In my previous post, I discussed how we so often place too much value on our identities and measurable personality traits. We take all the assessments and online quizzes to determine our Myers- Briggs or Enneagram type. We devour the definitions of these personality types and search for knowledge to better understand ourselves. We feel known and understood as we read our descriptions and justify our weaknesses because “it is just part of being a Type 6”. But this is not our true identity. These assessments can help us learn about ourselves so we can best use our gifts and strengths to serve the Lord and other people, but they are not where we should look for our identity and calling.
I used to place a lot of importance on the opinions of others. I tried to say all the right things, go all the right places, and be interested in all the new trends or bands. In the process, I was confused about who I was, what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go in life. In the search for identity, I lost myself to the image I thought the world wanted. Spoiler: I did a poor job of portraying what I thought was “cool” and my facade did not gain relationships or produce popularity.
In my early twenties I began to become very interested in personality types. I learned about them through college leadership and psychology classes and it seemed to make so much sense! Finally, an answer to why I was the way I was and an excuse for my shortcomings! On the D.I.S.C assessment, I am a “S-personality”, which means I am reserved, rather than outgoing; and people-oriented, rather than task-oriented. Some of the adjectives to describe “S- personalities” include supportive, stable, steady, sweet, status-quo, shy, sensitive, and stubborn. Oh man! Was this a big sigh of relief for me! I felt like I was given permission for my highly-sensitive nature and used this to justify my begrudging attitude when my feelings were hurt. I thought that because of my shy nature it was excusable to close myself off from relationships, to the point of rudeness. I argued that my stubbornness was inevitable and that I was incapable of compromise. I allowed myself to use this personality assessment to excuse my poor behavior and explain away my weaknesses.
At this point, I would like to tell you that I allowed God to soften my heart and open my mind to His ways; but that didn’t happen until much later. In my story, marriage came next and can you just imagine how holding so fast to my “S-personality” traits affected that relationship? By the grace of God, my husband is a much more patient, level-headed person than I am and he put up with my selfish, sensitive, stubborn self. In this phase of life I learned that my spiritual gift was mercy. Um, excuse me? Have you met me? There is no way! But several online assessments returned mercy. After the initial shock wore off, in crept the pride. I took pride in this gift that seemed so suitable to serve others. I was proud to be gifted in an area that seemed to be the opposite of my natural bent. Instead of seeking to utilize my gift to bring glory to God, I sought to bring glory to myself in the workplace, in my friendships, and in my marriage. I misused this information and I “loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:43). So once again, I sought identity in this facet of my being rather than in the One who created my being.
Then came motherhood. Late to the game I learned my Myers-Briggs (ISFJ) and the Enneagram gained popularity (Type 6). While these new assessments were very interesting to read about and did give me new perspectives on some of my intricacies, motherhood ushered in a new wave of grace and the Lord opened my eyes to His relationship with me, His child. Every day in motherhood, I see new examples of His unconditional love, enduring patience, completely goodness, and total faithfulness to His children. In every way I lack as a mother, wife, or friend; He is abundant. As I cared for the physical needs of my children, I understood how God provides for all my needs. As my children forgot my instructions given just 10 minutes ago, I realize how short my memory is of the Lord’s commands. As I discipline my children, I appreciate how the Lord disciplines me for my own best interests and so I will learn to choose right over wrong. When I fail as a mother, I grasp hold of my desperate need for my unfailing Heavenly Father.
God graciously used motherhood to open my eyes to my purpose and my calling. My purpose is to glorify Him and my calling is to go and make disciples. He has created me uniquely to fulfill this purpose and calling and understanding myself can help me make the most of every opportunity to serve God and others. But everything I do must come from the knowledge of who God is and who He made me to be. He is the Author and Finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2), my Creator and Sustainer. He made me in His image and through the blood of Christ has made me righteous.
In my life, the turning point from looking inward to looking upward was when I grasped hold of Proverbs 9:10 that says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” As an academic, I had prided myself in scholastic achievement on my own terms. Being gifted in mercy, I also prided myself in being intuitive and insightful to the needs of others and being able to sympathize with their struggles. I valued my own strengths more than I valued my Creator who placed those strengths within me. Do you know what the Bible says about pride? “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).
Motherhood is humbling. I realized that I could not possibly love my children as well as they needed. I realized that I had no control over their spiritual salvation. I realized how lacking my academics were for the reality of parenthood. I realized that I was not strong enough to be everything and do everything my child needed at every moment. But that is why I am not called to love my children with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I am called to love the Lord in this way (Mark 12:30) and I can celebrate that when I am weak, He is shown strong (2 Corinthians 12:11). I quickly realized that I cannot do it all myself, but “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
So in my pursuit of the knowledge of God and as I continued to study the Word of God, I grew less involved with myself and all the labels the world placed on me and more interested in who God is and who He says that I am through salvation. The labels of the world may feel freeing until we consider the limitations and restrictions they place on us. But freedom in Christ is true and eternal and by aligning ourselves to His vision for our lives we fulfill our purpose and receive His blessings.
Living in the peace of the Lord is a daily process for me. Most days I fall back into the labels of the world and cling to my familiar personality type to excuse my behavior. When I choose to surrender my choices to the Lord, He leads me faithfully and I hold fast to His promise that all things work together for my ultimate good and for His glory (Romans 8:28).