Section Two: The Personal Characteristics of a Godly Life.
Our current theme: Characteristic Three: Being Extremely Valued.
Our reading for today: 2nd Corinthians 12: 7-10 (MsgB)
Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then He told me, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
The gift of a handicap.
Not too many of us actually see our broken lives through that lense, do we? In our western society, handicaps are more often things to be overcome. Problems to be solved. Weaknesses to be defeated and replaced with our strengths.
But Paul, after what sounds to be much soul-seeking and some pretty intense conversations with the Lord, has apparently come to a place in life where he accepts his weaknesses as gifts that actually keep him in constant touch with his own limitations, thus placing him ever-increasingly dependent upon the strong, loving power of his Savior; the One who sees our weaknesses and loves us all the more!
Hmm. Kinda reminds me of a 20th-century saint, Thomas Merton, who wrote this:
Sooner or later we must distinguish between what we are not and what we are. We must accept the fact that we are not what we would like to be. We must cast off our false, exterior self like the cheap and showy garment that it is. We must find our real self, in all its elemental poverty, but also in its great and very simple dignity: created to be the child of God, and capable of loving with something of God’s own sincerity and His unselfishness.
So, for those of us who are really ashamed of our weaknesses, afraid of fessing up to our self-centered, sinful lives, might I suggest that we actually take a cue from both Paul and Thomas Merton, and get on with it; believing that Christ has, within His power, the ability to love us even in the midst of our worst sins and most troubling weaknesses. Yes, in and through Jesus alone, is the power to overcome even the ugliest aspects of our character, even when some of those handicaps never seem to go away, despite how much we might ask the Lord to deliver us from them.
But before we talk more about how Jesus has the power to overcome our weaknesses, it’s vitally important for dedicated Christ-followers to better understand ourselves and those weaknesses that are embedded deep within our flesh. You see, in our fallen condition, every human being has unique areas of our lives that are weak and susceptible to on-going temptation. In today’s passage, we find Paul talking about how Satan’s angel did his best to convince Paul that his handicap was too great to be overcome, pushing him to his knees. But here’s the truth. Once Paul started talking to the Master about his handicap, rather than keeping it all to himself, Paul began to gain a much clearer perspective on his weaknesses and how God wanted to offer His grace in helping him through these trials and temptations that had been sent his way.
So today, we’re going to begin a mini-journey with you. Over the next four weeks, we’re going to dig a bit deeper into our lives, looking at ourselves in ways maybe you’ve never explored before. Today, we’ll begin by offering you an excellent discernment exercise that can begin a process of better identifying ourselves, and with it, better embrace the weaknesses (handicaps) that lie deep within us all. This exercise begins by simply reading through nine short paragraphs (below). Each paragraph will describe one of nine unique personality styles that are quite common to our human existence.
Please note that our goal here is to find one, two (or at the most, three) paragraphs that best describe YOU. One of the best ways of getting there is to read all nine paragraphs carefully and then begin eliminating the paragraphs that least describe you. Keep in mind, you’re not looking for paragraphs that describe who you’d like to be, but ones that best describe you! Are you ready? Here are the nine paragraphs (A-I):
Paragraph A: I approach things in an all-or-nothing way, especially issues that matter to me. I place a lot of value on being strong, honest, and dependable. What you see is what you get. I don’t trust others until they have proven themselves to be reliable. I like people to be direct with me, and I know when someone is being devious, lying, or trying to manipulate me. I have a hard time tolerating weakness in people, unless I understand the reason for their weakness or I see that they’re trying to do something about it. I also have a hard time following orders or direction if I do not respect or agree with the person in authority. I am much better at taking charge myself. I find it difficult not to display my feelings when I am angry. I am always ready to stick up for friends or loved ones, especially if I think they are being treated unjustly. I may not win every battle with others, but they’ll know I’ve been there.
Paragraph B: I seem to be able to see all points of view pretty easily. I may even appear indecisive at times because I can see advantages and disadvantages on all sides. The ability to see all sides makes me good at helping people resolve their differences. This same ability can sometimes lead me to be more aware of other people’s positions, agendas, and personal priorities than of my own. It is not unusual for me to become distracted and then to get off task on the important things I’m trying to do. When that happens, my attention is often diverted to unimportant, trivial tasks. I have a hard time knowing what is really important to me, and I avoid conflict by going along with what others want. People tend to consider me to be easygoing, pleasing, and agreeable. It takes a lot to get me to the point of showing my anger directly at someone. I like for life to be comfortable and harmonious and for others to be accepting of me.
Paragraph C: I have high internal standards for correctness, and I expect myself to live up to those standards. It’s easy for me to see what’s wrong with things as they are and to see how they could be improved. I may come across to some people as overly critical or demanding perfection, but it’s hard for me to ignore or accept things that are done the right way. I pride myself on the fact that if I’m responsible for doing something, you can be sure I’ll do it right. I sometimes have feelings of resentment when people don’t try to do things properly or when people act irresponsibly or unfairly, although I usually try not to show it to them openly. For me, it is usually work before pleasure, and I suppress my desires as necessary to get the work done.
Paragraph D: I am sensitive to other people’s feelings. I can see what they need, even when I don’t know them. Sometimes it’s frustrating to be so aware of people’s needs, especially their pain or unhappiness, because I’m not able to do as much for them as I’d like to. It’s easy for me to give of myself. I sometimes wish I were better at saying no, because I end up putting more energy into caring for others than into taking care of myself. It hurts my feelings if people think I’m trying to manipulate or control them when all I’m trying to do is understand and help them. I like to be seen as a warmhearted and good person, but when I’m not taken into account or appreciated I can become very emotional or even demanding. Good relationships mean a great deal to me, and I’m willing to work hard to make them happen.
Paragraph E: Being the best at what I do is a strong motivator for me, and I have received a lot of recognition over the years for my accomplishments. I get a lot done and am successful in almost everything I take on. I identify strongly with what I do, because to a large degree I think your value is based on what you accomplish and the recognition you get for it. I always have more to do than will fit into the time available, so I often set aside feelings and self-reflection in order to get things done. Because there’s always something to do, I find it hard to just sit and do nothing. I get impatient with people who don’t use my time well. Sometimes I would rather just take over a project someone is completing too slowly. I like to feel and appear “on top” of any situation. While I like to compete, I am also a good team player.
Paragraph F: I am a sensitive person with intense feelings. I often feel misunderstood and lonely, because I feel different from everyone else. My behavior can appear like drama to others, and I have been criticized for being overly sensitive and over-amplifying my feelings. What is really going on inside is my longing for both emotional connection and a deeply felt experience of relationship. I have difficulty fully appreciating present relationships because of my tendency to want what I can’t have and to disdain what I do have. The search for emotional connection has been with me all of my life, and the absence of emotional connection has led, at times, to melancholy and depression. I sometimes wonder why other people seem to have more than I do – better relationships and happier lives. I have a refined sense of aesthetics, and I experience a rich world of emotions and meaning.
Paragraph G: I would characterize myself as a quiet, analytical person who needs more time alone than most people do. I usually prefer to observe what is going on rather than be involved in the middle of it. I don’t like people to place too many demands on me or to expect me to know and report what I’m feeling. I’m able to get in touch with my feelings better when alone than with others, and I often enjoy experiences I’ve had more when reliving them than when actually going through them. I’m almost never bored when alone, because I have an active mental life. It is important for me to protect my time and energy and, hence, to live a simple, uncomplicated life and be as self-sufficient as possible.
Paragraph H: I have a vivid imagination, especially when it comes to what might be threatening to safety and security. I can usually spot what could be dangerous or harmful and may experience as much fear as if it were really happening or just question or challenge the situation and not experience fear. I either tend to avoid danger or tend to challenge it head-on. In fact, sometimes I do not experience much fear since I go into action with little hesitation. My imagination also leads to my ingenuity and a good, if somewhat offbeat, sense of humor. I would like for life to be more certain, but in general I seem to doubt or question the people and things around me. I can usually see the shortcomings in the view someone is putting forward. I suppose that, as a consequence, some people may consider me to be very astute. I tend to be suspicious of authority and am not particularly comfortable being seen as the authority. Because I can see what is wrong with the generally held view of things, I tend to identify with underdog causes. Once I have committed myself to a person or a cause, I am very loyal to it.
Paragraph I: I am an optimistic person who enjoys coming up with new and interesting things to do. I have a very active mind that quickly moves back and forth between different ideas. I like to get a global picture of how all these ideas fit together, and I get excited when I can connect concepts that initially don’t appear to be related. I like to work on things that interest me, and I have a lot of energy to devote to them. I have a hard time sticking with unrewarding and repetitive tasks. I like to be in on the beginning of a project, during the planning phase, when there may be many interesting options to consider. When I have exhausted my interest in something, it is difficult for me to stay with it, because I want to move on to the next thing that has captured my interest. If something gets me down, I prefer to shift my attention to more pleasing ideas. I believe people are entitled to an enjoyable life.
Again, your assignment today is to find one, two (or at the most, three) paragraphs that best describe your personality. Now that you have read each paragraph, go back and purposely eliminate the ones that don’t describe you, and then prayerfully choose the remaining paragraph(s) (also available as Chart #1) that best describe your unique personality.
Bring that info to our next blog session and we’ll see where God takes us from there!
My prayer: Father God, as I own up to these unique personality traits that make me who I am, thank goodness, that You are able to take the good/bad/and ugly of that personality type and mold me and shape me, through the power of Your agape love, into one who lives my unique life for the glory of God. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: With the illumination and clarity that comes from the Holy Spirit, which one or two (three at the most) of these nine personality types (above) are the one(s) that best describe me on an on-going basis?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!
Much thanks to The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels & Virginia Price for the nine paragraphs used in today’s blog.
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