Thinking Outside the Box

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I am a four. If you have no idea what I am talking about, let me give you some crash-course insight. Four is one of the nine types classified by the Enneagram personality assessment. The Enneagram is basically a way of organizing and categorizing all people into one of nine groups, each of which possesses their own traits, characteristics, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, downfalls and so on and so forth.

The group I fall into is most often referred to as the “creative individualists”. If I had to choose two words to honestly and accurately describe the entirety of my life and being, I think those two would pretty well hit the nail right on the head.

I have always been heavily involved in the arts: music, dancing, sketching, painting, theater, crafting, writing, and re-purposing. The one desire which prevailed over that to create however, was the desire to be unique. I never wanted to fit in or be like anyone else, and as a result I have struggled for years with major decisions as I fear I will choose an alternative simply because it is what everyone else is doing. To live with that fear and problem is not an easy task.

For instance, I had a difficult time grasping why, in fact, I needed to attend college. Finishing high school, I did not have a clear vision of a career or place I wanted to be, nor did I have the funds to waste while figuring it out. Did I need to go to college for my own benefit, or was I going for everyone else’s?

I feel the exact same way about family. People around me assume I will date, get married, have children, and settle down close to home—I did grow up in the Midwest after all. To be honest, I cringed just writing those words.  Inside, I found myself asking, “If you do get married or have children, will it be because you desire to or because it is what is expected of you?”

Now, both of those entities—college and family—become incredibly controversial when you decide they may not be for you. I have been laughed at, chewed out, and everything in between. The biggest challenge of all is deciding what I reject out of actual desire (or, more accurately a lack thereof) and what I reject simply to remain outside the box of standards society has tried to place on me. In my experience, the line is thin.

The only way to know what desires and opportunities are truly mine to follow, is to use Godly discernment. Hebrews 5:14 says,

“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

Knowing what is from God takes practice, and we will surely not be able to accomplish Godly tasks before being ready to take them on in every aspect—mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Much like Solomon asked God for a discerning heart to govern his people and distinguish between what is right and wrong (1 Kings 3:9), I had to ask God for a knowledge of which desires were His and which were not. God gave me an answer, but not the one I was expecting, nor the one I was hoping for.

Instead of giving the knowledge to me, he gave it to those surrounding me; the same ones who were previously critical of my beliefs and decisions about college and marriage. I, who valued being completely independent and unique, was forced to consider the ideas and thoughts of others concerning how I should live my life. None of which I found too appealing. Not only were my friends and family not telling me what I wanted to hear, but they were pointing out my most crucial flaws in the process… like extreme stubbornness, for example. It was hurtful.

When something is from God, it generally is going to sting a little; it may be completely convicting and pull us so far from our comfort zone that we are tempted to change our minds, and tell God we take back our prayer for him to work through us. The thing is, before he can work through us, he has to work on us. And he works on us, by working through those around us who are already complete in him.

Against all my natural instincts, I stepped outside of the very box I had unknowingly created for myself—the one which I was convinced kept me different and unique.  Actually the only thing my box was accomplishing was confinement; it held me back from being able to hear all that God had for me.

God used his frustrating answer to my plea for discernment to teach me three things:

  1. I shouldn’t let my so-called personality define who I have the potential of becoming in Christ.
  2. No matter how much I need to be unique, I need people full of God’s grace and truth more.
  3. Sometimes, instead of speaking to us, God speaks to others for us.

Knowing what is from God can come at a painful or uncomfortable cost. The Lord took everything I was convinced I didn’t like and didn’t want and used it to make me better. Want to be the most complete and absolute version of yourself? Seek out God, but also seek out the last thing you ever want to seek out. It’s easy to work on the parts of ourselves we like, but repairing the parts of ourselves, our lives, or society we disdain is really hard work. In the end, a project is only complete when all of its parts are complete and become unified; a lamp doesn’t work if the bulb is out, and you don’t work if your heart or your spirit or your hands, or any other part of you is out.

Find what scares you the most, and run toward it. That is where God will be waiting.

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