One of my favorite things about the work that I do is learning new things alongside directees. At the beginning of the year, 2 directees both asked me to learn more about the Enneagram with them. I was honored to do so! While I am by no means any kind of expert in the field, I do love to learn new ways to map the spiritual journey and the Enneagram is a rich resource. So, I dived in.
The Enneagram is an ancient tool that Richard Rohr dates back to the desert fathers of the fourth century. The really, really basic idea is that there are 9 root sins that plague humanity. Each of the nine types, denoted by numbers, are more susceptible to one of these sins. The root sins of the Enneagram are the 7 deadly sins plus 2 more that were edited from the canonized list.
The trouble with things like the Enneagram is that the best way to learn how it really works is to apply it to yourself. I am a 9. Nines are peacemakers, mediators, and accommodators. Nines see all sides of an issue at hand and are deeply empathetic. Those are things that I really like about being a nine. But…like all strengths, there are shadows to consider. In order to be a peacemaker, nines are also procrastinators and avoiders. Nines resist being drawn into conflict and will stall in taking a stand for as long as possible plus a little while longer. They will only make a stand or take a side when the threat is dire.
Our church family is currently participating in a formal, church-wide discussion of the following question:
Based on our study of Scripture, how will women be allowed to use their gifts?
In our corner of religious tradition, women are generally not allowed to speak in public assemblies nor are they in formal leadership. We are not an ordaining tradition so ordination isn’t part of the conversation but all of the same ideas are being considered. I have been a part of this tradition for all of my life. And yet, I experienced a call to vocational ministry. These two things don’t compute for some. They are oil and water. But, they are both my story.
This conversation in our church family has been personally challenging. I find myself as a poster child for why we have to talk about this. People who fall on both sides of the issue point to me as an example. The only way I know to describe how this feels is to compare it to something else.
When you stand in the checkout line at Wal-Mart and see the racks lined with tabloids, do you find yourself unable to look away? The train wrecks of people’s lives are hard to ignore. And yet, those are real people. While many of the events “documented” might be fiction, the people are real. They have parents, they have friends and bosses. They might have spouses and children. They are real people who eat every day and sleep at night. And yet, we ogle those lives. We can’t help but look into their space with zoom lenses and judge.
For me, this conversation in our church has left me feeling like the object of a tabloid story. See, coming to grips with my own sense of calling has been 20 years of hard soul-work. I didn’t come to this conclusion lightly or easily. I fought this calling with every fiber of my being for years. Coming to terms with a calling that would certainly, someday, place me in this kind of position was and is REALLY. HARD. WORK. The soul-work was about trusting God for this very day that I could stand firm in the calling of ministry when others, whom I love, would take a stand against it. The soul-work was about naming the passion that burns in my heart for the word of God. The soul-work was about seeing myself as truly called, even as a female. I had never seen a woman do this kind of work and I wasn’t sure that God meant for women, especially me to do ministry work. The soul-work was about asking God to heal the wounds in my heart inflicted because I am female and assumed God loved me less.
But now, the tabloid version is all people see. They zoom their lens onto the part that supports their own feelings about a policy and judge.
The Enneagram has become a mirror for me to better understand my behavior in this conversation. As a nine, the limelight is excruciating for me. I don’t take sides easily and I sure don’t seek to become a lightning rod. I prefer for the world to roll on without conflict but if conflict must happen, I would just rather avoid it altogether. Instead, I find myself front and center with nowhere to hide.
There are some great nines in history. Abraham Lincoln was a nine. Ronald Reagan was also a nine. Plenty of nines have learned to embrace the shadow of avoidance in order to offer wise peace. They take their time to understand both sides of an issue in order to broker a true peace that invites both sides closer to the middle by understanding the other side. That is the work of a redeemed, transformed into the image of Christ nine!
I hope to learn to stand in front of this mirror with eyes wide open. I hope to stand firmly in the calling that is from God, and not myself. I hope to be bold and timely in this stance. I hope to tell the story of the work that God has done in me with honesty and candor. I hope to resist the urge to hide behind my nine-ness and instead embrace the opportunity to be all of myself…the self that God knows and lovingly called into being. I hope at the end of this year to stand before this mirror of the Enneagram and see that God has been at work redeeming this nine.