Section Two: The Personal Characteristics of a Godly Life.
Our current theme: Characteristic Four: Being Christ-Actualized.
Our reading for today: Matthew 11: 28-30 (MsgB)
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Over the last fourteen blog sessions, we’ve looked deeper into nine unique personality types, using an ancient tool called The Enneagram. It’s been my personal experience that as I have become much more aware of the uniqueness of my personality type (The Helper – Enneagram #2), I’ve been able to bring the good/the bad/and the ugly of my personality to Jesus, allowing Him and His empowering work of grace to lift me from practicing the very worst traits of the Enneagram #2 to what some Enneagram teachers call the redemptive, or mature characteristics of The Helper.
Change is when you take on something new, but transformation is when something old gets removed from your life while something new is being birthed…and you are not the one who is initiating it! Suzanne Stabile, The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
While it’s true that many people outside the Christian faith use the Enneagram to help them grow in this life, maturing their personality in positive ways, I’m personally convinced that the Enneagram and its benefits are best utilized when it’s practiced in the context of a larger Christ-centered, biblically-based approach to mature discipleship. As I see it, transformation is the on-going work of the Enneagram. It’s not a static tool, but one, with Christ’s help, that can grow with us.
Allow me, as we close, to get a bit more personal with my story surrounding the Enneagram, and maybe by doing so, it might give you some creative ways to work with your Enneagram number.
You see, I, like everyone else on the planet has a wounded soul. Trauma causes wounded-ness, causing us to develop a “personality” to protect ourselves. For me, my personality (Enneagram #2 – The Helper) begins and ends in the Feeling Center of my brain. Like my other brothers and sisters in the HEART triad, every thing in life that I experience is viewed through the life lense of Feeling. Secondly, the primary enemies of my soul are Shame and Pride. So as a #2, I externalize (my coping strategy) that battle, hoping I can overcome my pain and wounded-ness through building deep, intimate relationships with others (Dependent life stance), becoming The Helper (my life response of Feeling/Doing) so all can say that they approve of me and that I am loved. So, in summary, Marty Boller, #2-The Helper, FEELS, and then I DO. Rarely, will I take the extra time and effort to include my Repressed Center (Thinking) in my day-to-day existence.
But, praise God, things are changing. Through my work with a spiritual director, choosing to slow down to better care for my soul, I’m finding that I can cooperate with all God wants to do in giving me a better self-awareness of who I am and giving me creative ways to become the Christ-activited #2 Helper Jesus sees me to be. One of the very best things you and I can do to contribute to the growth of our soul is to practice using our Repressed Center (the under-developed, under-used power center of our life). For me, as I slow down my reactions to life, taking more time in processing both my words and deeds, I’m learning to insert the simple question:
AM I THINKING TODAY?
For others, depending on your Respressed Center, you might want to ask regularly the question, AM I FEELING TODAY? or AM I DOING TODAY?
Secondly, I’ve found that it’s also particularly helpful to grow in my understanding and application of the “wings” and the “arrows” associated with my Enneagram personality type. For example, an Enneagram #2 (The Helper) with a strong #1 (The Reformer) wing and an even stronger #3 (The Achiever) wing, I know that when I’m under stress (or as St. Ignatius would call it, in a season of desolation), The Helper #2 tends to go with the “arrow” to the unredeemed, immature side of a #8 (The Challenger). It’s under these times of duress when I try to fix things through my own strength, and quite honestly I can become demanding, self-driven, project-oriented, and generally a self-consumed SOB! Believe me, folks, it’s not a pretty picture!
But now, here’s the great hope for a #2 guy like me.
With a much better awareness of the “arrows” associated with my personality type (see chart above), I know that when I’m under stress, I can actually choose to go to Christ first and foremost, learning to rest in Him (see today’s passage in Matthew), and He can then empower me to walk against my fleshy tendencies (going to the immature #8), encouraging me to choose instead the “arrow” of growth (or as Ignatius would call it, a choice of consolation), where a #2 Enneagram moves toward the highly creative, mature side of a #4 (The Individualist)!
As I’ve taken the time to study this pattern of choices (consolation vs desolation, security vs stress) as it has played out in my life, I can now point to times when I’ve truly failed to choose wisely, leaning on my strength alone; but, joyfully, I can also recall the victories when I’ve chosen to the contrary, allowing myself to find that highly creative, relaxed person I know Jesus wants me to be! I’ve not arrived, by any means, at this fully-redeemed, mature #2, but I am excited to see how I’m learning more and more to go to Jesus when I’m under stress, learning to lean on His grace alone, yet also finding that He is always encouraging me to take a pro-active stand against my fleshly, un-redeemed nature! Dallas Willard states it well when he reminds me that…
“Grace and effort are not opposed to each other.”
So my dear friends, as we close this introduction to the Enneagram, may you go forth with these tools in hand, allowing Jesus to continue to teach you and guide you in the way of life Eugene Peterson, in The Message Bible, translates as Jesus’ “unforced rhythms of grace.”
Here, in closing, is a list of a few excellent resources that might help you along the way…
One of the very best ways to explore the on-going applications is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with the Enneagram. Many of our directors in our Sustainable Faith-Heartland network are trained in the Enneagram and are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.
Life In The Trinity Ministry (Suzanne & Joe Stable)
A Free Enneagram Assessment Test (Ian Morgan Cron)
My prayer: Jesus, I hear Your invitation to come sit with You. I ask that You’ll help me recover my life, showing me how to take a real rest. I choose this day to walk with You and work with You—watching how You do life. Teach me, Master the unforced rhythms of grace, and thank You that You won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on me. Finally, I believe that as I keep company with You, I will learn to live life freely and lightly. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So what’s the next step for me in taking the uniqueness of my personality and allowing all of it to become Christ-actualized? What practical action-steps can I take today in living out Jesus’s unforced rhythms of grace?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
If you’ve been reading our Enneagram series, this concludes the 15-session blog. Click here to go back to our Enneagram homepage. Here you’ll find additional resources as you continue your pursuit of self-awareness using the Enneagram.
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!