I have been thinking a great deal lately about myself. I suppose this isn’t all that unusual. I am inherently narcissistic, as I imagine are you. The majority of my motives are patently selfish. And yet, I guess I’ve been trying to think of myself in ways that I hope help me to understand how I function in the world. Several things have spurred this along: starting a new job, having a daughter, several conversations with friends.
For that, I have revisited my enneagram type. I am a five. You can read a synopsis of what that means here. I’ll wait…
Finished? I used to be quite wary of personality tests. I remember bristling, almost sulking, after taking the Myers-Briggs test the first time. I didn’t want to be defined by a test. The enneagram for me is something entirely different. It is about my tendencies and looking back on my life and my decision-making, I have found it to be incredibly accurate, particularly as it outlines my fears and desires.
My primary fear in life is to be useless. I can’t tell you how often I wrestle with feelings of my own worth and utility in the world. I want to be of use. I want my existence to count for something. I want to know that the world is better because I was here. I often feel like I am unfit to handle the challenges that life throws at me, so I am always studying, reading, trying to learn.
Interestingly enough, I think this is where my sense of humor comes from. Sometimes I think “if I’ve made someone laugh today, then I am not a waste of space”. It’s also a part of why I haven’t blogged so much. My friends are brilliant! If you haven’t you should read the stuff that Drew Tatusko is writing. HIs writing is incredibly moving to me. My friend Patricia, writes things that are equal parts moving, hilarious , and thought-provoking. Want great stuff about church? My partner in crime Carol Howard Merritt has that covered. My friend Katie writes brilliantly of her life experiences. My friend Drew Hart writes insightful pieces about race and justice. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Bruce and Ryan. I could go on and on. I pride myself on keeping good company. In the midst of all of my brilliant friends, I often feel that I have little to offer the world as a writer. Perhaps the most useful thing I’ll do today is recommend other people for you to read.
So where are the places where I feel useful and competent? Well, I feel useful at my house. Not always competent, as having two very small children can be incredibly humbling, but I do feel useful! I love that the girl sometimes needs to be held to fall asleep. I love that the boy has routines of which I am an integral part. It’s been an interesting shift in the last three years to think that my primary use in the world might be in my attempts to raise children who are not assholes.
Beyond that, I feel useful in the pulpit, which I find ironic because I often question the efficacy of preaching. But I think that I am a competent preacher and others seem to agree. I feel useful when I am helping people answer their own questions about faith. I feel competent as a listener. That may not seem like much of a skill, but I am recognizing that finding someone who will listen to you is quite a prize. Many of us pay quite a bit out of pocket to be heard.
As a five, I have a world that exist within my head. At times I prefer the world in my head, but that seems to be less and less as I find my place in the world. When I was younger, that world was filled with cartoon characters and action heroes. That world is still there, but it’s mostly replaced with theological and social concepts. And music. I marvel at the complexity of systems, whether they be the organizational system of an institution or the optimal conditions required for plants to grow. The thing that I have loved so much gardening (which I’ve picked up in the last few years), parenting, and pastoring is that they give me much needed anchors in the real world. There’s really nothing less intellectual than changing a diaper, though I suppose my children’s digestive systems are somewhat fascinating.
I detach. I don’t mean to. I’ve gotten called on this a lot lately. I detach for self preservation. It’s an old survival tactic from growing up in a house where people yelled. I don’t need it anymore, but when I’m tired, I slip back into it. I often give people the impression that I am aloof, when at my core I desire to be known and understood. And loved. And liked. And needed. Sometimes I have to be made conscious of my tendency to detach. I get defensive about it, cool down, mine the truth from what I hear and try to reconnect. I think that’s healthy. I’d like to be healthier.
I promise to get back to my theology of ministry paper. I get scattered. And lately life has been moving at a pace where sitting to do theological reflection hasn’t been as much of a priority as it could (or should) be. Plus I am completely reorienting my theological understanding into terms of process theology. I feel very at home in process thought and I love that I have found an intellectual and theological place to land.
I think about failure a lot. I don’t even know how I would define failure because I’m not 100% sure what success will look like for me. I aspire to nothing less than making the world a better place. Again, this may be accomplished by not raising assholes, but I hope to leave a legacy of justice, peace, love, and laughter in my wake. I don’t just want to be remembered as the guy who really liked bacon. Though I do. I really like bacon. Failure for me would be isolation. Were I to give in to the worst of my tendencies and be completely alone, that would mean that I failed. I am grateful to have a partner in life who seems hellbent on making sure that I do not fail and who has enough grace to endure the worst of what I can be.
So that’s me, right now. On June 29th, 2012 at 12:27 pm EST. Ask me again tomorrow.