Being God’s Beloved Child As an Enneagram Type Four

Today, I read some about the Enneagram again. As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a type Four. Type Fours’ core motivation is to be fully understood as their unique and authentic selves. As such, Fours often focus on their being different from other people in some fundamental way. I am no different (pun intended) in this respect.

When I was in the early days of my psych hospital stay, my parents came to talk to the psychiatrist. They told him that, ever since I’d realized I am different because of my blindness at roughly age seven, I had tried to make it look like I was different in a ton of other ways. For instance, I identified as autistic (with which I was eventually diagnosed), thought as a teen that I was a lesbian (I am not), etc. Indeed, identity confusion was quite a common experience for me. According to my parents, this was all because I refused to accept the fact that I am blind, rather than because, well, I felt different in some rather interesting, somewhat impalpable ways.

Today, as I read the Day 1 section of The Enneagram Type 4 by Beth McCord, I realized I’ve always focused my attention on how I am not just essentially different from everyone else, but in some fundamental way more defective than everyone else. In reality, this is not true.

I am reminded in this respect of a sermon or something I once heard about a king having two daughters who both got lost in a shipwreck and stranded with farmers or something. Years later, the king found out that his daughters were still alive and he sent out some men to track them down. One daughter believed she was the king’s daughter, while the other didn’t. To whom does it matter? Of course, to the one who believes. This is probably what it is like to be a child of God: we are all children of God, but only those who believe it will delight in His kingdom. I find this comforting to my non-believer friends, realizing that God does not somehow condemn those people or something. Of course, there is the difference that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, so He could’ve made everyone believe.

However, my point is that there is nothing that makes me less of a child of God because of who I am or what I do. I am also not more defective than anyone else based on any of my differences, be it my autism or my blindness or whatever. Neurodiversity and disability rights are clear on that. No matter how fundamentally different I feel as an enneagram type Four, or as an autistic, multiply-disabled trauma survivor, or as just plain ol’ me, I am still God’s beloved child and I do not need to – cannot even – attempt to earn that status any more. After all, Jesus Christ purchased that status for me on the cross.

I am linking this post up with Inspire Me Monday.

No Unwholesome Talk

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

I had a very bad anger outburst this afternoon. For a very minor reason, I yelled at and insulted a staff member quite majorly. I told her to leave, which she did, but not just because I told her to. In fact, I’d caused her to get a little teary.

Obviously, I regret my outburst, though initially I didn’t fully see that it was all my responsibility. I mean, I did feel as though this staff member had triggered me. I see now that my anger was extreme and way out of proportion to the situation.

Then, in a collection of journaling prompts, I was pointed to this Bible verse. I didn’t know what it said, so went and looked it up because I find that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians usually appeals to me. There it was. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. Wow!

This does not refer just to no swear words. If it had, I could’ve said I don’t use those. Instead, looking at the second part of the verse, we’re supposed to only use words that build others up. In other words, calling someone names is the exact opposite of what Paul asks us to do here.

I did eventually apologize. Initially, this was a kind of half-hearted apology. Not because I had meant my insult, but because I struggle to prevent this happening again and because, at the time, I didn’t fully see that I alone was responsible for my behavior. I see now. I am praying that, with God’s help, I will learn better anger management strategies.

God, I want to confess that I am a very sinful person. You know this already, but I need to realize that my behavior is wrong. I had a horrible anger outburst and I didn’t even fully acknowledge that it was my fault. Please help me take responsibility for my anger. Please also help me come to You in future situations where I get triggered rather than react in anger. I pray for forgiveness and hope that You will still accept me even though I am not living up to even human expectations, let alone Yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Accepting My Ordinary Identity in Christ #Write28Days

Welcome to day two in #Write28Days. Today’s optional prompt is “Ordinary”. Immediately, I thought: what a dull prompt! I don’t want to be ordinary. I don’t even want to write about it!

Like I said yesterday, I am an Enneagram type Four. One of the descriptors for type Fours is “The Individualist”. Another, less kind one, is “Specials”. As these denominators say, we don’t want to be boring, like everyone else, ordinary.

When I had just been admitted to the psychiatric hospital in 2007, my parents came to talk to my doctor. They said that, in order to avoid accepting the fact that I am blind, I sought out to be different in every other way possible. For example, as a teen I thought I was a lesbian. I had just gotten acquainted with my now husband at the time that my parents used this against me, but we were by no means dating yet. Besides, in my mental state at the time, my sexual orientation was about the last thing on my mind. That being said, at the core, my parents were probably right: I saw myself as a complicated, unique, special person. Extraordinary.

Now we’re nearly fifteen years on. In a way, I still see myself as different from “ordinary” people in many ways. For instance, I am multiply-disabled, including blind and autistic. I am a trauma survivor and identify as a plural system (dissociative identity disorder). I, however, also now see that I am loved by God and by others as I am. And that is what matters most: my ordinary identity in Christ.

I still sometimes focus on the aspects of my identity that make me different from most other human beings. That’s okay though, as long as my “otherness” doesn’t become all-encompassing. Ultimately, my main identity is as a person loved by God.

Joy Comes in the Morning?

Today’s verse of the day in the YouVersion Bible app really speaks to me in a kind of interesting way. It reads: “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5 NIV) I particularly loved this verse because certain translations use “joy” instead of “rejoicing”.

Obviously, it is easy for me as a Christian to draw the comparison between the short-lived anger mentioned here and our life on Earth, and the rejoicing to our eternal life in Christ. After all, we all know our life on Earth is temporary. No-one, until the time of Jesus’ return, will live forever.

God also doesn’t promise us a hardship-free life. No, not even if we are as faithful as we can be. Ultimately, suffering is part of our life on Earth. God never promised us a rose garden, so to speak. That is, not yet. However, He does promise us that, ultimately, in Jesus Christ, we will have eternal life.

In addition, however, the verse shows us that God is quick to forgive us. In the story accompanying this verse on YouVersion, the pastor compared God’s attitude towards us to her own attitude towards her children: when they misbehave, she may get angry, but nothing can prevent her from loving her children exactly as they are. This is so touching! Similarly, God may show anger towards us in a moment, but His love will always shine through.

Lastly, the last part of the verse may also refer to Jesus’ resurrection. For me, this is hard to grasp, as this psalm was written by David, centuries before Jesus’ time on Earth. However, believing that all of Scripture is God-breathed, it is very possible that David was, at least on some subconscious level, aware of what would be coming.

During the night of Jesus’ crucifixion, there was intense weeping, but in the morning three days later, Mary shouted with joy when she met Jesus again.

When originally reading this verse on its own, I was like, I can see where this is coming from, but this is an Old Testament passage, so…? Now that I’ve dug a little deeper into its meaning and listened to the YouVersion story, my takeway is not just that life may be hard, but that ultimately everything will be okay. It is also that God’s love is, will always be and has always been, even in the time of David, far greater than His anger.

Linking up with Sunday Scripture Blessings.

Abstinence

I bought yet another collection of journaling prompts, this one faith-based. It is called Journal-a-Day the Titus 2 Way and is about growing in Godly womanhood. Not all prompts apply to me. For instance, the ones that center on life as a wife or mother, for the most part, don’t. I mean, of course I am married, but I don’t live with my husband. However, Paul also instructs Titus to teach the women to stay away from addictive substances or practices. As such, one of the prompts in the book is a one-word prompt: sober.

I don’t drink alcohol. In this sense, the prompt does not apply to me either. However, sobriety can refer to other addictions too. In Overeaters Anonymous, it is called abstinence.

I have never liked abstinence-based eating disorder recovery programs like OA. I like to blame the fact that I struggle not just with overeating, but with purging and occasional restricting too. The real reason is though that I don’t want to give up foods I’m addicted to altogether. And, taking Paul’s letter to Titus literally, I don’t have to. After all, the Bible verse states: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” (Titus 2:3 NIV)

For this reason, I wonder, is it really God’s plan, as OA seems to think, that we abstain from addictive foods altogether? Doesn’t Paul write “much wine” for a reason?

I have a problem with the idea that, if you just admit that you’re powerless over your substance, you will – no, should – become sober through submitting to God. Not with the submitting to God part, but with the requirement of complete sobriety, which is human-made. Jesus as far as I’m concerned didn’t abstain completely from alcohol and if refined sugar had existed in His time, He’d probably consumed it too. Shouldn’t the goal be self-control instead?

I pray that God provides me with direction as I navigate my journey towards recovery from disordered eating. I pray that He will help me submit to His will, whatever this may be. Yes, even if this is complete abstinence from sugar, snacks inbetween meals and all other things OA says we need to abstain from. Amen!

I’m linking up with Let’s Have Coffee.

Generosity

Today’s prompt for #JusJoJan is “Generosity”. I don’t tend to think of myself as a particularly generous person. That would not only be arrogant, but it would be incorrect as well. Particularly as a child, I liked receiving more than I liked giving. I was a very jealous child, often envying my sister for what she got and I didn’t.

I remember one day, when my sister and her friends had been participating in the four-day walking event in my city. It was the last day of the event and I was allowed to walk with them for this occasion. At the finish line, a parent of one of my sister’s friends had lots of candy for my sister and her friends, but he had none for me. I had a full-on tantrum in the car home even though my sister and her friends ended up giving me more candy than they kept for themselves. It caused the oldest friend, a girl my age, to cry. I was ten at the time, so far too old for toddler tantrums like this. I feel intense shame about this incident as I look back, seeing that I should have known it wasn’t fair of me to expect candy since I hadn’t walked the entire event. Much less should I have tantrummed about it in the car.

Now that I’m an adult, I am a little less worried about material goods and a lot less jealous of others, but it still doesn’t come natural to me to give material things away. Thankfully, generosity comes in different ways and I do love expressing it in other ways. I love to create my own gifts for people. Yes, of course they are material too, but that feels different.

Still, I am often reminded of the Sesame Street episode in which Bert and Ernie have a cake and Ernie gives Bert the smaller slice. Bert teaches him that he’s supposed to offer Bert the larger slice first. Then Ernie asks: “So what would you do if you were to offer me the cake?” Then he replied he’d take the smaller slice and offer Ernie the larger slice. “But you have the smaller slice now, like you wanted!” Ernie objects. This is child logic and it is incorrect. It is not how we’re supposed to be generous. We are supposed to love others like ourselves. Others before ourselves, even.

I pray God leads me to a life of greater generosity. I know I am supposed to love others as myself and that includes giving generously of myself to others. Like I said yesterday, when I trust that God will provide for my needs, He will. As a follower of Christ, I have no need to worry. In the end, everything will work out okay.

Grateful for a Life of Abundance

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

The above Bible verse was the verse of the day for today on YouVersion. It immediately spoke to me. Today also, the prompt word for #JusJoJan is “Abundance”.

a thing I realized when I read up on abundance, was how fortunate I am. I don’t have to worry about not having something to eat tomorrow. I don’t have to worry about not having clothes on my back. I have a roof over my head – two, in fact, in a way, in that I have both my room in the care facility and my and my husband’s house. Though I do worry slightly about my financial security now that it’s time for my new long-term care copay to be determined, I really don’t have to worry. I have enough money to afford my necessities and most non-necessities I want too. Even if (most likely) I do get a higher copay, I still don’t have to worry about going into debt. All this means I am far more well off than the vast majority of people.

I also live a life of abundance because I am in reasonably good health both physically and mentally. Though I endured trauma in both childhood and my adult life, I am currently safe – even though PTSD sometimes tells me otherwise. I know there are a lot of people who feel happier or more stable mentally than me, but I have been in psychiatric hospitals long enough to know there are also many people who are a lot sicker than me.

I know that comparisons don’t always work. Telling yourself others have it worse isn’t a magical cure for misery or depression. However, gratitude definitely helps cultivate happiness.

I have an abundance of reasons to be grateful. Last Saturday, I listed ten gratefuls for the past 24 hours alone. Today, I could list a number of things too. I am grateful for my favorite Christmas cookies, called cinnamon stars. I finished the first packet out of four I got for Christmas. I am grateful for Senseo coffee. I am grateful the web store accepted my returned Fitbit charger (it wasn’t working). I am grateful elementary and secondary schools are reopening next week. Although I don’t have kids, this does feel like a small glimmer of hope for a way out of lockdown.

I trust that I will be able to live a life of abundance in spite of the hardships I may endure. I cannot do it alone, but through the grace of God in Jesus Christ, I will get there. He does not always give me what I want. I mean, I may actually have to pay a much higher long-term care copay than I expect now (I won’t find out until the 12th or so). Then again, He will take care of me as long as I put my trust in Him. Isn’t that awesome?

Linking up with InstaEncouragements.

Am I Good Enough for Jesus?

It’s the day after Christmas. Boxing day in the UK. Second Christmas in the Netherlands. I spent Christmas with my in-laws having a good time, then went to my and my husband’s house in Lobith. On our way from my in-laws to our house, my husband and I talked about faith. I noticed while talking with him that I’m still struggling with my faith. It isn’t so much that I don’t believe in God or that I, personally, don’t believe Jesus is my savior, but how can I be sure I’m saved if we’re saved by grace alone? How can anyone be sure?

Today, I decided to look up some Christian journaling prompts to get me started on my reflections on faith. The first one I came across asked us to write about our relationship with God. Is He a friend, a coach, a father or perhaps merely an acquaintance? I’d say, He’s a Father, but I’m not sure he’s the loving, caring father most children hopefully have.

It doesn’t help that I didn’t really grow up in a nurturing earthly family. I have hardly known love. Of course, I know rationally that my husband loves me, but when it comes to faith, I still sometimes believe that if he truly knew me, he’d believe I’d go to hell.

And God truly knows me. He knows I bought The Artist’s Way, which turns out to be pretty New Age’ish. He knows I used a censored swear word this afternoon, which no-one else knows because no-one was around. He knows I worried last Friday about the holiday money I usually get from my parents each year. God knows my heart, mind and soul. And I’m pretty sure that, like my earthly father, He’s going to judge me pretty harshly for it. And, whereas my earthly father could give me a beating and send me to my room for an hour or two, God could send me to hell for all of eternity.

And of course I do believe in Jesus. I admit I need him more than I need anything. But if faith doesn’t change me – and I’ve believed in Jesus for a year now -, isn’t it completely invalid? I do see a change in myself over the past year, but it’s so small I’m not sure it’s enough. Am I good enough for Jesus yet? I pray that I will be.

God, please show me Your will and help me be obedient to it. Help me let go of those things which are undesirable in Your view and to embrace those things that are desirable. Please help me move closer to You. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen.

I Am Not a Calculation Mistake

Like I mentioned last week, I have been doing a Bible study plan on YouVersion called Hope Heals in the Midst of Suffering. I finished it yesterday and it was awesome. It was written by Katherine, a woman who survived a severe stroke shortly after becoming a mother, as well as her husband.

The plan follows Joseph’s story, the part of Genesis I had gotten stuck on in my Bible in a Year plan. I was glad to read it now.

At one point, Katherine shares that, about a year after her stroke, she is still unable to perform many basic functions. She is still in adult diapers, unable to eat, unable to even lift up her head. Her family is having Thanksgiving dinner with her son, then a toddler. As the family are playing with her son, she wonders if there was a mistake. Should she have died from her stroke?

It was at this point that a lightbulb went off in my head. I, too, have often wondered whether my life is a mistake. A calculation mistake, to be exact.

You see, I was born over three months premature. Officially, I was born at 26 weeks 4 days gestation. However, it is quite probable given the circumstances of my conception that my mother really wasn’t yet 26 weeks along. At the time, 26 weeks gestation was the cutoff for active, life-saving treatment in the NICU.

My parents weren’t even sure I should be treated actively. At one point, when I’d suffered a brain bleed, my father asked the neonatologist what he was doing with regards to my treatment. “We’re just keeping her alive,” he said. He (or his nurse) added that my father shouldn’t interfere in my treatment or he’d lose custody of me.

In 2004, when I was eighteen, this same doctor was quoted in a newspaper as saying that he sometimes meets preemies he’s kept alive back in his early days as a doctor, about whom he wonders: “What have we done?!” I at the time tried to reassure myself that he wouldn’t have meant me. Or would he? I, after all, am multiply-disabled and in long-term care.

The devotional in the Bible plan I was reading continued. Katherine at this point heard God clearly speak: “I am God. I do not make mistakes.”

This was what I needed to hear! I have tried to find my neonatologist on Google several times since that newspaper article. However, I don’t need his opinion. I have talked to my father about his views on my quality of life several times, but it hasn’t helped. I don’t need my father’s opinion either. God chose for me to be kept alive and that’s what matters.

Grace and Truth

Also joining Friendship Friday this week.

No Shame in Hope

I have been wanting to share more faith-based posts for a while, but didn’t quite know where to start. Today, I read the second weekly meditation in Hearing God Speak, an enneagram-based book of devotionals by Eve Annunziato. It is a meditation on suffering and the everlasting presence of God through it all.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)

I have known this passage for several years, even before I became a Christian. I have probably written about it before. After all, the fact that suffering produces perseverance, really resonates with me. As Annunziato points out, enneagram type fours like me feel most alive when we dwell on our feelings of pain and suffering.

As such, Annunziato challenges us to move towards praising God and seeing His presence in a new way. As such, the line about character and hope is more important to us Fours than the line about suffering producing perseverance.

I don’t think I’ve ever even seen Romans 5:5 and that verse in particular speaks to me now. I, after all, often fear joy and, by extension, hope. I am not yet sure what it is about joy I fear, but it might be a feeling of being less alive if I’m not suffering.

God’s love, however, has been poured out into my heart through the Holy Spirit. This is something to rejoice over, not to be ashamed of.

Indeed, it is interesting that Paul uses the word “shame” in this verse. I had no idea it is this emotion I often feel when I’m hopeful or optimistic, but it is.

I mean, even when I’m doing pretty well, I still say I’m doing “okay”. I remember a fellow patient in the mental hospital did the same and he did this so the staff wouldn’t think he was well enough to be discharged. I didn’t consciously do this, but on a subconscious level, I probably did. And still do, despite the fact that there’s no reason I’ll ever be kicked out of long-term care.

Honestly, there is nothing wrong with feeling hopeful, joyful and optimistic. In fact, it is what God is wanting for us in His honor. For this reason, Annunziato encourages us to praise Him even in the midst of our suffering! Because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope is nothing to be ashamed of, because through the Holy Spirit, God’s love has been poured out over us.

Linking up with Scripture Blessing, Let’s Have Coffee and Recharge Wednesday.