There comes a time every week in my life that sends me to my knees in prayer: Coffee and Doughnut Time after Worship and before Sunday School. That portion of Sunday, brief as it is, sends me back to high school, looking for a place to sit in the cafeteria. “Why so stressful?”, you may ask. Well, if you asked, you’re an extrovert. Because I know there are folks out there who feel my pain and understand the desire for a good book and a comfy corner of an unoccupied room in such instances.
I’ve often wondered, given my tendencies to hermitdom, why God would allow me to marry a man whom He called to be a minister. Because it’s hard to run and hide when you’re a pastor’s wife. Hyperventilating when entering large rooms of really-not-scary people is frowned upon. And so, I will now share with you, my coping mechanisms during fellowship time, the good and the cowardly:
1. First, it is helpful to have children of your own (you can borrow other people’s if necessary). They might need help pouring juice, getting a doughnut, cleaning their sticky little hands afterwards, etc. If you are helping them, you minimize your interaction with other, less familiar people. Be creative in this! If they are school-age and largely independent, as mine are, you may have to create scenarios in which you are needed. Jostle their elbow as they lift the chocolate milk to their lips, and then frown disapprovingly while smiling inside. No time for chit-chat! There’s a mess to clean up!
2. Spend long times in the bathroom. Blow your nose, carefully touch up your makeup, wash your hands and sing happy birthday to yourself four or five times, check for little pieces of raisin bran in your teeth. If other people come in to the bathroom, (and they will, believe me) smile and say, “How are you?” while busying yourself with one of the above tasks. Blowing your nose is probably your best option. Very hard to converse while doing this.
3. Help in the kitchen! Or just pretend you are. Furrow your brow as you concentrate on getting more sugar packets out for the coffee. Take your time finding additional napkins, cups, plates, etc. to place on the serving table. Linger in the storage room, and say, “Aha!” and grab the nearest object if someone looks in curiously.
Alright, so while some of these actions may truly be necessary, usually they are not. Face your fears, Christian introverts! Remember that God has set you free from worry and anxiety. Whisper a prayer to Him for courage, strength, and interesting conversational subject matter this Sunday as you go boldly into the fellowship hall and get to know someone!
Some actually helpful tips that I’ve gathered over the years:
1. Ask questions. And (here’s the kicker) listen to their answers! This works with friends and strangers! People love to discover that you are interested in their lives! This technique (ok so it’s not a technique, it’s called conversing) has really helped me over the years. I have to make myself listen (this is true) because I can get so nervous talking to people that all I do is try to think of more questions.
2. Remember we are all the same. In the broad, general humanity sense. We all have fears, insecurities, struggles. And we are all glad to know someone cares. So care for somebody besides yourself!
3. Remember to whom you belong. I recently read Max Lucado’s book Fearless and in it he asks (I’m paraphrasing), “What would you do differently if you were not afraid?” If I wasn’t afraid of rejection, or saying something dumb, or running out of conversation, if I really knew that I lived and moved and had my being in God, my Savior and my Friend, how would that change how I approach my interaction with other people?
We’re about to plant a church. That is like coffee and doughnut time taken to a whole new level, and if I think about it too long, my hands get sweaty. But as long as I take my own advice (the last three tips, not the first), I will be fine. Better than fine!
And if you find me in a corner somewhere with a library book during fellowship time, remind me of what I said.