We Cannot Redeem What We Have Not Named

Music gives me life. My dad led singing at small churches in the ’70s. My mom sang soprano in high school and college choirs. She taught piano. She was an elementary school music teacher. When she married my stepfather, he brought a love of guitar and a clear baritone voice that somehow has become a tenor voice as he’s aged. (That’s rare.) Music has been my life; it is my life.

For me, that love of music has taken the form of piano lessons for most of my childhood and adolescent years, musical leads in high school theater programs, traveling singing groups in college, leading college-wide worship services, and now, as an adult, singing tenor on the worship team at our a capella church. So when I forgot seemingly every note I learned and every harmony blend I’d practiced while doing a live recording for a Sunday morning worship during the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself facing a window into my soul. Music brings me life, but in that moment I could not bring life into my music.

The COVID-19 pandemic has opened a window into our American souls – individual and collective. If we will peer into that window rather than pulling the curtains, we will find that our souls are addicted to achievement and unprepared to grieve.

Jesus’ followers in America are unprepared for COVID-19. We are unprepared to acknowledge the defense mechanism behind which our grief scurries into hiding: our personality. We don’t know what to do with a circumstance in which no church leader will emerge unscathed and remain authentically inspirational to everyone. Instead, we like and respond to each other’s social media posts designed to deflect and distract. We encourage our front line medical providers and critique nationally inept responses. We applaud churches leaders’ stubborn pursuit of virtual mass gatherings in the face of empty sanctuaries (despite the sense of inadequacy betrayed when they glance at the number of views that week). We hope that, somehow, a Zoom meeting can replace the emotional relief of physical presence.

We are grieving, but we are either unwilling or unable to name it. Instead, we choose half-truths designed to protect us from sitting with the grief of a forever-changed world.

I am mostly anxious for my family.

I need to be strong for others.

I need to excel at my new job responsibilities, or I may lose my job.

It’s important that my church see me as positive in the face of tough times.

I’m the same as always – just loving people.

Theologically, the church has an opportunity to redeem this season. We cannot redeem what we have not named.

A good friend of mine and a preacher said to me this week, “I have never preached when everyone is going through the same thing at once.” I think that’s true, and I find it oddly encouraging. It means our souls’ window is open to us all; we need only peer in and embrace what we see. The Enneagram’s nine types with their healthy, average, and unhealthy nuances give us a place to name the space in our soul from which our grief emerges. Then and only then, we will have space to redeem that grief and lead others to redemption.

During the month of April, we will explore each type. We will explore their healthy and unhealthy thoughts, actions, and feelings. We’ll ask together what it means for church leaders to embrace the unique style of grief expressed through their Enneagram type. Each blog post will have a video from Rhesa describing that type followed by reflections and questions for church leaders’ unique experience of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m singing again next week, but it won’t be from a place of determination to be better (OK, maybe somewhat from there). If I will name my grief and lament that COVID-19 will change and limit what I can achieve this season, I will worship from a space of emotional authenticity, which is what a healthy Enneagram 3 does. The Enneagram extends an invitation to each of us to model healthy lament to those in our churches who don’t yet have the language to name the lack of preparation for the grief they – we – are experiencing.

Enneagram 8: The Challenger

Enneagram 9: The Peacemaker

Enneagram 1: The Perfectionist

Enneagram 2: The Helper

Enneagram 3: The Performer

Enneagram 4: The Romantic

Enneagram 5: The Investigator

Enneagram 6: The Loyalist

Enneagram 7: The Enthusiast

Recent Posts

Pruning An Overgrown Tree

Eleven28's policy is that every four years, full-time employees take a forty day sabbatical.  On July 1, I will have been full-time with eleven28 for four years.  It's time for a short rest.  Here are my thoughts about where God and I will intersect during this rest....

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Needing treatment to restore mental health isn’t shameful, nor is it exceptional.  I share my mental health journey in hopes that it will lead other church leaders to do what I’ve done – admit I need help and get it. --TreyI thought it was déjà vu. Helping our student...

Mothers’ Day Justice

The first iteration of this article was written the day after Mother’s Day 2020.  Ahmaud Arbery’s death was the first in a string of police involved shootings of black men that became the grounds for national and international outrage.  It was also an election year as...