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.

Misunderstood

I am currently reading Forty Days on Being a Four, a book of reflections by Christine Yi Suh, who identifies as an enneagram type Four. In the day one reflection, she discusses the story in Luke 7:36-50 in which an unnamed, sinful woman enters the house in which Jesus is eating with a Pharisee. The woman’s dramatic display of emotion makes Christine Yi Suh think she’s a Four. Indeed, she is greatly misunderstood by the Pharisees, who see just her sinful lifestyle and don’t understand that she is in fact displaying her faith, love and devotion towards Jesus.

The reflection ends with the question in which ways I, being a Four, have been misunderstood. Well, for one thing, I’m often not even seen as a Four. Others would most likely describe me as a Five, because I’m such a thinker.

In fact, one of the main ways in which I feel misunderstood, is that my intellect is overrated and my emotional life underrated. As a child, I was described as self-centered, selfish even. I often got the feeling that I was seen as unfeeling. I am not and never was unemotional at all.

Indeed, I do feel that the depth of my emotional life is often misunderstood. I used to joke that I should give my parents the table of contents of the DSM-IV (we were still in IV era at the time), so that they could pick a random disorder to label me with when I wasn’t being my desirable, intellectual self. I mean, they often labeled me as dramatic, psychotic even. I wasn’t.

People who really know me, know that deep down, I’m definitely sensitive. I may not show it on the outside as much as the unnamed woman in the story does.

Another way in which I am often misunderstood, is in terms of my behavior. Too often, my challenging behavior has been seen as a willful act of defiance. In this sense, I do relate to the woman in the story, who lived a sinful lifestyle up till the point she met Jesus. Like Jesus saw beyond her acts, so He hopefully sees beyond mine. Like this woman was saved by her faith, so hopefully am I.

I also see that other people who know me, look beyond my distant, intellectual façade and also beyond my dramatic emotionality. They don’t see my intellectual and distant appearance as a sign of lack of emotion. They also don’t see my dramatic displays of emotion as mere manipulativeness, like my family used to. They, in fact, see me as a sensitive but also caring woman.

Like the woman in the story, I am sinful. I mean, my challenging behavior was there when I was a child and in some ways still is there. However, I recognize that I am not just my behavior. Like Bobby Schuller says, I am not what I have, I am not what I do, I am not what people say about me. I am the beloved of God.

Enneagram Type Four: The Abandoned Inner Child

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading more about the enneagram. Since I figured I’m probably a type Four, I read up on that type first in Helen Palmer’s book The Enneagram.

Let me say up front that Palmer doesn’t show pity for type Fours at all. We aren’t portrayed as the special snowflakes we often see ourselves as. That hurt, but in a good way.

First, Palmer describes the typical dilemma Fours face within themselves. Many remember abandonment or loss in childhood and are constantly focusing on regaining that which was lost. As a result, they constantly find themselves second-guessing themselves.

All Fours are prone to depression, though they may handle it in various ways. For example, some accept it fatalistically and succumb to despair. Others cope by constantly being on the move. That would be me, quite literally. Still others find a type of beauty in their sadness and convert it to melancholy.

When describing the typical Four’s family history, Palmer showed a bit more compassion towards us, but it was mostly through the quotes from type Four interviewees. One of them explained that she was an incubator baby and, while she was not literally abandoned, she did feel that way. Boom, that hit. I was an incubator baby too. Even though I was never literally abandoned – my parents aren’t divorced and I lived with them till age nineteen -, I often felt like I was only conditionally loved.

When I read up on core beliefs and schemas when I did schema-focused therapy back in 2013, I most clearly related to the abandonment/instability schema. I still do. I rarely felt safe with my parents and, after leaving the house at age nineteen, I moved from one temporary placement to another until I moved into long-term care in 2019.

Indeed, like the typical enneagram Four, I keep life at an arm’s length distance. I am always on the lookout for something that’s unavailable. Not really in relationships – I have been happily married since 2011 -, but in all other areas of life, certainly. I find myself constantly looking at another place to live, even though the staff and manager of my care facility have reassured me that I can stay here for as long as I want to. I think a core misconception I at least hold is that I can find happiness by chasing what’s unavailable. That’s not true, of course, but my abandoned inner child constantly looks to be rescued in all the wrong ways.

In the book The Enneagram Type 4, the author asks us how we’ve tried to rescue ourselves and how successful we’ve been. The underlying message is that we can’t and don’t need to rescue ourselves, since God is in control. God, will you please rescue me?

Joining in with the Hearth and Soul link party.

Starting to Explore the Enneagram

A few days ago, I read on another blogger’s post about the enneagram and suddenly got interested in exploring it. At first, I thought it may be against Christian values, so I shouldn’t be exploring it if I’m serious about being a Christian. Then I checked out some books on it anyway and discovered that several actually look at the enneagram from a traditional Christian perspective.

I first got Helen Palmer’s book The Enneagram, which explained the basics of how the enneagram works. I honestly had no idea at first. I mean, I saw it as just another personality typology just like the MBTI and had little idea that the points are actually connected in several mathematical ways.

I took an enneagram test and it showed I’m a Four with a strong Five wing. I’m still undecided whether that’s correct or I’m really a Five with a strong Four wing. After all, I really do feel deeply (which is consistent with type Four), but I don’t easily verbalize my emotions.

I got a book off Bookshare called The Enneagram Type 4 by Beth McCord. This book is rooted in the Christian faith and the enneagram alike. The first chapter explores faith and the enneagram from a type Four perspective. It starts out by giving an overview of the type.

In the first part, Fours are described as having a deep and rich emotional life. My gut response was: that may be me, but is it truly me or is it what I want to be? Then the explanation goes on to talk about how Fours see themselves as somehow apart from the rest of humanity. They often feel that they’re missing something that everyone else has. Wowah, that’s so me! When I read on, I got a flashback of my father telling my psychiatrist shortly after my admission to the psych hospital, that I just want to be different. Maybe he’s right in some way.

Fours also long for the ideal life and are constantly seeking to change their circumstances and themselves to try to find that “missing piece”. Wow. I read somewhere that most Fours keep the door even in a committed relationship ajar, always keeping the possibility open that their truer love will come by at some point. I don’t do this with my marriage, but I certainly do this with my living situation.

At the end of the chapter, there are some questions for reflection. One of them is about rescuing yourself or bringing about change on your own. How have you attempted to rescue yourself?

Well, for me, I’ve constantly been on the lookout for a better living situation. Even just yesterday, for no apparent reason, I started looking at another care agency’s website to see if I might fit better into one of their homes.

I feel constantly insecure because of my childhood trauma. Then again, maybe I’m also hopelessly looking for an ideal that doesn’t exist.

A thought that has been on my mind for a while now, is what one of my fellow patients at the locked unit told me back in 2007: I need to work on me, not on circumstances. This ran totally counter to my admission’s objective, which was to find a suitable living facility for me. However, now, over thirteen years later, it’s truer than ever. I am in the best possible living situation already and there’s no perfect place. Besides, I always take me to whatever place I go.

The last question for reflection is how realizing you belong to Christ helps you? It is still hard for me to truly surrender to belonging in Christ, so I’m not 100% sure how to respond. However, when I can get myself to understand that I truly am God’s beloved child and belong to Christ, it will radically transform my life. I no longer need to be on the lookout for the perfect life, since I’m made whole through Jesus.