I keep forgetting who I am.
About four months ago, my bible study group (we call ourselves the Ish girls) began studying the Enneagram via Richard Rohr's book and audio CDs. I took online tests - the short free one and the longer one that cost a bit. Both said 9. A friend who knew more about this than I suggested reading the chapter in the book about your number after taking the test. If the chapter resonated with you, you'd know you had found your number. I read the chapter. Definitely a 9.
The beauty of the Enneagram as opposed to some other tests like Myers Briggs or DISC is that it helps you see how your greatest strength is also your strongest weakness. As Richard Rohr explains, our favorite sin becomes our favorite because we are so very good at it and it serves us well for much of our life. For a 9, this root or favorite sin is laziness or acedia.
Since learning this, I've looked for this sin in my life and tried to avoid it. I should have known better. Rohr makes it clear that the only way we can fight our root sin is with our root sin. It's the biggest weapon in our arsenal. The only way to be truly transformed is to see who you are, open it up to God and let him change you. Because you'll never be able to change yourself.
Yet I've tried.
I've resisted my body's desire for rest in a time of grief. I've berated myself for not doing a better job of maintaining our home during a busy time of the year. I've seen my desire for quiet time as selfish. And this last one is where things start getting really dangerous. Because my desire - dare I say need? - for quiet time alone with God is a core part of who I am. And when I start denying that - or shaming myself for that need, it is a very short drive to feeling completely lost.
I've gone so far as to say to my spiritual director, "I'm not sure when to be gentle with myself and when to be firm with myself. Maybe a 9 doesn't need gentleness." The sternest I have ever seen her was when she asked me whether Jesus is firm or gentle with me. Even so, I left her house and continued to be firm, not gentle, with myself.
I have continued to find time to do my daily readings from the Ignatian prayer cycle, but I've shamed myself for this and made it into something I have to do, instead of letting myself rest in it, soak it up and leave refreshed. It has become one more thing to make sure I get done every day. One more way to pass or fail, not a way to simply live.
Sunday our church celebrated Epiphany with a Christmas tree bonfire and chili cook-off. It was great fun - relaxed, communal, friendly. Prior to the event, I'd read about an Epiphany tradition of writing down a sin you want to let go of in the coming year and throwing it into the bonfire. I mentioned this to J Sunday afternoon before we headed to the church. I'd left it until the last minute, but wondered whether we could each write down a sin and tie it to our Christmas tree that he'd just loaded on the top of the car to take for the bonfire. "Honey," he said, "that's a great idea, but unless you want your sin blown away by the wind, you might want to think of another way. There's no way it would make it tied to the tree all the way to St. B's."
I tabled the idea, until right before the bonfire was to begin. I still wanted to do this. It seemed so beautifully symbolic to me and I liked the idea of my sin burning away. So I tore off part of the sign I'd used to label my Chorizo and Black Bean Chili and asked B whether she wanted to do this with me. Surprisingly, this most-resistant-to-all-things-church daughter of mine agreed. We each wrote down a sin and took it out to the bonfire with us. It quickly became clear that we were not going to be able to get close enough to throw the paper into the fire. If you've never witnessed it, dried out fir trees go up in flames quickly. (Water your trees, people. I saw clearly what fire hazards these things are.) We decided instead to use a branch to stab our paper, holding it onto a tree that was then added to the blaze.
I saw one of our sheets of paper attached to a tree as it went into the fire. I don't know whether it was mine or B's, but I'm hoping it was mine and that it burned right to ash. Because in some ways forgetting who I think I am is crucial to becoming who I really am. This means being willing to let go of sins that are so much a part of me that I don't even know they are sin.
A few months ago, one of the Ish girls shared that she'd been really aware lately of her sinful tendency to think she is not enough. She gave some examples and I listened thoughtfully as she openly shared about her struggle. I have been pondering her words for months because the first thought that popped into my head when she spoke was, "Is that a sin?" It's something I should ponder because thinking I am not enough is not a fleeting idea for me, it's a state of being. I believe this is not uncommon for 9s. I get a daily thought for 9s with tips, pointers and recommendations on ways to be more aware of what it means to be a 9. Some days are more convicting than others. Here's a recent one:
Today, notice if you are playing the role of "Nobody Special" or the "Invisible One"—the modest person content to stay in the background. Do you really think that holding back your presence, opinions, and involvement will have no consequences on yourself and others?
Ouch. Yes, I have long believed that holding back my presence and opinion will have no consequence whatsoever. So what I threw into the fire and want to let go of this year is the idea - no, the firmly held belief - that I am not enough, not valuable, not worth it.
I do keep forgetting who I am. In bad ways, of late. But there is value to forgetting who I think I am if that will free me to be who I was made to be. Especially if that will free me to be radiant, without fear of what that might mean.