I sat on the back picnic table, leaning against the wall as I gazed upon all the life around me. Live music from the stage, couples swaying to songs of old, friends grabbing hands and pulling each other toward the crowd, and others, like me, who seemed content to watch it all happen.
Honestly, I’d have been happy to stay in that place all night. I liked the quite conversation with the young couple across from me who willingly shared bits of their stories and sweetly smiled at mine. But the thought of entering the chaos of the crowd overwhelmed me. Mainly because I wasn’t ready — pandemic still looming and my awkward introverted self out of practice. But also because I’m grappling with who I am, and it’s not a crowd lover.
Those moments of not-so-silent solitude on the eve of July Fourth reminded me how differently we’re each wired. Seeing the people of that concert crowd in all their fashions and fascinations brought a smile to my face because I could see the truth of all I’d been learning — we’re each unique yet are woven together by common threads of community and care. Being together brought all of us pleasure even if it presented differently among the pockets of people.
In the midst of the varying revelers that night, I found myself grateful for our differences. And even more grateful that in that space, there was grace for all to celebrate in our own ways.
Personalities and People Problems
The first personality test I ever took was Myers-Briggs back in the 90s, and to my horror I failed it. At least that’s how it felt. Most of my results were an even split — neither introvert nor extrovert, not fully judgment nor perception. Clearly a feeler, however, my emotions spiraled with identity confusion, thinking I had to fit in each of the boxes.
So I kind of avoided personality structures till the Enneagram a few years ago, and my eyes opened wide. I’ve surrendered to a self-awareness journey since then, and it’s helping me embrace my why’s as much as my what’s. It’s directed me toward healthier responses and generous grace for myself. I’m not a living label but a complex whirlwind of a woman, full of feelings and thoughts, perceptions and intuitions, all of which can deepen as I mature.
But maybe the thing that shocked me the most as I read about each Enneagram type is that not everyone thinks, feels, or responds as I do!
My husband and I can see the same movie, and he comes away empowered while I recover from an embarrassing bout of sobs. My oldest son thrives on confrontative conversations that challenge his thinking while my youngest shrivels and shrinks when he hears what sounds like peace-shattering conflict.
The more I learn about each type, the more I understand personal dynamics. The more I’m able to see what motivates each of us, the easier I navigate my responses to people’s life choices and reactions. Add to all the Enneagram education, I am also coming to understand extroversion and introversion as a spectrum instead of as two distant points of being. I am, in fact, an extroverted introvert! It’s a thing.
Friends, I say all this because if we walk through life without any sort of understanding of what makes us tick, we fail to see our faults and lose opportunities to mature in our faith.
We also miss seeing other people through this lens of appreciation. We. Are. Different. Our needs, our responses, our hopes, our giftings — they’re different for each of us. And if we have no grasp of this reality, we pridefully, albeit blindly, crash through life knocking others down, OR we constantly, and resentfully, get knocked down by others at every turn.
Personalities become people problems when we live unaware.
Unique and United
As believers, we’re called to be united by our love for Christ.
As God’s children, we’re given unique gifts and traits and passions.
As followers of Jesus, we’re meant to live in the tension of our uniquenesses and the call to live united. It’s never been easy — just read Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, but it’s possible because the Holy Spirit lives in us. He helps us navigate all our differences in a miraculous blend of perfect purpose — to be the Body of Christ, in the church and in the world.
And grace makes it all possible.
But he continues to pour out more and more grace upon us. For it says, “God resists you when you are proud but continually pours out grace when you are humble.”James 4:6, The Passion
Humility ushers us into the place where we can open wide our hearts to receive grace. We lay down our assumptions, our pride, and our vain attempts to control — and grasp grace. Grace to love others for the way they are created. Grace for our own reactions and responses. Grace to live from love.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.Romans 12:9-10, NLT
When we root ourselves in God’s love, we have all we need to love others well.
This week in your journal, list, doodle, draw, or write about who needs your grace most in this season. How can the grace you extend manifest in each situation? Then go do it! This week spread a little joy by putting someone else’s needs or wants before your own — great or small. Maybe let someone go ahead of you at the store, or pay for someone’s coffee, or let someone pass you on the highway, or ask someone else to choose what to do that day, or any other way God leads you! #spreadjoy
Becoming More Like Jesus
Sanctification, that lifelong journey of becoming more and more like Jesus, “is always a means of opening to God’s grace in our own lives and it is always for the sake of others” (Invitation to a Journey, page 11). Robert Mulholland’s description of spiritual formation caught me up short — it’s always for the sake of others! In one breath, I say of course. In the other, I’m leveled because I seem to always make it about me.
Join me in allowing the truth of Dr. Mulholland’s words wrap us like a blanket in the warmth of grace so we can then offer grace to those who cross our paths. When we humble ourselves enough to see our own strengths and weaknesses and to acknowledge our uniquenesses and differences — of pace and perspective, of giftings and gut instincts, of opinions and outlooks — we can offer the grace and love we’ve been given to all we meet.
We can re-enter well.
Prayer: “God of our creation and re-creation, you who are constantly at work to shape me in the wholeness of Christ, you know the hardness of the structures of my being that resist your shaping touch. You know the deep inner rigidities of my being that reject your changing grace. By your grace soften my hardness and rigidity; help me to become pliable in your hands. Even as I read this, may there be a melting of my innate resistance to your transforming love.”(Invitation to a Journey, page 31)
- Offering grace to others enables us to re-enter the world with the love and patience of Jesus. Be sure to take the time needed to journal about who might need your grace right now and how you might offer it. The #spreadjoy this week by looking beyond yourself and doing something kind for someone else.
- It would be so fun to hear how God’s grace spreads joy this week through you — do share!!
- One of the songs on our Reentry Playlist, “A Little Love,” expresses so much of today’s thoughts. Be moved!
- “With a little love, love, love / Can bring us all together / Turn the world for better”
- “Throw a stone in the ocean / There’s barely a change / But tomorrow it’s a tidal wave”
- Not kidding when I say Dr. Robert Mulholland’s book, Invitation to a Journey,* is really opening me up to a lot of much needed truths about myself and my walk with Jesus. You’re invited!
- We will meet back here in two weeks! Don’t forget to #SpreadJoy.
*This is an affiliate link, which means I am compensated for any purchases made.