THE BEAUTIFUL HARD
It’s been hard, for sure. I imagine it always is, when we’re taking a good hard look at ourselves, the parts previously hidden, the parts we wished we could hide. When do we ever feel in the mood to consider this truth: we each have an affinity for certain sins? Are we ever? In any case, the process, even the outcome, doesn’t sound fun at all.
This hard look we do is not a look into a mirror; it’s into our hearts–our motivations, our history, our personality. The goal? To increase in self-awareness–growing in understanding of our whole self for which Christ died. The reason? To recognize that (1) there is sin in us, the false self that continues to sin even when we don’t want to, and (2), there is the beautiful, true self, the self that, in her fullness, recognizes and lives out her identity in God.
It is amazing how Jesus knows this; He knows each part of us. And He loves us anyway.
These two parts of the self are you. These two parts of the self are me. All of this is for whom Christ came and died and will come again. So I wonder: We should take a better look at her, this whole self, then, shouldn’t we?
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23)
It can feel better to ignore that deeper part of ourselves, the place where our heart and our soul whispers the truest stuff about us. Yeah, it’s brutal: the truth. But that long, hard look at who we are, at how we are made, at our predisposition toward a certain false self that shields the beauty and power and strength of who we, in our rising fullness truly are, can be kind of good too.
And we need that. We need to claim that self–love all of ourselves, despite our predisposition toward sin or falseness or darkness. For there is more to us than just that. If Jesus loves all of us, despite us and because of us–our existence sprung from the God whose love could not be contained–then we should try to get a better understanding of who this is that Jesus loves so much. Me, in all my falseness, You, in all of yours.
It is only in knowing what we are capable of without God–recognizing and owning our true-false selves without God and our true-beautiful selves with God–that we can claim the lives God gives us–lives of surrender and freedom and joy and hope and fullness.
“And to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).
I forget how it started–how I had the idea of having the bunch of us, girlfriends whom I’ve known for more than ten years–sit right there in my front room and take the Enneagram test on our phones. You see, we know who we are–that we are loved by God, perfectly made and chosen. But we get mixed up sometimes. We get frustrated with our sin, specifically that particular sin we each head toward more than any other.
So, we took the test. And it was fascinating. And good. And so, so hard.
It is tough to like yourself when you get a glimpse of your sin–what it really looks like, what you are truly like, without God in your heart.
I figured the thing I have struggled with most in my life is pride. I knew it was pride, for instance, that prompted me, at sixteen years old, to consider taking my own life but then the life of my child instead–rather than let people know how I had sinned. I cared more about what people thought of me than anything else. I thought I knew better than God.
Yes, that was pride.
But what I never realized until I took the Enneagram testand read this bookand then this one (and then took a free, second test) that what I also struggle with is deceit. For decades I lied about who I was; I cared more about achievement and success, and I was willing to create a false persona rather than be vulnerable, real, honest, and look at the truth of who I am without God.
The Enneagram validated what I had already known about myself, as well as gave me fresh insight into how my personality and predisposition toward certain behaviors affects my relationships with others, and with God.
This was last week. And this information–this self-awareness-has rocked my world. Each person who takes the Enneagram will find that they are one of nine personality types. Knowing your type helps you get a better understanding of your personality: some things about your personality you will think are awesome, and some things will just make you cringe.
You see, I am a type Three, which is classified as an achiever, a performer. (Not surprisingly, I took the test twice because I desperately wanted to be another type than the type I am.) I want to get things right. I want to look okay. I will do what it takes to fit in. Ouch. That is me at my worst. But what I love about being a Three is this: when I have surrendered the desire to play games, be deceitful for the sake of pride, I am filled with hope. I fight for truth. I know I have nothing to prove, and I lead with vulnerability. I am less scared of failure–knowing my God is who catches me when I fall.
It is challenging to take a good, hard look at how we are wired, how we are made, how we are predisposed to fall. But when we see our particular weaknesses for what they are, specific, unique opportunities for God to make us trust in Him, we are more fully equipped to fight that beautiful battle of this day, and the next day, and the next, with our God by our side.
Here is a helpful and short video clip of Richard Rohr explaining the why behind the Enneagram.
Have you studied the Enneagram? What is your journey of looking deeply at who God has created you to be?