In the Alabama heat fighting the coming end of summer, I found myself turning to Christmas music to soothe my weary jet-lagged soul. Little did I know this would be the turning point of my processing. I tapped my "Comfort & Joy" playlist, hoping for both of those. The song "O Holy Night" came on first. Statistically, this was no surprise, for there are several versions of this hymn, as it is one of my yule-tide favorites. I felt my spirit began to lift, line by line.
'til He appeared, and the soul felt it's worth.
I've chatted about things that I delight in, so Christmas music and the Enneagram should not be a surprising topical cocktail for those who have been around a while. If you're new, welcome. The Enneagram is a personality study that looks at basic motivations and fears of nine organized types. I am an Enneagram type 3. Stay with me, new friends-- this means of the nine types, my personality closely lines up with the "Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type," as the Enneagram Institute categorize us. They continue:
Threes are self-assured, attractive, and charming. Ambitious, competent, and energetic, they can also be status-conscious and highly driven for advancement. They are diplomatic and poised, but can also be overly concerned with their image and what others think of them. They typically have problems with workaholism and competitiveness.
At their Best: self-accepting, authentic, everything they seem to be—role models who inspire others.
"Wow, self-assured! Ambitious! Diplomatic!" Yeah, with the basic fear of being worthless.
In unhealthiness, this manifests in an attempt to prove and promote myself, maybe obviously, maybe subtly. Pride and vanity become how I partner with the enemy in sin. Please do not misunderstand, my Enneagram type doesn't give me an excuse to step out of righteousness because psychologists say this type has tends to in this way. It simply gives me vocabulary to call the issue out and under the Lordship of Jesus.
I remember being in 7th grade, crying after class to my Wednesday night girls' class teachers (bless those magnificent women). It was another "God made you beautiful!" lesson. I remember pausing before trying to explain myself more clearly, "But I don't care if God thinks I'm beautiful, I want people to think I'm beautiful!" This need to feel worth something, by the standards I had seen in trashy teen magazines with a lot of "inside scoop" about Zac Efron. I remember being dropped off at the mall with my best friend, Jillian, sipping our frappuccinos, thinking we were so cool, hoping to be noticed by high school boys-- you know, the end-all-be-all of worth at age 13.
I write this a little tongue-in-cheek, but how much of this behavior has stuck around in the last decade? How often do I disregard the calling the Lord has placed on my life in face of a closed door? How often do I seek the approval of peers, and believe that I am worthless if I don't receive it? How often to cast aside who Jesus says that I am for the word of man?
Currently, I am reading Henri J. M. Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son, a truly excellent book that I would 10/10 recommend. In a chapter relating himself, and also the reader, to the prodigal son, he writes this golden truth that captured my heart and brought me to tears:
A voice, weak as it seemed, whispered that no human being would ever be able to give me the love I craved, that no friendship, no intimate relationship, no community would ever be able to satisfy the deepest needs of my wayward heart. That soft but persistent voice spoke to me about my vocation, my early commitments, the many gifts I had received from my father's house. That voice called me "son."
Truthfully, the writer of O Holy Night understands Christmas for what it truly is, our reclaimed worthiness through the coming Messiah. Paul writes about this in Ephesians 1, a favorite passage of mine:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
I pray you had chills down your spine, just as I did, rereading this passage. How then can we turn to the world for love and a sense of importance when truly our humanity craves divine love.
My mind is brought the conversation between the Samaritan woman and Jesus. I really love artistic interpretations of this story, as they often look as I read the narrative, with the woman cautious, defensive, and maybe a little sarcastic to Jesus. And yet, Jesus, knowing every detail of her life, being able to discern her heart, offers her honor and life, by speaking to her and offering her living water. Our Lord, though knows us intimately, calls us worthy to be in his presence, by his glorious grace.
I was listening to a podcast episode where Annie F. Downs was interviewing John Crist, the Christian comedian, who is an Enneagram type 3 as well. He talked a lot about the dichotomy of being loved and being known. How he's afraid if he is known, he will not be loved, but being loved without being known feels empty. I could not agree more. And yet, Christ, knowing the hearts of men, knows us intricately and expresses only the deepest love towards is. The Sovereign Lord who created all that I can and cannot see thought in His wisdom that you and I were worth knowing, listening to, spending time on. Listen to how David is in awe of very thing in the beginning of Psalm 139:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
In my heartache, in my anxiety, the Lord knows me. In my hurt, in my failure, my God knows. He loves me still, for His love is not dependent on my image or my success. Because of Jesus's righteousness, not mine, I am brought before the throne of God, being made perfect by His power, again, not mine. I don't need to promote myself, I don't need to crave affirmation, for my Lord brings me honor without pride. Even when I am defensive, not wanting my God to see my sin, He draws me close and calls me "daughter," providing divine love, the kind my spirit was created to receive.