I’ve been studying the Enneagram for a few years now, but am diving in to study yet again with a few new books and a couple of friends. As you may know if you’ve heard me geeking out about it, the enneagram is a fascinating kind of personality type system which focuses more on inner motivation rather than external behavior. It tries to dig into WHY we do what we do, and suggests paths for growth. It’s narrative-based rather than measureable. And I think it’s a ton of fun to talk about!
In the introduction to the enneagram book I’m reading now, Richard Rohr – a Jesuit priest – writes that much of Christianity has suffered from the classical frameworks of understanding for sin and forgiveness. If the aim of the spiritual life is only to have your sin forgiven, excused, or wiped away, he asks, when will you learn to change? What will motivate you to live differently? We need to live differently – we need to learn to change – for how else will God change the world? And our religious life together will be enriched if we take our personal growth seriously, in a religious sense, rather than relegating it to the more private realms of therapy and journaling. We need to remember – and remind one another – that our personal growth is a holy task.
This makes me think of the saying from Talmud that imagines every blade of grass having an angel bending over it, whispering lovingly and urgently, “Grow! Grow!” I’ve even heard it suggested that a good definition for God could be “God is the force that makes things grow.” Not just upward and adultward until we are at our maximum height and “all grown up” (what an awful phrase – nobody ever should think they’re all grown up). No, far beyond these simple forms of growth, God is the call that urges us to grow, psychologically, spiritually, socially, politically, and evolutionarily.
The Youth Group has a tradition we’ve kept up for several years now. The first meeting of every year, we write letters to our future selves. I keep the letters in my office for twelve months, and the same time next year we will all receive the letters back, and write new ones. It’s becoming a beloved tradition and this year we even included alumni in the process. This year I encouraged them to be curious about how they will grow in 2018. And I’ll ask you the same. What ways do you hope to grow in 2018? What spiritual growth do you see taking root now? And my prayer for us is that we will learn to share our growing, and talk about it together.
PS if you’d like to read what I’m reading, it’s The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert. If you’d like an easier introduction to enneagram, I highly recommend the book and podcasts on https://www.theroadbacktoyou.com/ or the brief descriptions on https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions