Isn’t it nice to know we grow out of things as we mature? A purely hypothetical example: say a purely hypothetical kid had three imaginary friends when she was little (whose purely hypothetical names were Jim and Angela (who were a purely hypothetical couple)… and Mossip Eyelash). Then say this purely hypothetical kid’s imaginary playmates, after all of their amazing adventures together, decided to UP AND MOVE AWAY. It would probably be comforting to that purely hypothetical kid to think she would grow out of that mental/emotional phase, right? Hypothetically, of course.
We lay things down as we increase in maturity. It’s like there’s an invisible trail of childhood relics strung along behind us, a breadcrumb path of safety blankets and pacifiers no longer useful. One thing we will never ever grow out of, though (hypothetically or otherwise), is our need for grace. It’s the friend designated to lead us home.
This fact—that I wouldn’t ever leave my own desperate lack behind, no matter how much I learn or serve or love—took some getting used to. Our culture tends to see neediness as pathetic, as weak. But let me ask you something: when’s the last time you beat yourself up for requiring oxygen to survive? As humans, our fragile frames are built to need. Created with incredible strength, beauty, dignity, and purpose, and carrying the very image of God around on two legs, we still have to pause regularly to keep our bodies going with food, water, and sleep. Something as simple as air, if sucked out of the room, would kill us.
We are all needy physically, and we are all needy spiritually. The sooner I can embrace this rather than struggle against it, the sooner I can more fully inhabit who I’m called to be.
This is where the Enneagram (any uh gram) comes in handy. If you’ve never heard of it, no worries—though it’s been around for centuries, it only recently enjoyed a comeback in popular culture, and the church has particularly latched onto it. Kind of like the MBTI from yesterday, the Enneagram assumes that every person on this planet falls within a distinct type. But unlike the MBTI, there’s a spiritual element to this. Each of the nine types, represented by numbers, has a specific sin attached to it. Yup. Sin. No candy coating for us! (If you need to take a minute with your inhaler, go ahead. We’ll wait.)
It turns out that the same personality we adopt to take care of us when we’re young comes with its own uniquely shaped need for grace. (For instance, because I’m a One, the Perfectionist, my primary sin is anger. But because I’m human, I’m an equal opportunity offender. I sin in lots of ways.) The more we can learn about our natural tendencies to live apart from the cross, the more we can enjoy the freedom that accompanies grace. That seems counterintuitive, though, right? Listen, if I’m so busy justifying myself that I’m refusing to acknowledge my need for Jesus, I’m taking away the foundation of the Christian paradigm. It’s only when I stop fighting that the gospel is really good news for my heart.
So we’ve been walking along on this journey, chatting about identity and personality. Let’s pause and catch our breath, because this next mile is a hard one. Can I offer you some water and bracing truth? No matter why you need grace, Jesus isn’t going to run away from you. (And I’m not going anywhere, either, even if you’re tired of my cheesy jokes and social awkwardness. Sorry.) Back to Day 1, yeah? When it comes to the Lord, you are fully known and fully loved. Your strengths don’t define you; your weaknesses don’t define you. Nothing can change how ecstatic God is that you are His kid. Okay? Let’s go.
Ones deal with anger, Twos with pride, Threes with deceit, Fours with envy, Fives with avarice, Sixes with fear, Sevens with gluttony, Eights with lust, and Nines with sloth. As straightforward (and ugly) as those sound, there is so much packed into each, and I was blown away at how many I identified with as I studied.
The types each bought into a certain lie as kids, and those lies molded their armor, which then formed their features into its own image. Our challenge here is to identify which suit of armor we chose, what we look like when we’re healthy, and how we operate at normal capacity or during unhealthy times. Zeroing in on our sin tendencies is not particularly fun, I admit, but it will definitely begin minimizing the blindspots in our lives that hurt us and those we love. This seeing ourselves is brave work, friends. Be of good courage.
So without further ado, head over here and take the test.
My sin was great, Your love was greater;
What could separate us now?
(Hillsong, “What a Beautiful Name”)