Enneagram and Faith: What are your deepest vulnerabilities?

the enneagram and faith

Among the many things that made it difficult for me to see a therapist was the question, “Why this?”

I had been through many difficult experiences in my life. I didn’t understand why this particular circumstance was the one pushing me over the edge. Though I knew I was off, and felt I needed help, the things I was struggling with seemed like things I should have been strong enough to handle on my own. 

My therapist answered the question for me in our second session.

I told her the story about something that happened at work. Though I talked about it with fairly little emotion, the reality is it was making me want to shrink into a corner of my house and never walk out the door again. She heard beneath my voice to my heart, and spoke the truth, “Wow, that's hitting on every one of your deepest fears, isn't it?”

We all have fears. But some are so deep, we like to bury them beneath the others, with a few distractions piled on top for good measure. Vulnerabilities we try to avoid because they are the most difficult for us to handle. 

Now, here mine were, being dug up. Publicly. Of course I needed voices of reason and empathy to help me sort through what had been unearthed.

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One of the most challenging questions enneagram asks us to face is, “What are your deepest vulnerabilities?”

The answer to that question is crucial to our spiritual growth. It deeply impacts our ability to extend empathy and love. When we dig out our vulnerabilities, we also unearth our ability to extend grace.

I am shuffling my body as I write this. My anxious energy is pushing its way through my toes and my fingers, trying to get me to avoid what I know needs to come next. It is always easiest to write about my type as an example. Which means I need to share that thing I try to keep buried. 

As a type 2, my deepest vulnerability is a fear of rejection. Do you like me? Will you like me? What can I do so you will like me? These questions circle inside me all. the. time. Usually, I either avoid them or bury them. Or perhaps most often, try to make myself feel better by answering them in the shallowest possible way. (Hello Facebook!) 

When friends doesn’t have time to get together, I fight with the fear of what that means about the value our friendship plays in their lives. After getting together with a new friend, I fight with the fear of whether I said or did things that would keep that person from wanting to see me again.

Because of this vulnerability about rejection, there are things I feel like I should be able to handle that crush me. But there are other places where someone else might get crushed, but I can handle it. I’ve been told I’m good at receiving criticism, which is the vulnerability that can devastate a type 1. I am prone to disregarding my own needs for the sake of helping others, so the fear of being neglected that a type 9 struggles with feels foreign to me. A type 5 fears looking foolish, but I’ve fallen down that stairs enough in my life to have gotten over that one years ago.

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We all have our junk. We are vulnerable when it comes to some things and strong when it comes to others.

It does me no good to compare, and wonder why that person over there is so much stronger than me. We cannot just “get over” our struggles, nor can someone else just “get over” theirs. Comparing is another way to avoid what needs to be done.

We need to do the hard work of admitting and facing our vulnerabilities. 

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. - Brené Brown

For me, this means putting practices in my life that remind me of my belovedness. When I know that at my core I am not rejected, but loved, it helps me face the relationships in my life with less manipulation and fear. Other people may be able to read one book about God’s love and feel like it’s covered. I read books like Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen and Surrender to Love by David Benner on repeat. I return to the book of Psalms and the Gospel of John over and over again. I put quotes from John O’Donohue on my email and in Evernote so I can return to them whenever I need them. I wrap up in the prayer shawl someone knit for me and feel held by unconditional affection.

Lately, thanks to the enneagram, I have been more conscious of facing the rejection questions head-on with love and grace. I’ve noticed they’re getting a little softer. I might even be able to press publish without fearing how I came across in my self-disclosure and whether you will read me again. Maybe. 

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Do you know what your deepest vulnerabilities are? How might you be able to face your them today? 

Want help figuring out your enneagram type and finding the answers to those questions? Remember to check out my enneagram coaching page for details of how I could be a voice of reason and empathy for what is getting unearthed in your life. 

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Deliver Me

out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me. - Psalm 109:21

“My God, whom I praise,

Do not remain silent,

Sovereign Lord,

Help me for your name’s sake;

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

For I am poor and needy,

And my heart is wounded within me.” – Psalm 109:1, 21-22

 

When fear constructs a wall across my path,

When it feels like the only way through

Is to run into something that will crumble my body to the ground,

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

 

When the wounds of unresolved hurt drip bitterness into my heart,

When my blood has been infected to

Boil in the presence of certain people,

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

 

When anger blindfolds me,

When I can no longer see goodness in who people are

Or what they are doing in your world,

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

 

When jealousy smolders around me,

When its heat turns to a fire that burns my feet,

And pushes me to run towards the wrong pool for relief,

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

 

When stress and busyness fill my arms

With a load beyond my abilities to carry,

When I feel like I will collapse under the weight of it all,

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

 

When loneliness is my only companion,

When my moans seem to echo in the silence,

Do not remain distant, oh God.

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

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Psalm 109, like many psalms, has some ugly language. Angry that I can not remember saying out loud about another person, like hoping his children become wandering beggars.

Yet even here, there is beauty.

For the psalmists seem to have an unrestrained relationship with their God. One that gives them freedom to vent about anything, and trust that it will be okay. That God will not abandon them, but save them. Either from their enemies, or from themselves, and the bitterness that has built up in their hearts.

I am still learning to pray with that kind of confidence.

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This post is part of #PsalmsJourney, a series reflecting on the Psalms one at a time, in order. Learn more about it here. If you'd like to join me, put a link to your own post in the comments.

Finding Jesus at the Gym

I've been trying to find a rhythm of time these days. Something that could provide a sense of schedule now that I've lost the routine of going to work in the morning.

Enter: the gym.

I have been going to the gym while my son is in preschool. I workout during that window of time when I find myself jobless and kidless, with the potential to fall down the click-holes of the Internet if I'm not mindful. Losing my time and footing feels especially risky in this season of wandering and waiting.

I've been trying to get back in the habit of going to the gym anyway, hoping to lose some weight and gain some health. So, there seemed no better time to start than now.

The gym carries its own holes I could slip into, old habits of obsession and eating disorders, fears of looking as awkward and out-of-shape as I feel, shame about the size of my frame, anxiety that this endeavor in the end will be some sort of failure. I have been swallowing hard, and going to the gym anyway. 

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I was on the lateral elliptical machine, listening to a podcast sermon from my friend, Micah. It was an introduction to the book of Hebrews, in which one of the opening verses says this, 

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The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. - Hebrews 1:3

If Jesus is the exact representation of God, then any picture we hold of who God is that is not in line with what we know of Jesus, is wrong.

At the end, Micah challenged everyone to participate in a prayer exercise, to release to God a picture we are holding of who He is, and allow Him to replace that with a picture of Jesus.

Explanations of experiential service elements are usually the point of a podcast when I press skip and move on to the next sermon. Something is lost for me when I wasn't there to participate in them live and in-person.

But this time, I didn't press skip. I closed my eyes and wondered if God might meet me right there, at the gym, in the space between.

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The day before, I had been wondering if God was indifferent towards me.

My failures and my shortcomings seemed more visible than His goodness, and I wondered if He could, if He would, provide me a job I would love. I wondered if He cared about something that seems so trivial in comparison to the needs of this world.

I don't think I actually believe God is indifferent, but sometimes the things we don't believe feel more real than the faith we wish we had.

Eyes closed, moving in the rhythm of the elliptical machine, I gave the word "indifferent" to God, and asked Him to replace it with an image of Jesus. Skeptical, I might add, that He would actually do it.

Before I had time to think, I saw Jesus washing my feet.

I've heard it said that Jesus washing the disciples' feet was a great act of servanthood. Though that's true, it was also a beautiful embodiment of intimacy. Touching feet is not something we do when we are indifferent towards someone. Taking off someone's sandal, putting their foot in water, scrubbing their toes clean, these are all intentional acts that require closeness and time.

I imagine Jesus wiping my feet while He looks at me with a gleam in His eyes, the kind of satisfied look you see in the face of a loved one after the shared richness of deep conversation. I imagine Jesus gently wiping my feet until all the filth- the sweat, the fear, and the shame- is washed away by his love.

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I open my eyes and slow down. My workout is done, and it's time to get off the machine. 

I walk away hoping this picture of God will last longer than the post-workout high. 

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Do you have a picture of God that needs to be replaced with a picture of Jesus? God might just give you a vision if you ask for one. Even if you ask at the gym.

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