I am a 7 according to the Enneagram Personality Test. That means that I am a generally positive person. I am not a huge complainer and I like to focus on the positive. What do I do with all the negative that I’m bound to come across in this world? Well I stuff it to the back of my mind, shove it down, and don’t think about it of course! This may not be the best way to process life but it’s my way and I’m pretty okay with it. Honestly, having the dear people behind the Enneagram explain to me why I am the way that I am has raised my self-awareness. Now I understand why I have pity parties over seemingly small things like broken washing machines. Now I understand why I cry, literally cry like a child, when my fan breaks or the internet isn’t working or I don’t get the popsicle I want. (The last thing is a bit of an exaggeration. I actually handled it quite well today when the Skim Ice man was out of strawberry.)
All of that negative junk that I don’t want to think about or dwell on gets stuffed down somewhere and eventually, after days or weeks of stuffing, that somewhere-space gets too full and all of that negative junk comes bursting out – like a can of worms. Then I start crying and whining about stuff that happened days ago that I never fully grieved or handled and I have everything I need to throw myself a pity party. Today that negative junk included the following: losing all of my music (and Harry Potter audio books!! which, let’s be honest, is the most devastating loss) in laptop transfer, not being able to use Spotify in the Dominican Republic, my fan breaking, being homesick, and not being able to use the washing machine this afternoon due to the power being out.
Honestly, all of those things are so little and insignificant – except the loss of the Harry Potter audio books because seriously, those things get me through loneliness, noisy neighbors, solo car rides, hard flights away from people I love, and they’re just darn enjoyable. But also seriously, I still have the audio books (and all of my music) on my actual iPod so really there’s no need to whine. Which brings me back to the point I was making about all of these things, when looked at separately, being insignificant and certainly nothing for a grown woman to cry about. However, just like those compacted worms in a can, when all of those small and easy to swallow things build up on each other and explode, they seem like a lot.
I have a catch phrase I coined in college. It’s a little two word phrase one can whip out when they are feeling lucky or blessed or like a happy coincidence just benefited them. It’s a Christian catch phrase, if catch phrases had souls to dedicate to the Lord, and it goes like this – God’s sov. The “sov” stands for sovereignty, obv (obviously). God’s sovereignty is one of my most favorite things about Him because it doesn’t make any sense to me and it’s bigger than me and it’s good for me. God’s sovereignty (or “sov”) means that He always knows what’s going on and that He always has a plan. And that plan is good! In Jeremiah 29:11 God tells the exiles in Babylon, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper and not to harm you. Plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Today it was in God’s sov that I just happened to be reading Refuse to Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery by Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim. And it was in God’s sovereignty that I had just finished a chapter written by Kim about her fears and anxieties about going on a short-term mission trip to Cambodia to see first hand what she had been learning about modern-day slavery. In this chapter she references 2 Corinthians 12, when Paul boasts of his sufferings. (“…on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses” – 2 Corinthians 12:5) Kim goes on (as Paul went on) to reference how Paul asked the Lord to take away his suffering.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Now it may seem a little ridiculous to compare broken fans and lost audio books to flying around the world to work alongside slave abolitionists and whatever spiritual thorn Paul had in his side, but I think it was that contrast that made me realize just how ridiculous I was being. How can I whine and mope about having to wash my clothes by hand on this one day when the majority of people I know and love and work and worship alongside in this city and in my neighborhood wash their clothes by hand every single day? How can I whine and complain about my fan breaking when literally all I had to do was walk out to the living room and get another fan? If God can be Paul’s strength in his weaknesses, enabling him to point thousands of people to Christ and to encourage and admonish so many churches throughout the centuries and if God can be Kim’s strength to get on a plane and fly to Cambodia, leaving behind her family and comfortable life in order to bring to light the injustices of this world, then isn’t His strength sufficient enough for my piddly little problems?
The answer is, Yes. And more importantly, there are bigger issues for me to spend my time and energy whining about than my broken fan. I pray that when my somewhere-space gets too full of negative thoughts and instances, that what comes exploding out is an overflow of God’s heart. Somewhere deep down inside of that somewhere-space is a burden for the homeless and hungry. Somewhere shoved back behind missing fast food restaurants and microwaves is a heart for the women at my church who feel they have no other choice but to sell their bodies in order to feed their children. Somewhere squeezed in between the car I want but can’t afford and the lack of a Hobby Lobby is a desire for each of my students to know the joy and peace that comes from knowing a God who loves them.
There is a responsibility that comes from being (at times painfully) self-aware. A responsibility to do something to be better. I’ve known for a while now that I’m a 7 on the Enneagram scale and I think that now is the time to start addressing the piddly little problems in the moment, leaving even those silly things at Christ’s feet, and freeing up the somewhere-space in my heart and mind to set my mind on things above. To free up the energy and words to advocate for the broken and to remind myself of the power of the gospel.
What things are consuming your heart and mind that just aren’t that important?