Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram

I turn 44 this year, and, despite my best efforts, I’m still a mystery to myself in many ways.  A younger Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagramversion of me imagined that I’d hit some milestone of adulthood and be settled about all that. False.

The longer I live, the farther into my marriage I reach, the deeper into myself I’m taken by my role as father, the more intently I pursue a truer relationship with God—through all of this I keep discovering that I don’t know myself as well as I’d like. Frustrating.

Cue the Enneagram. Over the last several years it’s been immensely helpful as a tool for naming the persistent motivations and default reactions that I experience but struggle to quantify, much less do anything redemptive about. (If you feel lost in the Enneagram conversation, read Allie Brown’s  brilliantly clear introduction here). For instance: why do I wake at 4am worrying about a book manuscript that isn’t due for years – why the tight stomach now of all times? Why do I buy 10 books about any new thing I’d like to engage – why is intellectual understanding my default for the unknown? Why do I always migrate to the perimeter of social gatherings – not at all unhappy, but content and comfortable along the edge? And why do I retreat to my “mind castle” when things go wonky in relationships? On and on I could go. My mysterious self.

Before my introduction to the Enneagram, I never had a useful personality tool for processing these questions, much less move toward wholeness in Christ. I found other personality tools entirely unsatisfying. They closed me down rather than opened me up; making me feel like a smaller, shrunk, oversimplified version of me. The Enneagram, however, helped me see how my deep motivations and default reactions come together within a particular kind of complex person. Me.

But where do I go from here? Even after reading several books about it (yes, my approach) and using it in relationships with close friends, my nagging question concerned life with Christ. How do I apply Enneagram wisdom for life with God? How could knowing my number (5 with a 4 wing) help me partner with the Holy Spirit as I seek to live into my true, Christ-like self? More specifically still, what spiritual practices are best suited for my unique wiring as a 5? How can I live toward integration as a whole, complex, often mysterious self with the help of Enneagram wisdom? Where do I go from here?

So I was thrilled to discover IVP’s most recent book on the Enneagram, Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram: A Handbook for Harmony and Transformation, coauthored by Adele and Dough Calhoun and Clare and Scott Loughrige.

The book is structured around an approach to the Enneagram called the “Harmony Enneagram.” In this model, the authors link Enneagram numbers together in a novel, triangular way  to show how a person draws upon their gut, head, and heart intelligences. Continue reading

Advertisements

God in Himself: An Interview with Steven Duby

God in Himself.DubySteve Duby is a contributor to this blog and recently published his second book, God in Himself: Scripture, Metaphysics, and the Task of Christian Theology (IVPAcademic, 2019). I was asked several months ago to endorse the book, and without a moment’s hesitation I agreed. But, alas, the manuscript languished in my inbox until the semester wrapped up and I could clear some time.

Having now read it, and happily written my endorsement, I struggle to express the impression the book made upon me. It is stunning. Here is what I wrote.

This rich and rewarding study demonstrates how the contemplation of God himself, theologia, is not some idle speculation—a distraction from the Christian life or descent into abstraction—but is in fact a spiritual exercise that fuels our communion with God and affirms the shocking nearness of God to us in Jesus Christ. God in Himself is a courageously scriptural work of theology, for Steve Duby dares to let Scripture lead where some have supposed that only metaphysics will take us: to gaze upon the resplendently complete life of the triune God.

God in Himself is at once beautiful and rigorous (in the best sense). Beautiful in the sense that Steve is a great writer. His prose carries you along as the argument unfolds through his intuitive structure and organization. It is rigorous in the sense that Steve fulfills the very difficult task of doing Christian theology in the classic tradition. By “classic tradition” I mean this: Steve is attentive to the life of faith, centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ, trained on Scripture, and he situates his theological work squarely within the Great Tradition of orthodox Christian reflection about the life of God. Beautiful and rigorous.

Let me say one last thing before I interview Steve. God in Himself is dedicated to a region of Christian theology we have far too little being written about today: God. Yes, I mean that. I don’t believe enough theology trains itself specifically on God. Continue reading

The Enneagram for Relationships

Susanne Stabile’s The Path Between Us is a wonderfully readable application of Path Between UsEnneagram wisdom for relationships. Taking the reader gently by the hand, she leads from one Enneagram type to the next, showing how each particular way of being in the world shapes relationship.

The Enneagram teaches us that there are nine different ways of experiencing the world and nine different ways of answering these basic questions about life: Who am I? Why am I here? and Why do I do the things I do? How we build and maintain relationships varies significantly from one number to another. Looking through the lens of the Enneagram makes it possible to better understand ourselves and others, increase our acceptance and compassion, and navigate the paths between us.

This book will help in understanding how each of the nine Enneagram numbers sees the world, how they make sense of what they see, how they decide what to do, and how all of that affects how they relate to others (4).

This is Stabile’s second book on the Enneagram with InterVarsity Press. The Road Back to You, coauthored with Ian Morgan Cron, is more like a broad entryway into the Enneagram, while the The Path Between Us is tighter, more condensed, more focused on relationships. Her aim is less grasping the Enneagram as a whole and discovering your type, than it is applying Enneagram wisdom specifically to relationships.

Using myself (Kent) as an example, I’ll overview the chapter on my Enneagram type so you can see how the book operates. I’ve learned over the years that I identify most readily with Type 5 (what Stabile calls the Investigator). In day to day life, my 4 wing expresses itself in terms of creativity, a love for beauty, and the desire for authentic, deep relationships, though the loyalty dimension of my 6 wing is ever-present (if you know me, then you’re saying to yourself, “Ah, yes. That makes total sense!”).

The chapter devoted to Fives is aptly titled, “My fences have gates.” Continue reading

Accidental Preacher

I took Will Willimon’s introduction to ordained ministry class in my first semester of divinity school. Pastoral ministry was not on my radar; and I’d never heard talk of ordination until student orientation, when I discovered nearly everyone was seeking ordination but me. Will wrote a chapter for Kent’s book Sanctified by Grace, which I copyedited. So, I signed up for his class because I thought, “If Kent likes him enough to invite him to write for his book, he ought to be pretty good.” Will did not persuade me into pastoral ministry. In fact, he wound up being the professor who signed off on me switching from a Master of Divinity to a Master of Theological studies, as I flailed about unsure of what God was calling me to do. So, in some sense, I suppose you could call me an accidental preacher, which is also the title of Will’s memoir. We are kindred spirits in that regard.

Will’s memoir is filled with honesty, joy, humor, and rich theological and pastoral insight. For those who have listened to Will for any length of time, his sarcasm is predictable and his grace is abundant. Most of all, this memoir is a testimony to the God who refuses to stay an arm’s length from any part of the world God so loves.

Continue reading

Christ the Preacher of Virtues?

Christ didn’t speak Spanish but, if he did, the first word of his sermon on the mount might have been bienaventurado. What English speakers often hear as “blessed,” Spanish speakers hear as a word made up of two words: “good” and “adventure.” A friend who asked her native Spanish-speaking friend shared this bit of information with me. Suddenly, Christ’s beatitudes took on a different shape. It isn’t that persecution or poverty of spirit (or just poverty in Luke’s gospel) are signs of “blessedness” or things to be happy about. They are invitations to take God’s hand, to join in on a good journey toward human flourishing. “On a good journey are the poor in spirit, for God is drawing them into the kingdom of heaven.”51igpt44dhl

In the same vein, Jonathan T. Pennington’s book The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing sketches an interpretation of Christ’s lengthiest sermon utilizing the language of virtue theory. Pennington gently guides the reader into this interpretation by introducing the sermon’s reception history before making the case that what Jesus is providing is “a Christocentric, flourishing-oriented, kingdom-awaiting, eschatological wisdom exhortation.”

Continue reading

The “Untheological” Preacher

screen-shot-2018-02-26-at-12-18-23-pmIt’s not uncommon to hear preachers of a certain theological stripe say from the pulpit something like, “What I’m saying isn’t theological, it’s just biblical.” The sentiment is understandable even if the statement isn’t tenable. In many folks’ minds—both clergy and lay people—theology is a distraction from the real content of the Bible, from the real purpose of worship, or from the real goal of discipleship. 

Some of this sentiment can be chalked up to bad theology, written densely and in specialist language to no clear end. We might also wonder how the movement of theologians from the church to the offices of universities may have precipitated a sense of distance between theology and the church. Further still, theological debates often require an acceptance of nuance that is less than preferable when dealing with matters of salvation—in other words, people might chafe at theology because they feel it leads them to wonder if they can know anything for sure about God, life, or eternity. 

While I can charitably acknowledge these criticisms and concerns about theology, I think they reveal a narrow assumption about how theology works within the church. It seems that most people who think theology is more harmful than helpful assume theology works mostly to clarify (or confuse) matters of Christian belief that have little bearing on Christian life. If this assessment is on point, then it would take a substantial effort to redeem theology in the hearts and minds of everyday church folk, let alone the clergy who have taught them to think this way about theology. If that’s all it is, why do we need it at all? Continue reading