Lessons from a frozen lake

The first winter we were in the Chicago suburbs, I decided to take the girls downtown to see Navy Pier. Why I did that in February, I will never know, as February can often be bitter cold (which I didn’t know at the time) – but it happened to be one of those rare not-below-zero-no-wind-days – so we lucked out. I’ll never forget the view from the ferris wheel overlooking Lake Michigan. It was stunning. Having never seen anything but lakes in Virginia until then, I expected it to be dark and muddy. What I found staring back at me instead was an aqua colored lake, frozen from the winter temps. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The ice near the shore had started to crack and split apart, and so you could see the water beneath. Gorgeous. Not quite the aqua of the ocean near Mexico, but it was pretty darn close.

I was reminded of this memory on a run around a lake near Boulder recently, probably because when I ran around it less than a month ago, it was completely frozen solid except for a small hole around which all the local ducks had gathered. This time, in the near 70- degree temps, you could tell the sun of Colorado had done it’s work: the ice was melted, the darker waters rippled, and the ducks squawked, as if they too were celebrating the start of spring.

It got me to thinking.

It’s easy to understand why a smaller lake (maybe one of 2 square miles at most) would freeze over. Yet even a lake as large as Lake Michigan (it has a surface area of over 22,000 square miles) freezes over due to the cold temperatures. The surface ice is thick. Once frozen, it takes some serious continued warming of the sun to create even small fissures that will break through and allow the water to peek out.

But that water was always flowing, even under the frozen surface of ice.

It reminded me of how sometimes, our hearts can get to be like Lake Michigan: beautiful but frozen, the living water that Jesus said would flow out of our hearts is still there, just …. covered. I’m sure its not something we know is happening, just like a lake that big can’t freeze overnight. It’s gradual.

It’s not the weeds that Jesus spoke of that make people walk away from faith because they are not grounded. It’s not a heart of stone that we might have had once in our lives. It’s just a place where that living water seems so hard to find, to feel flowing. It’s a place where we may continue to walk in faith, knowing God is real, but the deep stuff we once could drink from and hunger for seems unresponsive and hard to find.

My friends, if this is your spiritual walk right now, if this is where you are and you question if that living water matters any more, or maybe you are wondering if you can just skate on top of it for a while…

Hold on.

Ice forms little by little in the coldest weather. Isn’t that what life can do to us? Little by little. We may dance a bit, knowing we haven’t given up yet, and so the idea of living water still is something we resonate with. But just like the gray skies and freezing temperatures can cause a lake as large as Michigan to freeze over, who are we to think that we are any different?

We cannot create our own living water.

Yes, faith is the essence, the substance of things we cannot see. In my mind, this is a head thing. We can logically wrap our heads around this part. We can say we are not giving up on what we believe. But wouldn’t simply holding onto a belief and not fighting to know the living water that comes with that belief be a little like trying to skate on a frozen lake?

How can you let the light of God into your life right now and start to thaw places that have iced over, even if you never meant it to happen? I know we want things quick. Sometimes God does that. More often, it seems He doesn’t and it takes continued exposure, just like it takes days of sunlight and warmer weather to break through thick ice.

The living water is there, my friends, because the source hasn’t gone anywhere.

With the spring coming in our part of the world… why don’t you take time to join all of creation and let God thaw you out as well? 🙂

Geekspeak and the Cosmic Battle

As I sat in church this morning, I have to admit I checked out a little. Given that we are in the Lenten season, the church I am attending is focusing on different aspects of the cross from now until Easter. Today’s message was on the power of the cross to free us from the chains of sin.

Its not that I don’t agree. It’s not that I don’t get it. But I sat there the entire time looking around and wondering…. for how many is this going over their head? It’s all theologically right. It’s all biblically sound. I could see heads nodding for those that believe, those that were following what the pastor was saying. She had lots of good analogies too, in the “light vs dark” battle: Star Wars, Marvel Comics, and sundry action movies. I mean, after all, it’s always what things come down to, right? Evil and darkness seem to be stronger and then the good guys come in and fight. They might look like they are losing but they win in the end.

As I sat there listening, three things came to mind:

1. The Christian faith has a ton of its own lingo that, unless you have been in church for a while, it sounds like an entirely different language, one that you can walk away and go “well that sure sounds nice but what does it MEAN?”

2. The job that I had for over 16 years an an analyst, and one that I still do from time to time, is essentially one that requires me to translate “geekspeak” to everyday language so that the business owner will know what they are getting

3. God always uses what we do (aka our jobs) in life to translate spiritual realities into everyday, understandable truth

We’re studying the whole cosmic battle stuff in my Torah class now in seminary, and it’s really actually pretty cool. We’ve been looking at all these other Ancient Near East texts and seeing how the ANE people really saw their world. They told stories of how gods and godesses built the world and fought for the right to create and give destinies. They weren’t trying to describe material creation, rather, they were trying to make sense of how the world came to be. It sets the context of Genesis and how truly *revolutionary* it must have been to hear how and why people were created in a whole new light. Yet reading these stories with 21st century ears, it’s all very mythical and easy to think “wow, how could they believe that stuff?”

I can’t help but wonder if that is sometimes how the message of the cross sounds to people today.

I know Paul addresses that in Corinthians when he says:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness [moria, also means absurdity] to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” — 1 Corinthians 1:18

But I am not satisfied with just quoting that verse or resting in that truth and not trying to translate it. Nor should you. For those of us who have experienced forgiveness, who know what God has done to set us free from the things that have kept us captive — whether or not you are still in church or have given up on the body of Christ — this is the work we are called to:

Translation.

Yes, sometimes the message of the cross may sound absurd to people. What I find interesting though, is the word Paul uses that is translated “perishing” in the verse above also means to render useless. Think about that for a second. How often do the struggles of life, or words spoken by others, kill hopes and dreams, and make people think they are useless in the world? It doesn’t make logical sense that a cross would undo that, which is why Paul says it sounds like foolishness, absurdity. Yet it does, and once you have experienced it, you know how to explain it: The message of LOVE on the cross, the One that is light that breaks through darkness absolutely has the power to overcome!

You see, I think the translation stuff often happens only in smaller settings. When someone can honestly stay, to someone they have relationship with “I don’t get it. What exactly do I need to be set free from? What battle is being waged over my life? What if I really am doing the best I can to live a good life, where does sin fit in? What did God forgive me of? Does it really matter? How do I join God in fixing the world?”

The whole cosmic battle idea – that we have been purchased from darkness and brought into life – I believe, don’t get me wrong. I know there is a war against my soul, your soul, against my kids, against goodness in the world, against belief that there even is a God. If modern day slavery and human trafficking and racism and abuse don’t prove that to you, then I don’t know what will. The world is not as it should be for many people’s lives, both here and abroad. And I think that this side of the cosmic battle – that justice and mercy and goodness should reign in our communities and in the world – is much easier to grasp as a starting point than something that sounds like a cosmic battle being fought over our lives individually.

The cross is powerful when you take the time to look at what it really means for your life. I have been humbled to realize that in many more ways over this past year. In communicating God’s message of love and forgiveness, let us not forget that those who do not yet believe will need to hear about the message of the cross in language that makes sense to them. I’ll be honest….. in this day and age, I can’t help but wonder if communicating that Jesus suffering at the hands of people who had a political game to play makes more sense. He gets it.

But you know what?

God is fully able to show people what they need to see about Him. Chains look one way to an addict, and another to a prisoner… and another to a mom or dad in suburbia just trying to raise their kids and protect them and teach them how to grow up, a person struggling with an eating disorder or someone trying to hide their sexual orientation. Missing the mark looks one way to a wife or husband who just yelled at their spouse and immediately regrets it, to the politician who compromised on something they hold dear, to the teen who struggles with the pressures their peers place on them. Fear has all sorts of faces too, for the soldier at war, the daughter or son in an abusive or demanding home, the person who has to hold it all together because what would happen if they didn’t?

We all need to be rescued from something. Only you know what that is. Only your neighbor or co-worker does for their lives. So whether the “cosmic battle” story makes more sense to people on a big scale or small one, it never ceases to amaze me how much difference it makes when we invite God into our own stories and places. If you believe, you have done that at some point in your life.

Don’t get stuck in the language of the Christian world. Find a way to communicate the truth of what you have had to learn, of what the cross has done for you, of what battle has been fought in your life, and won. Then… share THAT. Because THAT is what people will understand first, before they ever read about it in the pages of scripture.

Just a little discontent

So I’m going to be honest about something. There are days when I look back on my faith even a few years ago, and I wonder if I had a polly-anna view of life? I have always been someone who can see the bright side of things, have hope when all seems lost, and find joy in hidden places. I have struggled to understand why people walk away from God and faith when things get hard, or when prayers go unanswered.

It’s not that life has been easy for me. I have dealt with hard things, just like anyone: two miscarriages, lots of church hurt, moving and losing friends, feeling alone and hopeless. I have navigated life with an ex and a daughter with mental illness. Seasonal depression of my own. Loss of dreams and starting over. Sure, my stuff might not compare to yours or someone else’s, but we all have our own journey, right? Yet in all this, somehow I still never understood why people questioned God’s faithfulness or love. I just didn’t get it.

Now I do.

I put the house on the market three months ago. I figured it was the best way to be a good steward of my finances, seeing as how I didn’t need a huge house just for me. Maddie had moved out, Maia was up at school, and it was a chance to slim down and save money. I prayed, I trusted God would provide a buyer. My parents had finished their basement, so I had a small apartment I could move into until I figured out the next step. That never happened.

I had all sorts of conversations with God about how I needed Him to provide – not just in this but in other areas as well. Nothing. No offer… even after reducing the price. Oh – its not that the house isn’t beautiful. I got GREAT reviews. Then folks either decided to build their own (I should get commission for that from the builders I think.. LOL) – or had complaints about the parking or yard. Ugh. So, needless to say, the house is off the market now and I figure God must have something else planned.

But it was in this process that I began to understand why people question God when things don’t go the way they prayed, or how they wanted them to go. Mind you, I have heard a ton of sermons on this over the course of my life. How sometimes the answer is NO. Sometimes the answer is NOT YET. God always knows best.

None of this brought me any peace or change in my perspective. I know it should have, and I should have graciously said in faith “ok God I trust you, do whatever you want”. Don’t get me wrong: I could acknowledge this externally. I knew in my head this was true. It was my soul that wasn’t quite letting go, and I couldn’t figure out why. My guy (yes.. I know I haven’t told you much about him yet. Keep waiting) kept asking me if I was patient. I kept saying yes. Obviously all my verbal process/fretting/questioning betrayed that!

I finally realized it wasn’t an issue of patience for me.. it was that I had stopped being content with the way things were playing out.

Yes, yes …. I know the verse in Philippians where Paul says “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation”. But I couldn’t just throw that verse at my life and then say “see Tama, you should be content”. I am a planner. I am a logical person. I am the kind of person that organizes for vacation. I schedule fun. Weeks out. (Yes I am a type “A”… go ahead and proceed with the mocking.. I can take it. … ). So when what seemed to be a really good plan wasn’t working, I struggled to understand why. All the praying in faith that the Lord taught me about years ago just felt like I was trying to manipulate God now. I finally had to just stop asking and pay attention to the reality, and accept that maybe MY plan wasn’t exactly what HE had in mind.

Wow. Imagine that. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been at this place before.

I am also sure some of you are laughing or chuckling at this very moment.

But I get it now. Why, when for our best laid plans, sometimes people walk away from faith. God, you didn’t provide. God, you ignored my cries. God, you didn’t rescue me or save my child or my relationships or my job. God where are you? So we walk away out of our misunderstanding and frustration.

Do we realize we are not the only people in the world who have those questions? We are not the only generation that has asked that. Look at the Psalms. Look at stories of people whose countries are at war, who are in hiding for their lives because of their faith. We have it easy here folks. Our world is broken, we are weak in keeping promises and being faithful and we do a really good job of trying to make things go our way even when we don’t realize we do.

But GOD’s character never changes. He is good, He is faithful, He is near, even when we miss him, don’t get it, or are blind. Jesus gets it. Heck, look at how often his own disciples didn’t get what he was doing, didn’t understand God’s plan, and struggles to make sense of what was going on in life.

Is your faith strong enough to hold on? Can you remind others who are struggling, and help be their anchor when they can’t any more?

Around Christmas, I had blogged a bit about not seeing what God is doing until we look at our lives AND the lives of others around us, and only then sometimes it makes sense. I have a feeling that is what is going on here for me, and I’m finally starting to be curious about what that might look like.

Don’t give up friends, your faith is worth more than gold. There is so much more to know about our God, and your life has just begun!

Burned on like a Tattoo

Songs. Specifically worship songs. I know we all go to different types of churches, and there are such different styles of music we like or don’t like. For some of you, hymns are familiar and remind you of the faith in which you walk. For others, you resonate more with the upbeat style. Either way, it always amazes me how much music can move our soul.

I love worship songs.. especially those that are not simply repetitive, because they tend to capture the nuances of the soul and really give you something to sing that you believe. Know what I mean? Yet sometimes, I have a hard time connecting with a song and singing it like I mean it.

Anyone with me?

Not everyone feels like being all happy and joyful the minute they walk into church or turn on the radio. Life toughens us up, we all run a million ways, and it’s hard to switch gears and so sometimes we just “go through the motions” and sing songs because they are in the hymnal or on the screen. Yet like tenderizer to steak, or lime juice in a marinade, worship has a way of softening us, if we will let it. At least, that has been my experience. It has a way of wooing my soul to be willing to let down its guard and just BE. It helps me be willing to hear what God wants to speak, or what I need to learn. I didn’t know that at the start of my journey, but I know it now.

Then there are these times where I sing songs and I don’t resonate with them, but I know they are truth and so I sing them with as much conviction as I can at the time. I remember doing this with one song called “The Desert Song” that a friend would play at my church in Illinois. The lyrics are strong: they declare believe in a God who provides when everything is dry, a God who refines our lives in suffering or pain, a God who brings triumph when the battle is still underway. I remember singing that, thinking of smaller battles in my life God brought victory over, dry times I had experienced thus far.

The bridge is probably the most declarative of all:

“…All of my life, in every season, You are still God, I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship…”

But singing it on one side of life doesn’t compare to when you sing it on the other side.

I don’t know how to say it any other way. I remember singing this before things got really hard with my younger daughter’s depression, in the middle when my older one was struggling, and I remember singing it after, when I had stood in faith for both of their lives and believed God had more for their stories. The words were sung first in faith, in the middle as clinging to a promise, and on the other side, in triumph.

It’s like those lyrics were burned into my soul as a tattoo, a choice I was making to worship no matter what.

I realize making a choice like this is not always easy. It defies everything the world tells you. It’s nuts to anyone. They think you are just avoiding dealing with reality, or they think you are trying to pretend what is going on is not real. They couldn’t be further from the truth. Making this kind of declaration in worship, or in prayer, or in your car singing to the radio, or in talking to a friend and finally saying what has been rolling around in your soul for a while – it makes a difference.

The reality of this hit me again today in church, when we sang the song “Who can compare?” By Jesus Culture. I remember hearing this song for the first time when things were rough last year as Jon and I started the divorce process. The words were like water for my soul, declaring just what I needed at that moment:

“… You take my hand, and You guide me on. You show me the way to life. And You lift my head, and You give me hope. You show me the way to life…”

That is EXACTLY what the Lord proceeded to do, and the next months were so healing I can’t even begin to put them into words. So when we sang it again today, over a year later… this time it was a sweet reminder of how faithful our God is. Because I am healed. I am full of hope at what He has next for me…. and I know my life still has a ton of fruit to bear in this next season.

So why do I share these two stories? Because I know in faith there are times we walk without proof or assurance that God is really with us, that He is going to do what he said he would do. It’s hard. It can be frustrating. It can take forever and we can lose hope. We will question his goodness, His faithfulness, His purpose…. we will even question His people.

But when you hold onto the truth of who He has said He is, when you defy logic and reason and negative or condemning voices, declaring you will trust Him no matter what….. on the other side of the trial – your faith is refined, and the words you once sang not quite being sure of BECOME YOUR TRUTH.

So.. next time you go to church, or hear a song on the radio.. pay attention to the lyrics. Pay attention to what you sing. What you proclaim. Determine to make it yours. Because when you do…

You will be unshakeable.

Me and Advent

I have been doing a lot of thinking this time of year, specifically paying attention to sermons on Advent. Admittedly, I have never really been one to focus on the meaning of Advent before… yet this year is different. This year, the lessons of Advent are speaking to me more than I have ever heard them before.

Maybe its because this year, I am constantly comparing to December last year.

Last year this time, I was dreading conversations. I was carrying secret shame, shame that my marriage was over. I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, it seemed, and relief was nowhere in sight. I was carrying the weight of the pain we would cause our girls, the fractured family that we would become, fearful of what my life was going to look like and yet throwing my hope onto the One that said He was our anchor beyond the veil. Crying out to Jesus in a way I never had before. Last year, advent wasn’t even mentioned. But it was not lost on me that for the first time in my life, I understood the story of Mary with a whole new set of eyes.

This year… this year I am choosing joy, and I am living my life out honestly. I can look back at all the Lord has done to bring healing in my life, and I can see the new things He is starting to do that I cannot yet see in their fullness. This year, I am paying attention to Advent because I must, because in some way, I know the Lord is teaching me something new… and it’s good.

The first week of Advent I heard about waiting. Now, I know officially the first week represents hope, but that’s not what Brian Zahnd focused out in his message the first week. Maybe he took it in a different direction because hope is ultimately about waiting for something, right? In the case of Israel, it meant waiting for the Messiah. In our case, he pointed out, it means waiting for God to move. Not waiting on an event or occurrence, which is often what we really are waiting for (if this or that happens, THEN I will ….). No. Waiting on God. Because, as Brian pointed out, when God comes, something is going to happen. We may not know what, but something will happen, and it will be good. This year, there are a few things I am waiting on – one of which I clearly have known God has to move, the other I realize I was looking for an outcome. The first week of Advent has reminded me to shift my gaze, and to not give up waiting. I needed to hear that more than I know.

The second week of Advent is about Love. Yet at a church I visited last Sunday, the pastor spoke of both hope and joy. Hope of the Messiah, a story that Elizabeth and Mary both became a part of because God was moving in His time, in His way. Yet joy – because although neither of them quite understood what God was doing, they were willing to walk out the change in direction of their lives and circumstance. When they saw the grace of what God was doing in each other’s lives, THEN their story made sense. THEN they could see some of what God was doing – but it only made sense when the pieces were put together. As the pastor said…when they both saw the grace over each other’s lives, it made them ask “what IS God doing????” This year, I can honestly stand back and ask the same. I am keenly aware that his ways are not mine, that his thoughts are not mine, and that there is greater mystery than ever in following him. For someone who likes to know what is going on and for whom planning is a default… this requires constant trust. Trust that something is going on, something I cannot see and cannot touch… and something that may still take years to unfold.

So as we stand here, just a few days away from Christmas, I invite you to take a step back and ask yourself: Where in my own life do I need to wait on God, not wait on circumstances to change? Where can I shift my focus so that I am not anxious about how things will play out, but I look with eager anticipation to seeing how God moves on my behalf? And where can you step back and look at things and wonder… what is going on? How is what I see now going to result in greater things in the future?

Merry Christmas, my friends! May the light Jesus came to bring brighten your world this year, and may His peace, peace that says we WILL be ok in His hands, give you hope.

Tama

Boy Erased: Another side

Boy Erased.

I’m not sure how many of you have gone to see it, or how many of you will. I haven’t yet, but I’m slowly reading through the book. For those of you who haven’t heard or read about it, the book (and movie) is essentially the story of Garrard Conley, a young gay man who went through conversion therapy at the insistence of his religious parents. It dives into the types of things that were taught, the way any non-hetero sexual urges were handled, and the struggle he had knowing he was still gay. After being suicidal, he eventually came to terms with his sexuality while attending college.

First off, I’m glad he’s telling his story. It needs to be told, even if its a hard one to hear – and I realize I am glossing over a ton of detail and nuances in my summary that should never be glossed over, because the negative impact that conversion therapy has had on the past generation (and is evidently still going on???) is horrendous. I should know. I was married to someone who also went through it for the first 10 years of our marriage. It destroyed him… and I never knew how much until he told me one night through tears that he loved me, and he hated the how much he knew he was hurting his best friend, but he couldn’t keep this part of his identity hidden any longer. I never knew he was suffering so much. There was so much he never said. So much I overlooked. All out of love, because love endures all things, hopes all things, never fails.

And so, with all the media coverage on Boy Erased, I can’t stay silent. There is another side of the impact of conversion therapy and/or teaching that ignores sexual orientation that probably won’t ever be made in to a book (unless I write one) or a movie: What happens when someone who is LGBTQ marries someone who is not (and either hides it or promises they will work on their “same sex attraction” because its the right thing for a Christian to do). Or because they have been taught it will make them straight, or they have been told it is the only option. Because…. who knows the other reasons. But they marry and raise a family and dream dreams with this other person who commits their whole self to the relationship.

The other side is what happens when the realization comes that its not working. The drive is too strong, the orientation yells for validation, and the only way to make peace with self is to end the relationship.

We are the ones who get left in the wake of sexuality being hidden for so long.

The children who end up with stories they never wanted.

The young adults who now wonder if real love is actually possible, who now look back and wonder what they saw of their parents’ love was real?

The spouses who suddenly find themselves single after having married with the expectation they would grow old with their spouse. The loss of a best friend, the loss of dreams and hopes and … the one they thought was their “person”.

Don’t get me wrong, friends – this isn’t easy for the one that is coming out either. It’s heartbreaking for them too. How the relationship ends is critical. It can get very ugly, or it can be full of sorrow, grace, and forgiveness in a very unique way. Ultimately, both have to decide what they want this to look like… but “hard to go through” doesn’t even come close. Death would be more like it – for both spouses.

Sometimes what happens is that the one who is coming out leaves to find community where they will be accepted, because they are not accepted in their friend or church groups any longer. There can be great celebration when someone who has hidden their sexuality (or had it forcibly shoved down due to external pressures) is finally able to come out and realize who they really are. There is a mountain of shame to overcome,there are courageous steps they have to take to fight back voices and lies and hurt and only God knows what else. If any of you know me or Jon, you know this is what he has dealt with, and this is what he has fought for in the past year. I cannot begin to imagine what its been like.

Others stay hidden and wrestle with where they fit in, feeling lost but knowing they cannot stay married. This might be the harder road, but the impact is no less. I have a new friend that is going down this road and it’s just as painful to watch.

What you must understand though, is that I am not writing this to get support or sympathy. I am not writing this to say that what I and the girls have gone through is anything near what Jon has. We have all been broken in this. We have all hurt. BUT we are all healing and we are going to be ok. God’s grace IS enough for us. If my older daughter’s recent Facebook post isn’t proof… I don’t know what is.

I am writing this because although the media coverage is exposing the pain of conversion therapy and church teaching, it isn’t talking about the impact it has had in the lives of those who ACTED on the advice and recommendations. It’s not just that we need to understand how harmful conversion therapy has been for so many.

We need to realize that because of it, there are families that are broken that never should have had to go through such hurt and pain. Choices are made to break covenant by people for whom covenant is real and binding, and so it hurts like hell to know you are breaking it — yet who would ever understand or believe that laying down your life in love can be the very act of letting your LGBTQ spouse go? None of the love and the memories and kids that come out of these marriages bring regret, mind you. The marriage was never a lie. The love and care and concern for them was always there and still is. The families created mean the world to both spouses. But regret for the hurt and pain? Yeah.. there’s that. Lots of it. There is a great deal of trusting God can heal things in ways that we can’t even begin to know how to make right. There’s the work of not letting yourself get lost in a pity party, or villianizing your former spouse. There’s the choice to parent the kids in a way that is honoring to both people (regardless of age). There’s the choice to believe that grace can help navigate the narrow way of still being kind to each other, and want the best for each other. It doesn’t come easy…. but it is possible

I know the Body of Christ is divided over same-sex marriage. I am not addressing that here. Yet I think the church (big “C”) needs to think carefully about this one. Can we at least make the church safe enough so that someone who does identify as LTBTQ can be honest about their sexuality and not feel ashamed? Can we welcome them – their gifts, their personality, their faith – and not think they are less than, or are only valid if they marry the opposite sex?

Whatever we do, I am begging you, please don’t think that telling someone to get married will “fix” their sexuality. I’m not saying a mixed-orientation-marriage (which is a marriage where one spouse is opposite sex attracted and one is not) can’t work – but if its something two people are considering, they need to go into it with eyes wide open to the challenges they will face. They are real.

Something has to change. It starts with us.

You’re a what????

Last fall, my new homegroup read (so I re-read) Ian Cron’s book “The Road Back to You….”. In case you haven’t heard of it, its a book that talks about the Enneagram – essentially a personality type, if you will… but one that helps with spiritual transformation. At the start of each chapter, the book gives some highlights of the way each “number” or “type” might think or approach the world. For some, reading the different thoughts of each type made it hard to see where they were landing. It wasn’t until they dove into what it was like as a kid or how they interact with people that it made sense.

For some, it was like opening a map and finally going “oh THAT’s exactly what I’m like” – now how do I move forward to transformation??

Me, not so much. I am a One – Perfectionist – through and through. I will admit though, between raising a family and the grace of God, I am not as much as a One as I was in college, that’s for sure. My books are no longer alphabetized and ordered by color (yes, that is how I organized my tapes… my roommate can attest to that even after all these years). I am ok if the pillows are not “just right”, or if there is cat or dog hair somewhere. Having anywhere between 2 and 7 animals in the house for the 25 years of my marriage kind of worked that out of me… trying to keep every surface clean would have been torture!

Figuring out that I was a One (where one daughter is an Eight – Challenger and the other a 4 – the Individualist – was MONUMENTAL for our family. It explained SO much about all of us – and began to shift the way I talk to the girls now as young adults. I seriously wish we had this tool when they were teens – it would have helped Jon and I both understand who they were, how to talk with them, and how they processed the world. We all came at life from some very foundational differences, and it had very little to do with what we did or did not teach them or how we supported them.

Where my “one-ness” still shows up is around wanting things to be right, namely relationships and .. life. Combined with my 9 wing – which doesn’t like conflict and can see both sides of any argument/story/theological or political discussion…wellll….. it gets interesting. Internally, I am always caught between a rock and a hard place: I want to do what’s right, but when I can’t figure out WHICH side to stand on, or which opinion to have, I don’t want to cause conflict so I don’t make any decision. Which my One side does not do well with, because the other part of a One doesn’t like to make mistakes and is extremely hard on themselves when they mess up.

Most people assume making mistakes is just part of life. A One doesn’t recover from mistakes that quickly, whether in life or in relationships. We beat ourselves up constantly. Discord in relationships is more than difficult, and I know that I tend to assume I am the one that caused the discord because I did something wrong. When Jesus talks about leaving your gifts at the altar and reconciling if you think your brother or sister has something against you — as a One – I take that pretty seriously. I have had to learn that I can’t fix everything, and I can’t make everything right. Needless to say, that’s been hard. I am learning that God’s perfection is sufficient, and that grace covers the rest. It’s been a good lesson 🙂

It’s been fun to watch Maia embrace the fact she is a 4. All the sales guy had to say when she was getting new glasses last year as “I don’t know anyone else that looks good in those frames” – and he made the sale. LOL. Maddie laughs when she reacts like a classic 8 – strong, assertive, decisive and gets frustrated when others can’t make decisions. (I hope she doesn’t marry a 9) . We all still joke about me being a 1, and sometimes they have to remind me everything doesn’t have to be perfect. There’s grace for all of us in it – and its helped as we’ve met new people to understand how to encourage them and appreciate their own uniqueness.

What has amazed me is how this has also helped me process the way I see God and see scripture, and why certain things stick out to me that don’t seem to for anyone else. Sure, we all have views and understandings of God and his word based on our own lives and backgrounds, but I am fascinated with how this study has shed light on the truths about God we struggle with personally, as well as the truths we get easily. Very insightful.

So today, my book recommendation is “The Road Back to You”. If you want something that delves more into the history of the Enneagram and touches more on its spiritual transformation aspects, look for “The Sacred Enneagram”.

Hope you all have a great weekend!!