SERMON & PRAYER
Over the past two weeks we have been exploring the Enneagram as a tool for personal and spiritual growth. It is personality tool that presents 9 basic personality types. Each week, we are invited to learn more about ourselves and those around us. And each week, we are invited to see the best qualities of each personality type reflected in the person of Jesus, as well as in Scripture.
As we explore Type 7 the Enthusiast, also called the Adventurer I begin with a fictional story about a person we shall call Rob.
Rob is a fun loving guy. If you want to have a good party, Rob is your man. He knows how to have a good time, and he can bring a lightness and a brightness to even the most dull situation. Part of that fun-loving, enthusiastic energy that Rob brings with him is also a certain restlessness, busyness and unpredictability, always looking for the next thing to keep himself busy with.
It has been like this since Rob was a little boy. Always restless, with a constant busy energy, Rob was always a bit of a handful, and his parents always had to be on high alert because they didn't quite know what was going to happen next. It was a bit of a relief for them at night when an exhausted Rob would finally drop off to sleep, thoroughly exhausted by his own compulsive busyness.
It is difficult to know exactly why Rob has always been such a bundle of excited and restless energy, but Rob experience of the world into which he was born, for whatever reason, left him feeling the pain of emptiness on the inside. Even in his earliest months and years, most of Rob’s energy was spent trying to fill the emptiness he felt on the inside and to avoid or dull the pain.
A lot of people looking on at him when he was younger tended to label Rob as naughty and disobedient because he would often get himself into all sorts of trouble even through his teenage years and beyond. But if truth be told, it was not often that Rob was deliberately trying to be naughty or rebellious. In fact there was often a degree of innocence about him, and often that he himself would be surprised by the results of his actions. A large part of the problem was that Rob tended to operate on the basis if “act now and think later”.
As suggested earlier, much of Rob’s joking nature and lightheartedness is ultimately a tactic to avoid the painfulness of life. At times this gets him into trouble because at moments that are deserving of more seriousness, Rob will tend to crack a joke because the pain might be a little too unbearable for him. This can unfortunately often give the impression of superficiality, although, below the surface he does carry a fair amount of pain that he struggles to acknowledge even to himself.
But Rob’s lighthearted nature has served him well as an adult. His infectious enthusiasm for life has helped to make him a really good teacher. He is able to inspire interest and enthusiasm in his students, and time in his class can be really quite exciting because you never quite know where Rob is going to go next as he makes regular adventures outside of the set syllabus into interesting and unchartered territory, even to himself.
While at his best, Rob can be described as optimistic, gregarious, fun-loving, creative, child-like, joyful, imaginative, resilient and adventurous, Rob also has his shadow side. In his less mature moments, Rob can be escapist, distracted, unreliable, undisciplined, hedonistic, impulsive and superficial, while at his worst he can become narcissistic, addictive and even manic.
As Rob has matured in his later life, he has become a bit more disciplined and reliable, and as he has done so, he has drawn on some of the strengths of his neighbouring personality types. His six wing, the Loyal Skeptic has helped to temper his wilder moments and make him a little more responsible and dutiful, helping him to better predict the potential negative consequences of his impulsive actions. With his Eight Wing, it has helped him become a little more direct and self-assertive and develop a greater tolerance for pain. Drawing on both of these strengths Rob in fact begins to display some of the strengths of the Five, looking at things in more depth rather than just the surface, being a little more contemplative and appreciating moments of silence and stillness.
Like all of us, Rob has his good days and his bad days. But he is in good company. A lot of famous and successful people have been Sevens, Adventurers, Enthusiasts. These include people like Robbin Williams, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, Sir Elton John, Mick Jagger, John F. Kennedy, Gordon Ramsey, Princess Margaret, and some would put Sir Richard Branson in this category, and not in the 3 Category as I did a few weeks ago which is the achiever. The countries of Ireland and Brazil in different ways capture something of the energy and spirit of the Seven.
In considering the person and teachings of Jesus, we see that Jesus captures and expresses some of the best qualities of the Seven in his own life.
Robert Nogosek writes that like all Sevens, Jesus was a jovial person. He knew that the Creator intended that life should be enjoyed. Early in his ministry according to John’s Gospel, we see Jesus going to parties such as the wedding reception at Cana. In the story, as Jesus turns the water for ceremonial washing into wine, it is a powerful symbol of how Jesus sought to bring life and joy where the dominant forms of Jewish religion of his day were primarily concerned with rules that hindered rather than enhanced life. Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus would say that his purpose and mission was to bring people “life in abundance”. “I have come that you might have life and that you might have life in abundance,” (John 10:10).
Many of Jesus parables, also emphasize the fact that life in God’s Kingdom is meant to express a sense of joy, much as one would find at a wedding feast. Matthew 22:2 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who threw a wedding feast for his son.”
Jesus also seemed to have a particularly soft spot for those who tended to give themselves over to the excesses of life. The prodigal son who goes off on an enthusiastic adventurer and then returns home after he has impulsively squandered his inheritance, might be called the patron saint of Sevens. Jesus’ keen knowledge of human nature meant that Jesus was deeply aware that beneath the excesses and addictions of most people was a deep pain and a woundedness that they were desperately trying to cover over and it was for this reason that they more often drew Jesus compassion rather than his judgement.
Jesus himself is accused of being a person of excess as seen in Matthew 11:19 where Jesus says: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at this glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
As Nogosek writes: “ In Matthew 9, when Matthew the tax-collector throws a farewell party for his friends to celebrate becoming a follower of Jesus, some people challenge Jesus about all this eating and drinking. Jesus responds by saying that as long as he his around, people would celebrate, because he was alike a bride-groom. When the bride-groom was taken away, then the people would fast,” (Mt 9:15).
There was clearly something infectious and attractive about the spirit of Jesus because, like a Seven who is often the life of the party, people felt drawn to Jesus.
In the Gospels, we also see something of the adventurous spirit of Jesus. He is most often pictured out-doors in the great wide-open, walking with his friends from place to place, moving from town to town, engaging and meeting new people. He is also not too concerned about his disciples colouring out of the lines when they pick heads of wheat on the Sabbath, because in Jesus mind, the Sabbath was made in service for the benefit of humanity, and not that humans had to become slaves to the Sabbath. In addition, just as Sevens can also have an endearing child-like quality about them, Jesus highlights the importance of maintaining this child-like spirit, that finds joy and wonder in the world, when he places a child in front of this disciples and tells them, "It is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs" (Luke 18:16b)
But while immature Sevens have a tendency to avoid and run away from pain and unpleasantness, like a mature Seven, Jesus is willing to look danger in the face and even move towards it if necessary. In Luke 9:51, at a pivotal moment in Luke’s Gospel, we read that Jesus resolutely set his face to Jerusalem, and he began to teach his disciples about his impending suffering and death in Jerusalem. He suggests in John 12:24, that unless we embrace the difficulty and pain of life, we will never truly know abundant life, “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
In closing, some helpful hints for those of us who may identify as Sevens on the Enneagram:
- A life worth living requires effort and discipline, for though we may sow in tears, we will reap with songs of joy.
- The Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21)... Happiness is an inside job and ultimately can’t be found in gluttony and excess.
- Less is more, for a persons life does not consist of an abundance of things or even experiences (Luke 12:15)
- When we stop trying to avoid our pain, we will discover that God’s grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- And when we do these things, the promise of Jesus is that “Your sorrow will turn to joy” (John 16:20).