For me it has always been the latter. Being around people drains me, so I can only do it for so long. Then I need to get alone for a little while until I store up the energy to face people again. I feel like I could be alone forever without suffering the least bit of loneliness.
One of the things that I was recently longing for, that came to an excruciating point of longing, was time to be alone. I just wanted to go away from people and be by myself. I wanted to recharge, rest, and not talk to anyone or see anyone for a really nice long time, until I felt ready to face people again. I have been surrounded by missionaries and children constantly, and don't get me wrong--they're wonderful people and amazing lovable kids! But when you have 5 adult women and 4 kids living in a 15x19-foot room, and there are constantly needy kids tugging on you, begging for your time, and needing to be taught, fed, clothed, bathed, and otherwise cared for, and then you stack up two continuous months of this on my poor little introverted soul, that little introverted soul just starts withdrawing, disconnecting, trying to invent a way to get alone, and constantly being drained more.
The other night I was walking down (alone!) from the 3rd floor to the 2nd floor, and I just cried out to God about it, begging Him for a chance to just be alone, without shirking my duties or carrying less weight than everyone else or being selfish and leaving all the brunt of the work to others. And He asked me one of those penetrating questions that reset my whole perspective.
So of course, my mind started clicking through all the possible answers. My first reaction was, "Yes! Of course! You know me! Don't you see how much I need it?" But the question didn't go away, and it slowly dawned on me:
All I need is Jesus.
I don't need alone time in order to be an effective missionary--I need Jesus.
My source of recharge is not in getting by myself; it is in Jesus.
On the one hand, letting go of my desire to be alone felt terrifying. What if God took me up on it? What if I never got to be alone again? Just thinking that thought was enough to trigger a panicky, clutching, reflex-like motion. I wanted to grasp, manipulate, and struggle until I got to be alone, and then I wanted to stay there for as long as I wanted, basking in the silence, and recharge. A lump rose in my throat at the thought of giving up something so precious, so dear, as my alone time. To give up the right to it, the title to it, the "mine-ness" of it--that would be a sacrifice.
But on the other hand, if I didn't think about what I was losing, but instead focused on the truth, suddenly it was possible to open my grasping claws and let go.
Truth: God could ask me to sacrifice all my alone time for the rest of my life, and that would be ok. He could supply all my sufficiency. So there is no excuse for me to pout about not being alone. If I really live what I believe, I can lift up my head, smile, and face the crowded world teeming with people, not because I've had enough time alone to recharge and find it in myself to face them, but because Jesus in me is enough, and His grace is sufficient to give me whatever I need to pour into them.
In that instant, God brought me to the point of surrendering my right to be alone, laying it on the altar, and giving it up. But He didn't stop there--He brought me even farther, to the point where my soul could actually rejoice that I am not alone, and I could make a wholehearted, grace-prompted declaration: "I rejoice and delight in not being alone." All of my self-pity evaporated and I was reset, recharged, and cheerful again.
Ah, surrender--it's the shortcut to relief. :-)