Sometime in the past two years, I learned about the enneagram. This system of understanding personalities has reshaped how I view the world. I used to think I was strange. (Ok, I know I’m strange, but that’s not what I’m talking about.) I knew a long time ago that I looked at situations in drastically different ways than the people around me. I assumed that everyone else was the same and I was an anomaly.
Enter the enneagram, where I learned that there are many different ways of looking at the world and many people that fall into each category. I was different from many other people, but not abnormal. Most of the ways I process life are very typical for an enneagram 8, even if they aren’t typical for a 2 or a 6.
The point is not the enneagram (although I do love it). The point is that God made us differently- and it’s a good thing. Beyond our actual physical context and life situations, our internal contexts are different. Even if we do some of the same things, the actions are driven by different motivations.
This helps me understand myself better. Instead of only viewing myself as “weird,” I see that I can harness some strengths out of the way I process the world. It also helps me understand what causes some of the bad and sinful behavior I see in myself beyond the “I’m a sinner” answer. Finding out why I’m doing something often unearths problems I need to work out with God.
The enneagram has also played into my relationships with other people and this whole conversation on running my own race. We are innately wired with different strengths and weaknesses than the people around us. And since we are designed by a careful God, I think our spiritual gifts, the work the Spirit is doing through each of us, ties right into that.
Which means it’s either exceptionally arrogant or exceptionally foolish for me to think I’m supposed to be like my friend or my brother or the woman I see on Instagram. We aren’t the same person. We aren’t called to the same work. We aren’t placed in the same spaces. We don’t have the same specific calling. We are all tasked to the Great Commission, but how we do it will look different for each of us.
God has made me for the race He has given me. He has made you for the race He has given you. We aren’t interchangeable. So why do we spend so much time looking at other people instead of doing our work? Let’s accept how God made us (we don’t have to conform to a cultural ideal, just the Bible) and what He’s given us to do and actually get to doing that. What if we wasted less time looking around with envy and discontentment and looked forward with hope and purpose?
Why That’s Hard:
-We don’t know our place. We have never taken the time to find out how God made us or what He has for us to do. If we don’t know where God wants us, we’re just trying to guess based on what we see other people doing. We’re all going around copying each other instead of walking by the Spirit in our own lives.
-We’re looking around when we should be looking up. We don’t find our purpose in other people. We find our purpose in God. We don’t find our place by asking other people (although that can be helpful); we find our place by asking God. We don’t look for other people for fulfillment or satisfaction. We get those things from God.
-We use worldly criteria for our measurements. Humans like to rank things. We like hierarchies. And in human systems, some people and some work are always more important than others. Then we get the nasty feeling that we don’t matter as much (because we actually don’t in that system). But that’s not how God works. God made us all in His image. He empowers us all with the same Spirit. We have the same access to God. And we can’t use worldly criteria to measure what’s happening. It’s not about numbers or being seen or having titles. It’s about being faithful and letting God work in and through you.
-We have a cookie-cutter mentality. We think we are supposed to be just alike so we change ourselves to fit in with the group. We don’t try to please God with our lives; instead we conform to the image of the people around us. We think there is only one gift, one way to be used, one path through life. God loves variety; we love uniformity. (Not to be confused with unity.)
-We miss our purpose and suffer from a lack of contentment. I thought this was just a lack of contentment at first. But then I realized that at least some of it comes from not having a purpose. If we knew that we are doing eternal work, we might find we didn’t care so much about what others are doing. We just don’t think that our work matters and therefore, everything else looks better.
Being different isn’t comfortable. It’s a lot easier to get in a homogenous group where everyone does the same thing in the same way and it feels very safe and cozy. But we aren’t called to a safe and cozy life. We aren’t called to be like the people around us. We are called to be like Jesus. And His life wasn’t safe and cozy. He wasn’t like the people around Him. He reflected God. And that’s our job. As humans, but especially as part of the new humanity.
We all reflect Him differently; that’s why we need each other and why we need to be ourselves.
“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” 1 Corinthians 7:17