I am a “6” and David is a “7” on the enneagram personality inventory.
Who cares and so what?
I enjoy this popular personality inventory stuff. Bear with me. Later, I will lead you to some of the most inspiring thoughts. Not mine (be gone chemo-brain hubris!) but quotes from recently published, must-read book.
A ‘six’ personality type is a natural doubter and questioner. So, I did not have to have cancer to wonder why God allows suffering. I have questioned others within theological circles and read numerous publications in an attempt to make peace with suffering from a Christian faith perspective. Caring about suffering did not just happen when I found myself enduring some of it because of cancer treatment. I have questioned smarter people than me and I have, I admit, questioned God on this matter. Theodicy (defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of pain and suffering) has been topic of theological and practical struggle for me for the past 4 decades. But like Peter one of Christ’s followers, when asked whether he too would leave Jesus like many following Him did because of the hard teaching Jesus had just laid out, Peter’s (Dona’s) response was “where else would I go as you have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
But occasionally the doubt and unease woven throughout my ‘six’ personality type rears its worried head like a watchful seal in the Juneau harbor – casting about looking for potential threats until soothed and reassured only then to slowly submerge beneath the surface. I trust in the goodness of God afresh.
The ‘Six’ personality type is also the loyalist with strong convictions. So, being a Six is not all bad. However it gets funky when the six’s spouse is a ‘seven’ personality type. ‘Sevens’ are the adventurers and enthusiasts. They naturally trust that everything is going to work out in the end. David’s personality though 90 percent perfect for me, has not generally made for long, long philosophical discussions. Manna from Heaven for me but more like prison food for David. Ironically, David will tell you that what caused him to leave the faith as a teenager – the problem of pain, evil, suffering and injustice in the world- would be what brought him back in his early 20’s. In David’s view, some worldviews logically account for suffering, but only one, Christianity, addresses the problem while offering hope. (See John 6:68, again). He’s a man with a vision who wants to do something, shake it out on the fly. In the classic words of President Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘The Simpsons Movie,’ he ‘wants to lead not read.’ I am not suggesting that David does not have his own private devotionals but long, long discussions with me has not been his forte. This is just the nature of a ‘seven’ on the enneagram which is incongruent with the ‘six” which naturally wrings her hands on many issues, philosophical or not.
But along came cancer carrying a book by Timothy Keller, Walking with God in the Midst of Pain and Suffering (Dutton 2013). Now, almost every morning David and I get our coffee and he reads out loud to me from this book and we discuss and discuss and it has become manna from Heaven for both of us. I’ll never have all my answers but I’m grateful to Keller and others who without pat answers or arrogance towards those of a different view, honestly and competently engage with the issues. I highly commend this most-readable book. I’ll conclude this post with a few Keller quotes:
“Part of the genius of the Bible as a resource for sufferers is its rich multidimensional approach. It recognizes a great diversity of forms, reasons for, and right responses to suffering.” (9)
“In the secular view, suffering is never seen as a meaningful part of life but only as an interruption.” (26)
“Christianity teaches that, contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming; contra Buddhism, suffering is real; contra karma, suffering is often unfair; but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful. There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.” (30)
“While Christianity was able to agree with pagan writers that inordinate attachment to earthly goods can lead to unnecessary pain and grief, it also taught that the answer to this was not to love things less but to love God more than anything else. Only when our greatest love is God, a love that we cannot lose even in death, can we face all things with peace. Grief was not to be eliminated but seasoned and buoyed up with love and hope.” (44)
“But resurrection is not just consolation — it is restoration. We get it all back — the love, the loved ones, the goods, the beauties of this life — but in new, unimaginable degrees of glory and joy and strength.” (59)
“Suffering is actually at the heart of the Christian story.” (77)
“The best people often have terrible lives. Job is one example, and Jesus—the ultimate ‘Job,’ the only truly, fully innocent sufferer — is another.” (133)
“The only love that won’t disappoint you is one that can’t change, that can’t be lost, that is not based on the ups and downs of life or of how well you live. It is something that not even death can take away from you. God’s love is the only thing like that.” (304)
Well said Dona! Boy, I’m a “6+!” This very topic has been an ongoing conversation I’ve had with God and other Christian friends. I love the visual picture of the seal poking it’s head out of the water looking for threats. It made me laugh! So true. I wish I could hold onto those moments when I grasp the bigger God picture and it all makes sense. LIke the seal, I think I get it (finally), then zip about telling other seals the good news until a new thought pops into my head and I race for the surface. There is a sort of surrender that must happen. A surrender to the things that just won’t make sense here on earth. A surrender to trusting Him. It is hard to think that suffering is something used by God to bear amazing fruit. It fills me with dread and worry at times. Caught in wanting to avoid suffering but also wanting my faith to be strong without so many “whys.” I am eager to read the Tom Keller book, but I also have gained more insight from “The Insanity of God” you recommended a year ago. The book is bleak and you feel the hopelessness and questions the author struggles with in Somolia, but then if you keep reading you are given gems of stories recorded on how people all over the world blossomed under grim, dark days. You get to hear the after stories of how God helped and met them in their darkest times. The Heart Songs sung (Praises to God), that infused them with joy, peace and hope. The Word is our Manna and we need it more than real food or comforts. I think I might invest in a SEEDS CD and keep a few in my heart at the ready! Great topic of discussion and reflection ~ thanks Dona!