When Doubt is having You for Lunch
Can you remember when a decision set before you seemed to be a choice between two bad options? Last summer, I really wanted to take a break from a grueling graduate school schedule, but I didn’t. Most of my classmates had full-time jobs, and they were managing school, work, church and family commitments. When I compared myself to them, Shame seemed to say, “Suck it up. If they can do it, so can you.”
On the other hand, reading and writing thousands of words meant more time away from family, especially the kids. I knew they would be home for the summer and I wanted to spend time with them. She has just a couple more summers at home before leaving the nest, and he is two years behind her. I can almost see the time we have left together, evaporating before my very eyes.
I’ve recently learned that I am an Enneagram 6—any other Ennegram fans out there? This is a system to categorize personality traits that tend to work together to produce recognizable patterns of behavior. Another way to put it is that people tend to make choices rooted in their most basic motivations and desires.
So, if you know what to look for, you can spot an “8” a mile away. They will be the ones telling everyone else what to do, often in a loud voice. They are the Challengers. Or, I’ll bet you know the “2” people in your life. In a hard time, they are first to bring a casserole or to offer to pick up your kids. These friends meet you for coffee if you call in a panic—they are the Helpers!
Being a “6,” I could see both sides very clearly. On one side, I had a goal to graduate on a fast track. On the other, school interfered with my relationships. I tend to weigh my choices to find the one that will produce the best outcome and avoid the most difficulty. Both choices led to fear—fear of regret, fear of disappointing others, fear of failure. Sometimes, it feels like doubt is having you for lunch.
When Kids Teach the Lessons
Last summer, I prayed about what to do, weighed pros and cons, and consulted anyone who would listen to me. But, try as I might, this was no easy decision. I flipped, and I flopped. Finally, my daughter said, “Mom, just take the classes—your future self will thank you.” Aren’t children the first ones to throw your own mantras back in your face? But she was being kind, so I finally agreed to keep plowing through school, in order to graduate on time. And I just did!
Speaking of school, do you remember the Law of Inertia? I promise to connect all the dots in a just a bit—but think wayyyyyy back. John Newton proposed this scientific principle as part of his Laws of Motion. We see inertia in many ways, daily. Spiritually, in relationships, at work, and in our physical bodies (hello, stubborn belly fat!):
An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.https://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/newtlaws/Lesson-1/Newton-s-First-Law
In other words, the faster you’re traveling, the harder it is to stop or make a turn, unless you get knocked off course by something else. And if you’re stopped, it’s hard to get moving. Which brings us to my latest flip-flopping crisis. After going a hundred miles an hour for a year and a half, I am in a period of rest and contemplation. The Lord moved me to delay my job hunt so that I could have the summer to enjoy my family, to remember how to read a book for fun, to start blogging again, to spend time with friends, and so much more.
But once you stop, it’s hard to get going again. I think it might be even harder for an Enneagram 6, like me, to choose the next right thing to do. There are just too many pros and cons! But the Lord tucked an email into my inbox in the middle of Spring, and He has been using its contents to turn my life upside down during this period of “rest.” This email was from Emily P. Freeman, and it was about this very topic: making good decisions. More on that next time!
When Hope is Driven Out by Fear
The last time I wrote to you, I promised to begin sharing some of my favorite slow-down resources, and here we are. I want to do this over the course a a few posts so we can really explore them. This first resource taught me that examining yourself (with a tool like the Enneagram) can help you to know when you should give yourself grace or when you should give yourself a kick in the pants.
You can read more about a Christian perspective on personality in this wonderful book, The Road Back to You: An Ennegram Journey to Self-Discovery (amazon.com link).
In closing, what I am learning lately (again) is that faith is harder than it looks. I know how to cling to faith when the ship seems to be going down, but not when the sea is calm and possibilities abound. When hope should guide me, I am frozen, and hope is driven out by fear. I am double-minded. James says this is not good:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.James 1:5-9, NIVUK
Because of my personality, I can see many different and wonderful possibilities, can make very detailed plans and can execute well-thought-out decisions. On the one hand, my Enneagram 6 ways are beautiful. But if inertia has me stuck and I can’t get going, or going at top speed and I can’t stop, I need to throw out the pro and con lists. I need to settle down and start listening to the Lord, as He speaks to me in my heart, or through daily events, or through the people who love me well.
Trust in the Lord with all your heartProverbs 3:5-6, NIVUK
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.