It's a sign of the devil, she told me. I nodded solemnly. We were standing outside an old building with graffiti on the side. I didn't really know why a star inside a circle was the sign of the devil, but my 10-year-old self accepted it as true.
It's so easy to hear something, especially from an authoritative-seeming source and trust it without asking whether it's really true. I think of all the Christians who boycotted Harry Potter when it first came out, and maybe there are still those who believe it is evil, though I found the story largely redemptive. That's not to say we shouldn't approach new ideas (especially things kids will consume) with a discerning heart and mind. It's important to be intentional and informed about what we choose to let influence our ideas. But the problem is, it can be easier to just let that 10-year-old self dictate what we believe.
All this preamble to introduce something that may be unfamiliar to many, though I think it may have been gaining popularity in recent years: the Enneagram. Enneagram is a personality typing system with spiritual roots. It's a model for understanding what drives people, and a way of orienting oneself toward growth.
I think this topic also opens up a valuable conversation, that is, what should our approach be to things whose roots are questionable? As an oral tradition, the beginnings of the Enneagram are unclear, but most sources point to origins in the teachings of the Desert Fathers (Christian), but also more mystical Buddhist and Muslim beliefs. Does that mean automatic grounds for dismissal? To what extent does this principle apply? As I said before, our inner 10-year-olds are quick to discount anything that seems unfamiliar. But what about, for example, the Easter bunny? Many are quick to point out that bunnies are pagan fertility symbols. We can choose to reject it outright, dismiss it for ourselves but allow others to use it, or look for the deeper redemptive themes (like seeing bunnies as a symbol of new life instead). Personally, I would choose to look at the results—or to use Biblical terms—the fruit.
Going back to the Enneagram, it's a tool that I personally have found to be transformative. If you talk to me for long enough, chances are I'll probably refer to it because it has produced significant fruit in my life through what I believe is the leading of the Holy Spirit. I've always been interested in temperament and personality tests, but if you're someone who dismisses such things due to lack of scientific evidence the Enneagram may not be for you. While it isn’t magic, its truths are more spiritual and intuitive rather than objective and scientific.
The Enneagram comprises nine different types, each with unique characteristics, challenges, and most importantly; growth paths. Rather than oversimplifying the human consciousness, the Enneagram seems to get more complex as you look at how different types interact and are influenced by each other. The way I best heard it described was by Ian Crohn, co-author of The Road Back to You, which introduces the Enneagram from a Christian perspective: he compares it to colors. For example, there's dark green, sea green, the color of grass, and the green in hazel eyes, but we could still call all of these green. Humans are even more complex, but, according to the Enneagram, there are certain basic motivations that drive us. When we can identify these motivations, we can understand not only why we do what we do, but also have a reason to offer grace to those who think differently from us.
As I mentioned above, one reason I like the Enneagram is that it encourages personal growth. It’s not just a description, or even a list of strengths and weaknesses, but it typifies what you might look like in an unhealthy (or stressed state) and what you can aspire to at your healthiest. It’s been inspiring to me, and given me a lot of insight into my own behavior patterns. It’s not a reason to make excuses, (well I’m a ___, so I’m naturally ______, I just can’t help it) but an invitation to take your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. A dear truth that I’m still in the midst of learning is that sometimes our greatest obstacle, weakness or fault can also become our greatest strength or advantage. I tend to think of myself as a people pleaser, for instance, and I can see how that manifests itself in very unhelpful ways in my life. However, the other side of that coin is an adaptability that has allowed me to survive and thrive while living in a cross-cultural context.
As I’ve listened to and learned about the Enneagram, another thing that has struck me is how it has transformed the lives and relationships of people who have told their stories. They’ve suddenly realized that there is a reason why their colleague, partner, or friend always avoids negative topics, needs things to be perfect, or seems ready for a fight. When you understand that others may have a different core motivation from you, or that they see the world through a different lens, and therefore might uniquely struggle with something that you could do in your sleep, it is so much easier to offer them grace and room to grow. We don’t need the Enneagram to begin this practice, but it certainly seems to help.
Once I started learning about the Enneagram, I started seeing it in Scripture. It is in the Beatitudes and the seven deadly sins, and also in the way that God chose such different people to accomplish his purposes throughout history with scribes and soldiers, Pharisees and prostitutes. I think about how the apostle Paul talks about becoming “all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:19-23) and how Jesus modeled this so well in each distinctive miracle, conversation, and encounter he had. Each of us was created to bring a unique contribution to the world. Just like with the spiritual gifts: not everyone is the teacher or prophet, and not everyone is the helper or healer. But we are all given these things to build up those around us.
If you’re open to taking a deep dive into who you are and could be, I invite you to prayerfully journey with me into this model of seeing the world that could change everything for you. Embrace the Enneagram. Or don’t. But before dismissing it, recognize that it has helped countless people on their journey with God.
Some places where you can learn more about the Enneagram:
And, to be fair, here’s a criticism of the Enneagram:
Beatitudes and the Enneagram:
Here's my reflection on the Enneagram and the Beatitudes (for those already familiar with the 9 types):
Charlotte is on the Editorial team at boldcupofcoffee.com and currently works with a non-profit organization in Taiwan where she teaches, leads English Bible studies, writes educational materials, trains teachers, poses for pictures, and a bunch of other stuff too. She is originally from Canada, spending significant amounts of time in all three westernmost provinces and the idea of home has become quite fluid. She has learned that life overseas is not as exotic as people may think, but life with God is a daily adventure.
I have titled these lessons “Unraveling” for the fact that there are certain major topics concerning the Christian faith that don’t only themselves need “unraveling” but more importantly, you most likely need to be “unraveled”. As we begin to dive into the content of this lesson it is important that you hold your beliefs about God with an unclenched fist and an open heart so that if you need to be “unraveled” you can be. If you can allow yourself to be undone then this is where God can begin to rebuild things rightly in His house. I do not ask you to needlessly throw away the things that will stand up against scripture and the Holy Spirit which we both share, but I do ask you to be completely torn down and rebuilt apart from those things which should have never stood in the first place.
Have you ever heard people say, or maybe you’ve said it yourself: “I like the worship at our church better than theirs.” or “I just didn’t get into the worship today.” or even “That’s the certain style of worship I like, it fits me”
I’m afraid we have made worship all about “me.”
We have turned worship into a cheap therapy session for our personal thoughts and feelings. Whatever gives us an emotional high, making us feel good, is what we really desire from worship and the faster it can be delivered the better. “Three songs is perfect, four is too many.”… “Less lights, less instruments, that's what I like…” It’s just sad. Worship should be the automatic reflex of our posture changing produced by pressing into the presence of the One who created it all, holds it all together and is the embodiment of all things holy, the Triune God. Worship is not about leeching the life out of the worship service so we can get our emotional high for the week.
The question is, have your feelings, and your thoughts stepped down from His seat of glory and given it back to the One who actually deserves the throne? Or do you hold your own thoughts and feelings as the supreme authority in your life thus needing to feed them as their dutiful slave? Look at your life and notice who or what is sitting in His seat of glory. Whoever or whatever sits on the throne produces in us a reflex which leaves us in a particular posture as we walk through this life, and the posture in which we find ourselves is called worship.
What commands the posture you take throughout each day? Nothing in this world deserves to influence your posture other than our Creator, God. To give an example of God on His throne producing a correct reflexive posture in us is found in Ezekiel 1:28, notice the different postures Ezekiel takes and how they are in response to God’s commands or movements:
Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds after the rain. This was the appearance of the surrounding brilliant light; it looked like the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I threw myself face down, and I heard a voice speaking. He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand on your feet and I will speak with you.’ As He spoke to me, a wind came into me and stood me on my feet, and I heard the one speaking to me.(Ezekiel 1:28)
Have you seen the glory of the Lord causing you to fall face down in worship? Has He also responded to you telling you to stand up, enabling you to do so by giving you His breath? Ezekiel’s postures of first being face down and then God’s breath moving him to his feet are significant in our lesson to follow. Worship is our posture brought about by the reflex to our authority that sits on the seat of power in our temple. Paul tells the Corinthian church "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?... For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple" (1 Cor 3:16 & 17b). Therefore we need to ensure that only God sits on the throne within us, and this is what reshapes us to live like Jesus. What is the reflex and therefore posture you take to life’s difficult situations? What is your posture when dealing with difficult people? What moves you to posture? People? Money? Circumstances? Do NOT posture out of a reflex to your circumstances or anyone else in your life other than God! Created things do not deserve the temple’s seat of authority. We will learn why as we continue this lesson.
Remember this: Worship is posturing.
Posture is the submissive arrangement, and reconstruction of all our parts to better understand our identity and then more accurately build our image. It is simply, the movement or change we make in our lives to whatever is in the seat of power.
I want you to imagine someone cutting you off on the road and then hitting their brakes while throwing you the finger. Imagine the thoughts that run through your head and the emotions you feel, this is posturing. Now imagine a nice looking man or woman comes over to you and starts to flirt with you at the store. Imagine what your mind is doing and what your emotions are doing, this is posturing.
Worship is a reflex that reconstructs our inner being to align our image with that which we submit to. Whatever it is we worship we end up finding our identity in, and eventually our image is shaped by what we align ourselves to.. We become the image of what we worship.
Today we worship greed and therefore are greedy; we worship lust and therefore are lustful; we worship control and therefore are controlling. Where have you seen this in your own life? But none of these things are where we will find our true image and identity. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness.” To worship and therefore be conformed to the image of God was always His plan, we were never supposed to bow down to the images of things created on this earth. We were called to “have dominion over the earth” when made in His image! He is the only place we will find our true identity.
Take a moment and consider this, what would happen if you put some time and energy into recognizing the things in life that we worship without realizing it? Is there something (or maybe someone) that you worship and direct yourself toward? As you think about these things, I hope you’ll start to see how what we worship affects our identity and how we see ourselves.
Then comes the challenging part: How can we reshape our identity to have a solid foundation in Jesus Christ, instead of finding it in the earthly things we worship?
Where does this journey of discovery take you? I hope you’ll share your thoughts and what you’ve learned in the comments below.
I was raised southern baptist and redeemed at 5 years old as angels walked me to the alter. "Strong willed” was an understatement to my disposition and therefore life was solely up to me to figure out. Curiosity mixed with extremism was a powerful cocktail that led me to live 20 full lives. I called the Triune God "daddy" only to leave Him due to the above mentioned case for curiosity. I've studied Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Witchcraft which ultimately led to me calling Satan "lord". I've seen things that some people will never even believe exist. Contemplating suicide or an insane asylum broke me to only have me "re-awaken” to eternity in our Daddy’s arms. Hallelujah! Married to one beautiful woman, father to 3 awesome children, and overseer to 10 plus Kingdom men.
As I was going through my news feed, I came across this article. Though I do appreciate a lot of what is being said here, as I read it I felt it needed some engagement. Because I couldn't find a comment section—and the length of this post—it seemed more appropriate to do an official response.
Let me first say this was a thought provoking article. The line that really stands out to me and I feel is the core of the message is: "Even Apple, the innovative leader of personal technologies, is successful because of their tenacious fidelity to their core principles. If Apple ever deviates from those principles they will cease to be Apple and risk losing their leadership in the personal technology market." (emphases added).
What I appreciate most of this article is the idea of being tenacious to the fidelity of one's core principles. I would wholeheartedly agree that innovation for the sake of innovation can be misguided at best, and dangerous at worst. And I say this as a leadership coach/consultant and a pastor.
Here is where I feel that the article breaks down a bit. As I read this piece, I get the sense that the author feels that the tension of 'innovation' and 'core principles' needs to be resolved. As though these ideas are pitted against each other and that our two choices are either being innovative or being faithful to our mission. Some tensions do need to be resolved, for sure, but I would argue that this is not one of them.
Take some of the examples given. Each one of these companies stay true to their core principles, but to paint a picture that assumes they did not innovate is a bit of a stretch. Apple is a perfect example: at the core, their "tenacious fidelity to their core principles" is what grounds them, but the package in how they deliver that idea changes constantly.
Or what about Southwest Airline? Are we to assume the technology of the planes they use have not changed in the years they have been flying? Even In-and-Out Burger has kept the simplicity of their core menu, but are we to assume that the way they do business underneath the surface has never changed? Or should we assume when they decided to expand and franchise this did not cause them to innovate?
I may be missing something here and I would be happy to be corrected. Though, this by no means is a new idea. I have seen this back and forth argument between innovation and faithfulness quite a bit over the years. I suspect you have as well.
Let me be clear, the warning of the extreme ideas of 'innovate and die' laid out by this article is deeply appreciated, and the author’s use of the business world to drive this point home is genius. But my question would still be this: does it need to be an either/or? Is this a tension that needs to be resolved?.
What do you think? Can we hold these two ideas in tension or are they in conflict with each other?
Drake currently serves as the Editor-In-Chief of boldcupofcoffee.com and the Executive Pastor at gateway.ac
Drake is passionate about seeing people thrive and come alive. To BELONG, wrestle with what they BELIEVE and BECOME people FULL OF LOVE, FUELLED BY FAITH, and ADDICTED TO HOPE. Drake is also a life learner and loves being challenged to think deeper and grow further. One of his favorite things to do is spend a good amount of time in a good café or coffee shop with a good book or engaging conversation. To be able to share in someone else's journey and experience is always a pleasure and honor.
The most profound moments of my life tend not to be all that grand. For me, what God in his goodness seems to generally see fit to do is shift my thinking. Shift my focus. This poem was birthed out of a time of God shifting my thoughts. It dawned on me that I was thinking, as I think many do, that hope is weak, it is fragile, it is a breakable thing to be handled with great care. And maybe in our current culture, so over informed on the mass sorrow and injustice of this world, a world where we bear witness to the hopelessness of the millions of impoverished and persecuted people, there is some merit to those thoughts. But hope’s strength is founded upon what we hope in. As Christians we do not hope in money, not in things, not in people, or 'leaders,’ not in comfort, or life, or even ourselves. No. “Our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness!” Our hope is built on God the Creator King and Redeemer of the world, a hope built on him is a very mighty hope indeed!
Hope is not just a rope to which we cling;
Not merely a beating tiny wing;
Not at all a weak, and fragile thing;
Or a single timid voice that sings.
I know hope is strong, for if scarcely lost,
Our wounded souls will count the cost!
We’ll hold no warmth, be chilled by frost!
Great hope must be, for severe its loss!
Hope is partnered well with faith;
Love may be, more surpassing great.
Still do not hope underestimate.
Hope is a conquering, not feeble state!
Hope it rises from the dark!
Bearing no stain in whiteness stark!
Angel’s lips herald its hark!
Countless dead rise with its mark!
Hope is advancing, it is not still!
May be oppressed, but can’t be killed!
A harvest ready endless field.
It shall remain. For. So. God. Willed.
Hope is living breathing strong!
A great, mighty wind gusting long!
A loud, and shouting growing throng!
A million voices raised in song!
I am a stay at home mother of 5, wife of 1, who loves writing poetry and writing in general. I basically have no qualifications, but am allowed and blessed to help lead women's ministries in our Drayton Valley Alliance Church. If you want an example of God using the most unlikely of people to further his Glory I'm your girl. I offer nothing except a deep love of God and passion for his word. Which, actually if you think about it, is a lot!
I’ve been thinking a lot about about our need to create and police arbitrary boundaries.
We think we're pretty clever. We analyze, dissect, and compare everything. We compartmentalise things based on the characteristics that we can see. For us, everything must fit into its taxonomy.
But, it’s really not that simple.
The categories we create are blurry and flawed. Nothing perfectly fits into any one category. Sure, we can look at a microbe and clearly see that it isn't an elephant. The differences are easy to see and we use them to define what it means to be either organism.
But, what happens when we are comparing organisms that are more alike?
In Christ There is Neither Bacterium nor Virus
Until 1992 it was generally agreed that we had a rock solid understanding of the differences between a virus and a bacterium. We knew what defined each of them. We knew that both were small, but a virus was quite a bit smaller than a bacterium. Beyond that, viruses were typically a piece of DNA with a protein shell and bacteria were more complex, having more genes and characteristics that we associate more readily with “life”. Scientists argued whether viruses could be considered alive in any meaningful sense. Their different sizes and biology helped classify them into their respective categories.
The differences between the two were easily distinguishable.
Then that all changed. Scientists discovered something new during routine research in a hospital water tower. Among the bacteria they expected to find, they also found a bacterium that couldn't be identified. They named it Bradford (for the region in which it was found) Coccus (because of its round shape).
They quickly realized this new germ was different though. As much as they tried, they could not get it to replicate like “normal” bacteria. It wouldn't eat anything and generally didn’t behave as they expected. It was a very strange bacterium indeed.
Then, it was sent to France for more scientists to look at it, and they confirmed that it was indeed very peculiar. They agreed th at it looked like a virus, except it was massive. This was puzzling because viruses weren’t supposed to be that big. The other scientists also found that this organism contained a large amount of genes, unlike any other virus that they knew about. This organism blurred the lines between the categories. It was very inconvenient.
So, they spent some time getting to know this big strange creature. They eventually found out how it replicated by placing it inside an amoeba. It replicated itself in the amoeba until the amoeba's shell could no longer contain any more and exploded.
It was a virus. They renamed it “mimivirus”.
This virus had escaped detection for as long as we have had microscopes, hiding in plain sight. How did that happen? It was a curious thing for these scientists so, naturally, they went looking for more. Since this big virus was found in that water tower in England they decided to check a water tower in France. What they found there must have shocked them: another more complex virus that looked like a bacterium, this time larger in size and with even more genes than the mimivirus.
Scientists started finding them everywhere. This wasn't an anomaly, this was normal.
So, what now? What do we do when our categories no longer fit?
We draw more lines to make more categories, of course. We use subjective differences to create objective boundaries that will never fully articulate the complexity of life. Try as we might, our divisions will always be blurry.
In Christ There is Neither Red nor Orange
Think of the visible light spectrum. It starts with red, morphs into orange, then yellow, green, blue, and finally, violet. If I were to quiz my 3 year old son on the major colours he would ace it. He knows the difference between blue and yellow because they are far enough apart on the spectrum that the differences are obvious. But, what would happen if I quizzed him on two similar shades on the gradient between red and orange? What if I asked him about every shade between the two? At which shade would he be completely certain that it has stopped being “red” and was now “orange”?
The labels that we use to define things are useful, but ultimately subjective and entirely fictional. Labels like “red” or “orange” are used simply to give us a coarse understanding of what the speaker is trying to say. We then need to be able to explain what we actually mean when we say those words. We need a finer resolution that describes what we mean when we say “red”. Do we mean to say a light, soft red (pink) or a crimson red? “Red” might not be enough.
There aren't enough adjectives in the English language. It is impossible to exactly describe all of the shades that exist between the boundaries that we have built.
In Christ there is Neither Pentecostal nor Presbyterian
What do we mean when we say Presbyterian or Pentecostal? While we are aware that there are certain theological elements understood by the term, it never gives us the full picture. Most church people will be able to tell the difference between a Pentecostal church and a Presbyterian church but things gets trickier when we consider the diversity found within each movement. When we say “Presbyterian” do we mean Presbyterian Church (USA) or do we mean Presbyterian Church in America? The difference between the two organizations is significant enough that a refined definition will always be more helpful. Presbyterian is not a good enough descriptor on its own.
These broad definitions exist everywhere. If you look for it, dualism is ubiquitous: theology, taxonomy, genres, physical traits, personalities, etc. Each of these are large groups that encompass a large spectrum of small differences. How many insignificant differences need to add up before they become significant and we draw another line?
The divisions that we make are imperfect. This is why there will always be debate about where to make those divisions. We should embrace that ambiguity. In the end, ideas like species taxonomy and denominational boundaries are just constructs we have created based on broad differences, and fall apart when scrutinized.
Like the example of the microbe and the elephant, we can easily tell the difference between Christianity and Buddhism but the lines become blurrier when we look at items that are closer together on the spectrum.
How many small differences need to exist for Protestants and Catholics to admit they worship a different God? How many secondary doctrines can be changed before charismatics and cessationists admit that they serve a different God? If there isn't a clear line between different “breeds” of Christians then how can we be certain where the lines exist between conservative/liberal, Protestant/Roman Catholic, or even Christian/Jew?
The implications of dualism affect everything. We need to have a good talk on the boundaries that we have imposed on theist/nontheist, female/male, Christian/Non-Christian, good/evil, sin/virtue, sacred/secular and many others. A case can be made that these distinctions should exist, and clearly they can be helpful but maybe we should be aware that they aren’t absolute in any meaningful sense.
The divisions that I just spent 1,300 words arguing against will always exist. I don’t deny that. In many ways they are the only way that our brains can make sense of the world. My point is that if we are open to the fact that categories, divisions, and borders are just generalizations then we will understand that much of life is lived in the gray areas. If we can realize that almost nothing fits perfectly in our boxes then we will position ourselves to better comprehend complex ideas and, most of all, the lived experiences of other people. Being aware of dualism allows us to find new ways to show empathy to those that are foreign to us.
I write about my story. The story about how I became a pro-life (womb to grave) liberal, confident arminian, reluctant charismatic, cautious progressive creationist, tentative conditionalist, utterly wretched without Christ, corporate complementarian (individually egalitarian), clueless pre-millenialist, and most importantly, a follower of Christ. I am a blue collar tradesman. I am a victim of post-modern society probably due to my secular upbringing.
I serve on the editorial team of boldcupofcoffee.com, I am married to a wonderful woman and have two sons. They are the very best of me.
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