Jesus could be a bit of an introvert. Throughout the gospels, we often see Him waking up before sunrise and sneaking off to faraway wildernesses, just so He could have space to Himself to pray. However, Jesus was also a bit of a celebrity, and fame requires some deal of extroversion. In Matthew 14, when Jesus withdrew to a desolate place to be alone, a crowd followed Him. He had every reason to be annoyed with them or to send them away, but instead He had compassion on them. He welcomed them, healed them, taught them, and fed them.
I wish I could relate to the end of that as much as I can to the beginning. I have the introversion down to an art; it’s my involvement with, investment in, and impact on other people that needs work. If people interrupt my reading time, I send them away. “Leave me alone; I’m busy spending time with the God of love!” Other people are on the opposite extreme, though: swamped in so much service and participation, they don’t have time to cultivate the depth of their own relationship with God.
Pause. Fast forward to I Corinthians, where Paul compares two specific spiritual gifts. The first is tongues: the ability to speak in another language, sometimes one that is only understood by God, as a very personal form of praying. The second is prophecy: the ability to receive divine truth and express it to others for their benefit. Paul wrote, “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied” (I Corinthians 14:5). Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean Paul expected everybody to speak in other languages or to understand the mysteries of God’s inner thoughts. Contextually, Paul was saying that speakers of tongues only benefit themselves, whereas prophets benefit everyone. In other words, spending time in study and prayer is good—very good!—but it’s even better to share those studied truths with other people. It’s one thing to draw near to Jesus; it’s another to help someone else draw close to Him, too.
Even though I don’t have either of those spiritual gifts, I feel we all have a “tongues” and a “prophecy” aspect to our walks. We all have the times of private prayer, and the times of public proclamation. Sometimes we’re sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus, like Mary, and other times we’re hard at work, busily serving others, like Martha. Solitary introspection and social involvement are two sides of the same coin of sanctification. As Jesus demonstrated on that mountain, we need to remember to have a careful balance of both. What use is it to be well-studied in the Word if we never put what we learn into practice? Likewise, how effectively will we be able to pour into others if we do not first allow ourselves to be filled? Both feet must be moving, step by step, if we are to move forward in our walk.