“Bridget is the best follower you could ask for”
These words stung when they first hit me, and if I’m being honest with myself - they still sting. They were said on the last day of a month-long backpacking leadership course. For four weeks our crew of twelve college students camped and backpacked in the Pisgah National Forest having only each other, our thoughts, and our surroundings. Feedback, good and bad, was given and received almost religiously, every single day. We all came in hoping to develop our leadership abilities, and, however painful they may have been to hear, those constructive critiques brought a lot of clarity in helping us understand ourselves and how we were being received by the crew. By the end of the month it was overwhelmingly clear that my personality and role in the group was of the quieter kind; I spent more time thinking and listening than speaking. I always chose serving with my hands over serving with my lips, and my voice was on the soft side. One that didn’t carry well when addressing the crew, nor held the fervor needed to rally them towards our goal of the day. So, by the end of our time together the feedback from my crew mate, quoted above, as well meaning as it was intended to be, felt a lot like failure.
This past weekend, the Fellows participated in our group dynamics retreat where we dipped our toes into the ocean of personality. We reflected together on each of our Myers Briggs and Enneagram numbers, discussing our strengths, our weaknesses, and what each number or type could contribute to the group. Some of us were delighted with our results, others met them with a bit of resistance and hesitation. I was poignantly reminded, just as I had been at the end of that leadership course, that my personality was one of contemplation and observance. In a world that can tend to prize extroversion and loudness, entertainment and engagement, I was once again tempted to withdraw and retreat into what felt like failure.
Yet, as I read this week’s reading in Exodus, I was so sweetly reminded that all personalities, and the great diversity therein, flow out from God. Our tendencies and dispositions are not things to be wished away or overly praised, but are gifts from our Father to be used as such for his glory, his goodness, and his gospel. Such is the case for Moses when God called him to be his spokesperson in his plan to rescue his people out of Egypt:
But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
Now, spoiler alert, Moses doesn’t go and speak on behalf of the Lord. I’m not suggesting we go aspire to be like Moses in this moment, nor do I intend to argue that his speaking abilities should be equated to a personality quirk. What I am suggesting is that God is not only sovereign over our mouths, ears, and eyes but also our minds and personalities as well. There are days I see my personality and preferences as good gifts from God, and there are days I see them, as Moses might have, as a call to faith. Regardless of how we receive these traits, God desires and intends to use the very vessels of love and grace He so thoughtfully and diversely designed to echo his gospel and bring his kingdom to our communities. The content of the Fellows Program this past week has certainly challenged me to respect his creative license and therefore embrace my strengths, looking to Him and to his church in the face of apparent shortcomings.