that, through our faith, our introverted selves – (with our strengths AND weaknesses) – will be “[brought] to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 NRSVA)
It is both a relief and a privilege to see my introversion as a conduit of His grace and love, stitched into my “inmost being” to serve Him and His purposes. And parenting small children is an act of service like no other! But even now, it is only when I engage my introversion in my parenting processes with intentionality, that I really feel whole and can offer my children – AND my God – my full self.
Maggie Combs, author of Motherhood Without All the Rules, says it so well:
“Godly [parenthood] is the fruit of God’s work within you. Instead of starting with who you want to be and what you want to do, begin with who Christ is and the work He has already done.”
My parenting journey is still an arduous one, but my self-loathing is being slowly baptized, and my understanding of Identity is being re-christened.
So, my friends, if any of you, like me, are introverted parents flailing in the merciless current of self-hate, my prayer for you is that you, too, will allow your misshapen identity to be baptized – to be restored to fullness by the love of God who makes no mistakes. I pray that you will give yourself grace and pardon; to allow yourself to be less than your ideals and relinquish all expectations of being your perfect self. I pray you will begin to reevaluate your standards for yourself in light of your introversion and see the glorious mural of your personhood waiting just beneath the flaking paint.
May you embrace the God who wrote you into His story with love, and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, let your struggles become your strengths.
So here’s to you. You are not alone. You are God’s child, and He made you good.
A founding member of The Cultivating Project, Christina has been fascinated by beauty her whole life and continues to marvel at the way it leads our hearts straight to our Creator. Christina pursues God’s goodness through a range of creative endeavors, from creating magical parties, crafting a fine-tuned sonnet, laboring devotedly to nurture a garden in the dismal soils of the Rocky Mountain foothills, deftly wrangling words into fine essays, and cultivating a palette for the good, true, and beautiful in her two little sprites. She and her husband Brian are the founders of the Anselm Society based in Colorado Springs, whose mission and calling is a renaissance of the Christian Imagination. She serves as the Director of the Anselm Society Arts Guild and her creative work can be found at LiveBeautiful.today and on IG.
A Field Guide to Cultivating ~ Essentials to Cultivating a Whole Life, Rooted in Christ, and Flourishing in Fellowship
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