So three things I know. One: All of my social, cultural, and emotional training comes from being embedding in a society that prides itself on independence. Two: My personality is prone toward withdrawal. Three: I’m in a place and profession where interdependence is necessary for survival.
Just one question. Why is Jesus doing this to me?
(Read Part 1)
If you know me well, you know that I’m interested in (obsessed with?) the enneagram as a tool for spiritual growth. The enneagram is ancient spiritual wisdom that comes from desert mothers and fathers. It’s not scientific, but for so many it has been VERY useful in self-knowledge, building compassion, and spiritual growth. It’s aim is to help people to have a life lived in the truest self that God created them to be (the soul). If you don’t know the enneagram, I’d recommend reading “The Road Back to You”. To get us all up to speed, here’s a quick crash course in *some* of the wisdom enneagram has to offer. Here we go.
Enneagram wisdom breaks life/spirituality/personality into three important parts - centers of intelligence. Thinking, feeling, and doing. Ideally these three things have a balance in each person, in order to live into our highest life and self. Spiritually healthy people are connected to their heart, their head, AND their body/gut. In a perfect world, there is no disconnect between the self and any of the three. However, each of the 9 personality types has one of these that is dominant, one that supports the dominant, and one that is repressed. And here-in lies the spiritual task toward wholeness.
I’m a four on the enneagram. Fours are feeling-dominant and doing-repressed. Thinking supports the feeling. So that means that I spend a lot of time feeling how I feel and then thinking about those feelings, trying to figure out why I feel how I feel. It’s exhausting. When I first learned this, it was such a relief to know that some of the things that plague me personally and spiritually could be explained.
I didn’t have language to describe it before, but I’ve always known that I am doing-repressed. Other people have known it too. A counselor of mine *may* have once even called me lazy. (I think his exact words were, “The lethargy!” Yeah. How 'bout shut up, man.) I’m not exactly lazy. I’m a hard worker. I get things done. I like to be involved in important endeavors. I can’t keep my hands out of all the things. But I cannot for the life of me keep my car, my bedroom, my office, my refrigerator clean. How do people just keep things clean? I don’t get it. I always assume those people are possessed by demons or something…hyper. obsessive. demons.
And don’t even get me started on paper. I HATE paper. My whole educated and very competent mind just completely shuts down when it comes to figuring out what to do with mail. I think that Jesus must have made me born in a time when online bill-pay would be invented because he knew that having to sit down monthly and write checks AND address an envelope AND put a stamp on it AND put it in the mail AND have to do it all again in 30 days would truly be enough to kill me. There are so many more interesting and important things to do…like watch TV.
This puts me in the so called Withdrawal Stance. There is the thinking-repressed Dependent Stance (1, 2, and 6), the feeling-repressed Aggressive Stance (3, 7, and 8), and the doing-repressed Withdrawal Stance (4, 5, and 9). I think the reason I’m in the withdrawal stance is that I live so much internally. I have a rich interior life. All of my dominant stuff is feeling and thinking. When I want to connect with myself, I go inside, feel my feelings and think about it. I do this because I know that all this internal stuff (turmoil?) is really more than can be expressed or understood on the outside. (Sometimes I hate talking about this because it so has my number. How about get over yourself, Katie.)
On the positive, it does mean that I can hold other peoples’ pain without having to fix it or change it. My favorite quote about fours is that we are the “deep sea divers of the soul. We plunge to the depths and return to the surface to report what we have found there.” Funny, because the thought of actually deep sea diving gives me heart palpitations. No ma’am. No thank you. But if I get to give space for someone else to access their deepest core, then sign me up.
All this to say, on top of being from a highly independent culture I am also prone to withdrawal and independence in my personality. Not to mention my introversion. Too much togetherness and needing other people makes me squirmy. And also grumpy. And eventually I shut down. But if I make myself do it, it also brings me so much more joy and fulfillment than anything else.
I know that my spiritual task is to bring up productive doing. Nothing feels better to me than cleaning out my freezer and doing the dishes. Do I do it often? No. But it makes me feel so good and connected. (Yes I hear how that stupid that is. I know! Just let me live in my truth!) It’s hard spiritual work for me. I know that sounds crazy, but I’ve known it intuitively since before I knew the enneagram. I once asked myself why cleaning my refrigerator made me feel so close to God. Weird, but true.
When I get out of balance, I know I need to get out the mop. Or some paint brushes. Or workout. Or write a blog. Or preach a sermon. This is why the pulpit has been so transforming for me. I can’t tell you how many Saturdays I sat and wondered how I could get out of preaching the next day, only to get it done and then find my own core meet God’s spirit in the act of delivering that sermon.
My spiritual work is also to say yes to a little more connection, to say yes to being dependent. Dependence is where I am at my best and most whole. My only successfully completed workout goals were successful because there were people there to make me do it or judge me when I didn’t. Nothing like a little healthy competition. It's work for me because my natural inclination is to assume I can't much effect the world and go inward. This is a lifelong work. And this is where I find myself now…the heavy work of this season as I begin missionary service. I’ve plunged myself right into the dependence deep end. Seriously, Jesus, why can’t you just let me do something halfway? (Prolly because he knows that I wouldn’t do it otherwise… … …
Let me just tell you, it’s super hard and also so good. More tomorrow…