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January 23, 2017

The Road Back to You

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My friend Margaret, never one to mince words, sent me a text a few weeks ago that said, “Buy this book right now.”  She provided a link in her text to the book, and since I’m not one of those mere mortal fools that dares to disobey Margaret, I bought the book without even really looking at the title or knowing what it was about.  No questions asked.

When it came in the mail several weeks ago, I began to slowly explore its contents and can’t tell you how thankful I am Margaret sent me that text.

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, a book by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile outlines a map of the human personality that has been around for hundreds of years.  “Some trace its origins back to a Christian monk named Evagrius, whose teachings formed the basis for what later became the Seven Deadly Sins, and to the desert mothers and fathers of the fourth century, who used it for spiritual counseling” (Cron and Stabile, The Road Back to You).  Cron and Stabile take an ancient pattern for counseling people according to their personalities and frame it in fresh, new light that is easy to understand and apply.

I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details of how the book uses the Enneagram to categorize and define the nine different personality types represented on the Enneagram, but suffice it to say if I had any doubts about if this personality tool was effective, I was floored two pages into finding the personality type that best described my own.  Dumbfounded would actually be a better word.

“So there is actually a reason I act this way!” and “Other people actually act this way too; it’s not just me!” were just a few of the exclamation points running around in my head.

What I failed to heed in the introductory chapters to the book was the warning that “[a]t times, you will feel that we’re focusing far too much on the negative rather than the positive qualities of each [personality].  We are, not only to help you more easily discover your type.  In our experience, people identify more readily with what’s not working in their personalities than with what is.  As Suzanne likes to say, ‘We don’t know ourselves by what we get right; we know ourselves by what we get wrong.’  Try not to get all pouty.”

I jumped into the Enneagram thinking it would be the key to telling me how great I was, but oh how wrong I was.  I got a little pouty.  Each personality type is specifically connected to one of the seven deadly sins, and the book shows clearly and accurately how this sin can wreak havoc in a life who has not let grace in or done the hard work of sanctification and transformation.  The Enneagram felt more like an enema and bears an uncanny and unfortunate similarity to the word.

But when I was neck deep in despair about all the negatives that go along with my make-up (and that were oh-so-painfully-accurate), I flipped back to the introduction and re-read the warning and felt a little better.  Every personality type was feeling like I was; it wasn’t just me (hopefully).

So why in the world would I recommend to you to buy and read a book that will make you feel so down in the dumps about yourself?  Because remember last week’s blog?  God doesn’t come to us to slay us, but nor does He come to flatter us.  He comes to show us to show us the truth about who we are so that we can cut the cancer out, get rid of the tumor that is killing us, and set us free to be healthy, whole, and healed.

As you sit and pause at the beginning of a new year, the beginning is always a good time to take true stock of who you are.  Not of who you wish you were.  Or who you think you are.  But of who you really are.  Because if you and I ever want to become the people we want to be or others around us need us to be, we have to be humble enough to recognize and admit our real selves, rather than our pretend selves.  And that takes humility, repentance, confession, surrounded by the holding, comforting knowledge of unconditional love.  We can face who we are because Someone faces us who has promised to never turn away.  In fact, when you begin to do the hard and humble work of beginning to get rid of all the dirt, you will look up beside you and see the Son of Man scrubbing right along beside you.  There is no work too humble that He will not stoop to do, especially when it involves someone He loves.

Flannery O’Connor wrote, “To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks.   It is to measure oneself against Truth, and not the other way around.  The first product of self-knowledge is humility.”  

“Coming face-to-face with your deadly sin can be hard, even painful, because it raises to conscious awareness the nastier bits about how we are that we’d rather not think about.”  Very hard.  “But no one should fail to do so if what they seek is deep knowing of self” (The Road Back to You).  But very true.

If we do one thing this year, it should be to come to a deeper knowledge about ourselves so that we can interface at a deeper, more truthful level with God.  “Let it be the real me that speaks to the real You,” writes C.S. Lewis.  If it’s not the real me speaking, then I am in self-deception about myself, my faults, and even my strengths.  And if it’s not the real God I am praying to, then we must make certain we know who He really is, for the very state of our eternal souls depends upon it.

If the Enneagram and The Road Back to You isn’t for you, that’s fine.  But find something that is.  Find something that speaks the truth about your soul to your soul.  The truth that tells you who you really are so that you can deal with your real self before the only true, real God.  Everything else in your life depends upon it.

So heed Margaret’s advice to “Buy this book right now.”  And while you might feel a little pouty in the process, like me, you will be thankful in the end.

For further encouragement this week, don’t forget to connect with me on Facebook.