A type of brokenness.
If we’re friends on Facebook or you subscribe to the Cup of Sunday Quiet, then you know I’ve lately taken up a study of the Enneagram — a personality type indicator with roots dating back to the Desert Fathers and other wisdom traditions that is often applied in formation settings to help us understand our core needs, our besetting sins, and our growing edges for redemption.
I’m fascinated and encouraged and inspired by all I’ve been learning about it.
Pretty early in my process of study, I discovered I’m a 5. In Enneagram language, that means I’m an investigator and a perceiver. I prefer to experiene the world through the medium of my mind, gathering information and observing the world around me and seeking to understand things before choosing to act upon what I know. Us 5s like to understand how something works and seek to systematize that knowledge. We also have giftings for discernment and are prone to being mystics.
At first, I didn’t want to be a 5. The idea of experiencing the world primarily through my head didn’t sit well with me. I thought, “That’s who I used to be. Jesus has redeemed me from my head living. He introduced me to my heart 15 years ago. I’m pretty sure I’m a heart person now.”
And yet the more I read and reflected on my life experiences, from a young age to a young adult age to where I am today in mid-adulthood, I could see it was more and more true. Even the quirks used to describe 5s — like how they need their own private spaces and lots of time alone — began to make me laugh. It so much describes who I am and have always been.
But then I got confused.
Over the weekend, I began talking to Kirk about writing a series on the Enneagram. Though I’ve just begun learning about this formation tool, I thought a series could be a helpful way of saying, “Look at this. It’s important. Here’s how it can help us all.”
So Kirk and I sat on the couch yesterday morning and talked about this series idea. We talked about including some thoughts on its helpfulness in formation and the possibility of even including interviews with people who live out each of the 9 different numbers on the spectrum. And then off I went to Barnes & Noble, eagerly anticipating the help a few more resources could offer me in this process. I was a happy little learner bee (living out the true nature of my 5-ness!).
And that’s when the confusion began.
As I sat reading my new Enneagram book, I started to second-guess all I thought I’d come to understand about myself through the lens of the Enneagram. I read the description of the 1, who is concerned with perfection and things being right, and thought, “Well, maybe … ” I’ve always said my redemption story has been about Jesus’ rescue of me from the prison of my perfectionism. Then I read the description of the 2, known as “the helper,” and thought, “Hmmm. Maybe that too … ” The helper puts other people’s needs above their own and has a hard time caring for herself, and that, too, feels so much like the story of my life.
I started to wonder if maybe I wasn’t a 5 after all. But then I read that 2s and 5s, in particular, almost never confuse themselves for each other. Misidentification with an Enneagram number can happen, for sure, but some misidentifications are more common than others. But 2s and 5s? That almost never happens. So why was I suddenly unsure?
Like I said: confusion.
All my enthusiam for the Enneagram series fell away. I started to fall into a deep funk, not unlike the funk that’s become all too familiar to me of late as I’ve grappled with God’s invitation for me to learn to carry stillness and as I’ve wrestled with a recent prayer experience I really didn’t understand.
I told Kirk today that I feel like I’ve lost my footing. After several years of purposeful intent, of knowing what I’m about and what I’m moving toward and being faithful toward that end, nothing seems clear anymore.
Then this afternoon, I had the chance to share the same thoughts with a close friend, who very perceptively pointed out, “Christianne, you’ve had several situations of late that have caused you to second-guess yourself.” She referenced the prayer experience that really threw me for a loop, then the way my life’s rhythm hasn’t looked anything like what I’m used to and really want and thought God wanted too, and then the Enneagram confusion that cropped up yesterday.
“It makes sense that you’d feel like you’ve lost your footing,” she said.
I don’t understand what God is doing right now with me, but these successive events all have a similar quality. And where it’s landing me is here: I just don’t know.
I’m used to knowing. To having a sense of inner authority or inner knowing. To hearing God’s voice and then acting swiftly and surely in response.
Right now, none of that is there. Everything I thought I knew has gone suspect.
And I’ve realized all I can do in this place is depend on God. He’s the only sure thing. Not my knowing. Not my life situation. Not my future or even Kirk.
I keep revisiting that cliff’s edge where I’m sitting with God, just breathing, and let myself just continue to breathe with him. Sometimes as I’m sitting there, I tell God what I want and ask if he could possibly give it to me. Other times, like about an hour ago, I just sit there on the cliff’s edge with him and cry.
All this feels very much like coming to the end of myself.
And then tonight, I came across this video of Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche communities, talking about this very thing. And I found it immensely comforting.