Who wants to chat about SIN for a minute?
Anybody? Raise your hands. Raise ’em high.
What? No one?
I know, I know, talking about concepts like sin aren’t usually the vibe around here, so this is a little off-brand. You guys generally count on me for the encouraging, life-affirming, inspirational, feel-good stuff like:
- Be brave! You can do it!
- Love God, Love People. The End.
- You are bold, resilient, authentic, vulnerable, engaged and empowered!
- You have been given a spirit of power, love and self-control!
- You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!
- The Kingdom of God is now!
- Your fifties won’t be so bad, I promise!
- GO TEAM!!
Yeah, we sometimes talk about struggling around here. Sure, we talk a bit about aging backs and insomnia (remind me to tell you about the two new recliners we just bought.) But we don’t often mention the S word.
Stay with me now…
During these lazy days of summer, while many of my coaching clients have been on vacation, I am taking advantage of the slower pace by diving deep into some reading and studying I’ve been wanting to do. Specifically, the deep pool where I am currently swimming is the Enneagram. I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about this fascinating, ancient tool.
If you are unfamiliar with the Enneagram, here is a brief definition from Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile’s book The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery.
The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system that helps people understand who they are and what makes them tick… It is a tool full of wisdom for people who want to get out of their own way and become who they were created to be.
YES PLEASE! Sign me up. If you know me at all, you can see why I am obsessed. A combination of spiritual, psychological and self-help, rooted in the ancient traditions of our faith. And it comes with numbers, diagrams, charts and all my other favorite toys. Ooooh, what fun my clients and I can have playing with this stuff!
BUT, here’s the thing: the Enneagram gets ALL up in your business and shines a light on the parts of us we would prefer to keep hidden. The darker aspects of our personality, the stuff that keeps us stuck in shame, our shadow side.
In Christian circles, we sometimes call this Sin.
Here is the definition of sin I found helpful:
Sins are fixations that prevent the energy of life, God’s love, from flowing freely. They are self-erected blockades that cut us off from God and hence from our own authentic potential.– from Richard Rohr (emphasis mine)
Fixations and Blockades. These words resonate with me when I think about what keeps me stuck and where I need help.
- Fixation: obsession, preoccupation, mania, addiction, compulsion.
- Blockade: barricade, barrier, roadblock, obstacle, obstruction.
For me, sometimes those fixations are intentional choices, roads I choose with eyes wide open, habits I continue despite clear negative consequences because I’m stubborn and don’t want to give them up. But other times, I am surprised when I find myself adding yet another layer to that blockade, wondering how I ended up on this side of the barrier when my heart’s desire is to be on the other side.
As is often the case in this journey, I began researching, studying and learning in order to have another tool to use with my clients, retreat participants and readers, but found a deep reservoir for healing work I need to do myself- work I am INVITED to do in partnership with the Holy Spirit. As an Enneagram Type 7, I am learning my tendency to “spin positive” can be both a blessing and a curse, both a strength and a weakness.
So today, despite my usual focus on rainbows and unicorns, we are talking about sin. Isn’t this fun? You are welcome!
Here are some questions I am asking myself as I consider the ways I can allow God to show me the gifts hidden in the shadows:
- What fixations, obsessions, compulsions, bad habits are getting in the way of me hearing from God and allowing His love to flow through me to the world?
- What self-erected blockades do I worship like altars, instead of doing the work and allowing God to knock them down? Or at least dismantle them piece by piece?
- When do I rationalize, deny or just plain lie to myself in order to maintain my love affair with my fixations and blockades?
- And best of all, what are the possibilities if I let go of them?
Here is another quote from the book. This reads like good news for those of us who find this sin and sadness talk to be a huge bag of downers (shout out to my fellow 7s out there!)
The true purpose of the Enneagram is to reveal to you your shadow side and offer spiritual counsel on how to open it to the transformative light of God’s grace.
That’s really what it is all about, isn’t it? Whatever the path or tool we use to get there, it’s all about opening ourselves up to the transformative light of God’s grace.
God is on our side. He isn’t hiding from us or playing hard to get. God wants to heal the wounds that caused us to build the blockades in the first place. That is why Jesus came and offered us a path back home. We don’t have to settle for being stuck.
We are brave and we can do hard things.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
If you have an interest in learning more about the Enneagram, there is an almost endless supply of information on the internet. I’ve listed just a very few of the many resources available below. While I believe, in my limited experience, you are more likely to identify your Type by reading descriptions, rather than quick online tests, even those can be a fun place to start. As always, it is important to remember no system, test, formula or diagram is a short cut to an ongoing conversation with God and the transformative power of a daily walk holding His hand.
- Narrative paragraph test
- Short, free multiple choice test
- Medium length, lower cost Rheti test
- In depth assessment with a fancy report, higher priced