A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

The Way I Am

The way I am

Is anyone else out there guilty of subtly rigging their own personality assessment?

I know, I know. It sounds kind of dumb when I say it out loud. In fact, if you would have asked me, I would have totally denied it. Would have said, I’m trying to make this thing express me accurately for once. (So much for me maximizing this helpful tool, right?)

It probably sounds immature (because it is) to mute certain aspects of my personality. I didn’t want to succumb to stereotypes. Wanted to be more balanced. Didn’t want to, well, turn out like that person who drove me batty once upon a time, or that person I didn’t respect.

To be more specific, I was embarrassed (still am) by being an extrovert, by lacking attention to detail, and by feeling rather than thinking. I mean, who wants to be known as an irrational, in-your-face, overenthusiastic fountain of thoughtlessness who can’t match her own socks?

Perhaps this was aided by social response to my unvarnished expression of personality in earlier years. I tried too hard. I spoke and immediately discovered my foot within my piehole. My mother developed thoughtful excuses reasons that perhaps today would not be a good day for me to cook, a.k.a. create a whirlwind of creativity in her quite spotless kitchen. I admit–these responses were deserved. (Uh, especially after the Red Jello Incident, Mom. I concede.)

But though my extroversion sent me scurrying into a faux-mild-mannered hole…God, of course, had His reasons. I distinctly remember an epiphany just before we moved to Africa. This was shortly after I’d carefully engineered every little penciled circle in the third or fourth DiSC profile of my lifetime, only to discover that, hey, I’m still incredibly enthusiastic and just organized enough not to exist in squalor or utter chaos. But someone at our training was pointing out that nearly the whole African continent thrived on talking and talking; and that flexibility was key to survival. Some straightforward compassion would also go a long way.

Wait. Did someone say it would be helpful to be friendly, conversational, empathetic, and willing to flex on details? Well! Have we got a show for you!

Turns out that, surprise! God’s knowledgeable design of me might not have been so inconvenient or random after all. Perhaps in my longing to be someone different, I was actually articulating a profound lack of faith.

Well. Have I also mentioned that I am surrounded by thinkers? For quite some time, I have valiantly attempted to display my innate rationalism, my wisdom uncluttered by emotion.

And…I stink at it.

As it turns out, I am a feeler. (There. I said it.) I feel before I even think, and when I try to think first…I am thinking about why I feel a certain way. Argggh. In case you have ever wondered in reading my blog posts if I’m driving with all four wheels on the pavement, well–now you know why.

My Husband the Thinker reminds me that his personality type has to deal with the stereotype of being cold and unfeeling; his introverted side can be overlooked and consistently misinterpreted. In other words, the grass is always a little more verdant on the other side.

This morning, I was recalling Acts 13:22, about a particular poet–and chronic musician, poet, dreamer, and creative planner. In fact, his feeling got him into trouble, like mine does. But still, God calls this man he made king–who “served the purpose of God in his own generation”–a man after his own heart. (I wonder if David ever had trouble matching socks.)

Reality is, I’m made in the image of God–whether I choose to embrace His deliberate, carefully-considered crafting or not. Grant it, He’s not to blame for those times I overwhelm others in my friendliness, or fail to plan well for my family, or emote all over the place lacking in essential self-control. As author Andree Seu so aptly states, “A lot of what I thought was my personality was just sin.”[1]

Even so—my sin isn’t an excuse to mute the way God’s made me, but rather to let His Holy Spirit make me fully…me (don’t miss Ephesians 2:10). It’s much like I hope that, as He transforms Africa, it won’t become more fully Westernized, but more fully African: the highest, unadultered form of this stunning culture that expresses His face and image.[2] God flourishes in the fullness our distinction not so that we can make more of ourselves, but more of Him.

16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?

18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?

[1] Seu, Andree. Normal Kingdom Business: A Collection of Essays by Andree Seu. Asheville, North Carolina: World and Life Books (2006), p. 77.

[2] Credit for this concept to Tim Keller in a sermon on culture; believe it was this one.

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  1. Good stuff, Janel; thanks! This post is “you” but still quite balanced I think 😉

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