Reclaiming the "J" in Me

Have you ever taken the Meyers-Briggs personality test? (I once wrote a humorous post on the Meyers-Briggs, in case you need an orientation to what it is and which type you might be.)

I took the test about 10 years ago and learned I was an INTJ. This means that my quiet, reserved self had a very strong analytical side and rules-oriented bent. And this was the perfect temperament for the editor I had set out to be early in my professional life. I loved to read, think about ideas, and figure out how things worked, which made me the perfect partner for the creative types whose work I edited and critiqued each day. Also, I loved to do my work in quiet spaces, which is a great fit for an editor who needs lots of quiet time to go about reading manuscripts and composing her editor's notes.

But then I went on a very long interior journey that landed me at grace and love, and at the end of that long journey, I found that my core values had shifted around quite a bit. Rather than rules, I cared about people. Rather than ideas, I wanted to hear and think about stories. Rather than staying up in my analytical head, I wanted to sink deeper and deeper into the feelings and pathways of the heart.

It was such newness for me, all these things. I felt tender and vulnerable and soft, and sometimes I watched in amazement at this new person I'd become over many long years who now willingly chose to embrace such tender vulnerability and soft edges inside herself. This new person I was didn't have to be in control all the time. I didn't have to know all the answers or figure everything out. I even found, sometimes, that I didn't care about the answers or figuring anything out anymore.

There was so much freedom here. It was a transformative work that had been done in me, truly.

Then I met Kirk, and we were, in so many ways, like two peas in a pod. Our courtship year didn't conform to the normal mode most people knew for themselves, and our wedding and honeymoon didn't, either. Then we embarked upon a married life that we affectionately termed "bohemian" because, once again, our daily reality didn't conform to the normal mode of doing things that most people did.

In some way, Kirk is the consummate "P" on the Meyers-Briggs personality test. This means he's not one for minding all the little details. He likes to push up against the bounds of possibility, and he thrives on vision and the big picture. He doesn't need every single question answered, and he actually prefers to ask more questions than spend time answering any single one of them.

The person in me who had loosened her hold on the rules after all those years loved this. His fearlessness inside mystery and ambiguity created even more spacious room for me to breathe. As much as I'd learned to relax quite a bit on my own before I met him, it was such a relief in my life with Kirk not to have to work so hard to hold every little piece of life's puzzle in place. I didn't have to worry if things came tumbling down around me because Kirk helped me remember God was big enough to handle it. I didn't have to try to be God. I could just be Christianne.

It's funny to me, after so many years spent inside this grace and love journey that helped me relax and learn to trust and rest, to watch myself moving more and more back toward the life of a "J" these days. As I shared in the Meyers-Briggs post, a "J" likes to bring order, discipline, and resolution to the world around her. She likes structure and routine. She likes to have a way of doing things.

I was very much this way before the long interior revolution into grace and love years ago. I liked having ways of doing things, and I thrived on discipline and order. But you know what? I cared deeply about those things back then because I feared their opposite. I feared a loss of control. I feared doing something wrong. I feared losing the love and favor of God. I feared everything crashing down around me.

But now, on the other side of God's love and grace, when I know it is unswerving and indissoluble, I'm finding myself drifting back toward a care for order and routine and structure simply because I like it. I think about my planner video that I recorded for you a few weeks ago, and it makes me laugh. Two years ago, when I was steeped in our bohemian mode of life, I would have scoffed at such a diligent search for the perfect planner. But today, I love my planning life. I even need it. My brain needs a place to put its content (or else it will slip right out my ears!). My heart and mind need a measure of routine and expected rhythm to daily life in order not to become overwhelmed or feel swallowed up by all of the chaos out there in the world.

So I wake each morning and pad over to my desk in my slippers. I pull back the curtains and look outside at the quiet neighborhood and brick-lined street. I head into the kitchen and start the water boiling in the electric kettle before cleaning the dishes in the sink. I measure out and grind the coffee beans and steep them for four minutes in the french press. Then I pour the coffee into my green tumbler mug, mixed with a bit of cream and sugar, and walk back over to my desk. I open my Bible and flip its thin, papery pages to a chosen passage. I read it once, then read it again. I sit in the stillness and breathe deeply. I talk to God. I stare out the window. Eventually, I pull out my typewriter and compose several pages of thoughts. I put the typewriter and typed pages away and pull out my planner for planning the day ahead. And then, only then, will I open my computer and allow the chatter of the world enter my day.

This order . . . this routine? I find that it brings a new form of spaciousness and freedom to me, a spaciousness and freedom I crave and love and cherish.