The Discomfort of Vulnerability

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I’ve been devouring information on the Enneagram lately. Have you heard of it?

It’s a personality type indicator — similar to the Myers-Briggs — but one that is often used in Christian spirituality and formation circles to help us understand our native disposition toward the world and how that can help or hinder us from becoming the people God created us to be. 

I love it because it isn’t static. 

It’s not like taking the Myers-Briggs test, where you learn what type you are and that’s it, end of story, illumination accomplished. 

Rather, finding out your Enneagram number is just the beginning. It gives you a glimpse into the real state of your soul — your core needs, your key coping mechanisms, your besetting sins, and your great gifts — and then it invites you to grow. It helps you see your fallen state of being and your redeemed state of being. It doesn’t leave you right where you are.

For a spiritual formation practitioner like me, this has been such a revelation.

And I’ve been noticing how my reaction to the kinds of things I’ve been sharing with you here in these letters and on Still Forming lately is typical of the number I am — a 5 — on the Enneagram.

Here’s how I’ve been reacting: pretty much freaked out. I’ve been sharing with you experiences I’ve had with God that I don’t understand and don’t really like and haven’t really settled inside my mind, heart, and soul. Despite not fully understanding them, I’ve been sharing them with you anyway.

This feels like a cardinal sin to a 5 on the Enneagram. 

A 5 on the Enneagram is an information gatherer. They take in information and seek to systematize and understand it fully before “going public” with their thoughts and understanding. They usually refuse to put themselves out there without the full comprehension of a thing in their back pocket. That sense of understanding feels safe and secure to them. 

It’s been helpful to recognize myself in this description for two reasons. 

First, it’s been encouraging to learn how my information-gathering and systematizing ways can be helpful for the betterment of others and the world. I’m meant to put those giftings to a good purpose. 

But it’s also good for me to be challenged by the Enneagram — to learn that these knowledge-gathering ways can also be a besetting sin that keeps me from acting and keeps me shrouded in safety from risk. 

The Enneagram has been teaching me that, as a 5, I need to step out and risk a bit more, that I need to be careful of hiding behind “more research” and “more knowledge” instead of making contributions. I can see the way that temptation to more knowledge and understanding often keeps me from moving forward on ideas I have for the Still Forming community. It’s also why I’m having trouble bringing the Look at Jesus course to completion.  

And so risk. And vulnerability. These are not easy for a 5. 

And yet it feels like where I’ve been living with you of late, as I’ve shared with you some prayer experiences I haven’t understood and some growing edges I haven’t wanted. 

I’ve shared these things with you and have felt super exposed and vulnerable. It’s been mighty uncomfortable to let you see me in these unconfirmed and finalized places. 

But I think there’s purpose in it. 

I think it’s a good exercise for me — not to have it all together and figured out beforehand. It helps take the focus and pressure off me as some kind of wise, all-understanding guru and places the focus on God and what he might be about and trying to say, as we just follow him around and seek to see and hear. 

I hope you’ll bear with me in this risky, uncomfortable place. It isn’t super familiar or comfortable to me, but I think there’s redemption in it. 

Much love,

PS: If you want to learn more about the Enneagram, I can’t recommend highly enough a book by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert calledThe Enneagram: A Christian Perspective . So incredibly helpful, insightful, and grounded. Also, you can take a preliminary online test here (though I’d recommend supplementing the test with the book so you can confirm if the test results are accurate to your experience).