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Digging Up the Roots

Oxalis by Abigail Stevens
The Enneagram is for people who have problems. If you don't have problems, this isn't for you. It's also for people who are open to change. If you have problems and are content with your way of coping, then stop reading. This isn't for you.

The Enneagram can be a tool to connect the dots between our troubles and their causes, the weeds and the taproot so to speak. It can be the final link that makes everything clear.

I know plenty of Christians who trust the Lord in their day-to-day lives without the Enneagram. God bless them! The Lord makes that connection for them. The Enneagram isn't a necessary ingredient to anyone's walk with the Lord, but it can help if you have problems and are having a hard time making your faith work. Here's how the Enneagram might help:

Consider your problems like weeds. All your stresses, areas of anxiety, repeated patterns of unhealthy behavior, outbursts of angst, brooding resentments, and even physical ailments connected to stress, fear, or hurt are the weeds. We deal with these weeds in a number of different ways. Most of us just run a gardening tool right across them by getting rid of the behavior. We stuff it or try harder or justify it or blame someone else.

To get to the root of the matter, this has got to stop. We've got to bring our problems to the Lord and walk with Him through them. This means no longer using the old gardening tools, but doing some uncomfortable digging instead. This means sitting in the ugliness. So gird up your loins and repeat after me.

As I examine my problems:
I shall not blame,
I shall not justify,
I shall not try harder,
I shall not brush it off,
I shall not deny the problems,
I shall not accept the problems as normal,
I shall not guilt myself,
I shall not berate myself,
I shall not adapt a new self-improvement plan,
And I shall not judge myself.

You may have noticed in my illustration of Oxalis above that each sprout has its own little root, and all those roots are connected to the main taproot through runners. Those runners are often buried just beneath the surface of the ground and are what spreads the weed over a larger area. I believe that many of our troubles are connected to one thick taproot. My fear of family gatherings and dislike of church might both be rooted in the same core issue: a desire to be liked. We've got to get to that taproot if we want inner transformation. I'm talking about a change of heart here, not just a change of behavior.

So look at one of your problems and start the dig with a prayer.

"God above who sheds light on all the dark places within me, shine now and show me where I am seeking strength, value, and security. Show me Your truth. Walk with me there. Amen."

Now ask yourself two questions: what do I really want and where can I get it? Chances are when you answer these questions, you'll be tempted to resort to the old weeding methods again.

"But what's wrong with wanting everyone to get along?" "But I have to do this!" "But I'm just being careful!" "But this would hurt anyone's feelings!"

Catch yourself in the act. Don't blame, justify, normalize, or try harder. Seek the Lord again and ask Him to show you the desires of your heart.

Understanding what you really want can be difficult. Here the Enneagram can help. It identifies nine different types of desires. Perhaps one of them resonates with you in regards to a particular problem you're having.

I desire:

1) For myself and others to do things right
2) For people to affirm or appreciate me for all I do
3) To meet people's expectation of me and be loved for that
4) For people to understand me, and for me to understand life
5) To have enough information and energy to handle a situation
6) To be prepared for what will happen next and to know who to trust
7) To have a good time and not be bored
8) For things to happen a certain way so that no one can get to me
9) For everyone to get along and my own needs not to get in the way

All these desires are God-given and good. In fact, they all describe our basic human needs: to be loved (numbers 2, 3, 4), to have control (numbers 8, 9, 1), and to be safe (numbers 5, 6, 7).

If you're having trouble tracing a problem back to one of these desires, you may benefit from taking an Enneagram test to see what number you tend to lean towards. Please don't feel confined to one number. I think we can experience all of these longings at one time or another.

So, now that we've got hold of the root, consider the second questions: Where can I get this desire fulfilled?

Stay away from using the gardening tools! "But I need to be ready for what happens next?" "Is it so much to ask for so-and-so to give me a little courtesy?" "What am I supposed to do? Sit back and become a fatalist?"

Time to pray again. "Lord, show me how You are able to meet all my desires. May I stop trusting myself and others for these things. Help me believe that You can protect and control and assign value. Amen."

When you've got your hand wrapped around that taproot, it's time to start pulling. This is painful. It may sound something like this.

1) Lord, I confess I thought I could do it right on my own, or I thought I knew what was right for others.
2) Lord, I confess I was serving others so that they might affirm or appreciate me unconditionally.
3) Lord, I confess I was performing so that people would esteem and value me for who I am and not what I do for them.
4) Lord, I confess I was hoping to be unique or that someone would understand me.
5) Lord, I confess I was trying to mentally muscle my way to a solution.
6) Lord, I confess I was believing that I would be able to protect myself from harm by all this planning.
7) Lord, I confess that I was seeking fun and avoiding the hard issues.
8) Lord, I confess I was using my strength to make things happen the way I wanted them to.
9) Lord, I confess I was ignoring my own needs in the hopes that everyone might get along and be happy.

Marilyn Vancil's Self to Lose - Self to Find: A Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types has much better prayers at the end of her book.

When the weed is pulled up, you'll most likely feel this open vacant space where the weed was planted. Don't leave it open! Not for a second. If you do, a new weed might take its place. Instead, allow God to fill the gap. It may sound something like my prayers below. At the end of each statement, I have linked a pep-talk, confession, or poem that I wrote as I experienced each number.

1) God, You alone know what is good, and You call me good because Your son is in me. (Magnum Opus and Longing for Righteousness)
2) God, You alone know all my needs and are able to meet them. You know me entirely and love me. (Dropping the Cup)
3) God, You have already demonstrated my value is equivalent to Your son's blood. I need do nothing to earn it. (Resignation of the Queen or Demand for Value)
4) God, You alone assign a beautiful meaning to everything, and You alone entirely understand me. (Abandonment of Fantasies)
5) God, You alone know everything and can make me capable for every decision. (Staying Power)
6) God, You alone know what will happen tomorrow and how to guide me through it. (Practice in Presence)
7) God, You alone give pure joy alongside each season's trials. (Now is the Next Best Thing)
8) God, You are the only omnipotent being. And You will never betray me. (To the Confidant & Laying Down the Weapons)
9) God, You alone are able to bring about a peace that includes my desires and needs. (Running up the Credit Card)

A side note about this process: you might be tempted to say, "Am I really supposed to do this every time I'm angry or hurt or afraid? I don't have time for this!"

Here's the deal. This ISN'T just a process. This is how we walk with the Lord. It's a relationship. We ask Him to show us the root of our problems. He shows us. We confess our sin. He forgives us. We trust Him to fill in the gap. He does.

It's like marriage. Healthy marriages work when two people work together. Yes, it takes time to talk to each other about where the money should go or how to discipline the children, but that's what a relationship is: doing life together. Sure, there might not be time in that exact moment to have a discussion, but the discussion happens eventually.

Think of it another way. If you were going to cross a desert where a ravenous lion lived, you could spend all your time and energy studying lion-behavior and arming yourself to the teeth. Or you could stick to the Lion-slayer.

We are in a desert, and there is a ravenous lion out to destroy us from the inside out. If we don't have time to learn how to walk with the Lion-slayer, we are going to be eaten.

Here's the good news. You might find that when you work through problems with the Lord, time suddenly unfolds around you in abundance. In fact, all sorts of blessings unfold around you.

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