Today Dan is cooking my gourmet birthday dinner—a tradition he started right after we were married, so this is dinner number 27 or so! Even though we are new to Frisco, we have fortunately met a few friends who will join us tonight, and my sister Julie, who lives in Dallas, will be able to attend for the first time!
As I approach age 56 next week, I have been reflecting on how long it has taken to really know and understand myself and how I am wired. It was a great relief in seminary to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator which suggested that my personality is ENFP—extroverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving. That is, I am extroverted in that I gain energy from being with others. I take in information intuitively rather than through the five senses. I process information and act based on gut feelings rather than a logical thinking process. Rather than making quick, decisive judgements, I make decisions slowly by perceiving and keeping open all options. The Myers-Briggs test gave me the first real concrete step toward self-acceptance: I was naturally wired this way at birth, so I could stop feeling that I was bad or wrong somehow, and I could stop judging others who were wired differently from me. (There are 16 types in the Myers-Briggs inventory—how freeing!)
Since then, I have learned that I have what some spiritual leaders call high “mercy” gifts. This comes from having both intuitive and feeling traits. I easily feel the pain of others. This can be a great help in pastoral ministry; however, the challenge is to release others’ pain without carrying it around inside of myself. It has taken almost five decades and two major illnesses (breast cancer and severe chronic migraines) for me to accept that being intuitively and emotionally receptive also means that I am physically sensitive. (I tire more easily than many, and I have food allergies and sensitivities; migraines make me sensitive to light, strong smells and so on). I always desire to do more than my body allows, while it repeatedly finds ways to put the brakes on. I have been fighting this dynamic my whole life.
Adding to my struggle, like most ENFP people, I am an “ideas person.” I have at least 100 thoughts and ideas spinning in my head at any given time. I began as new pastor at St. Luke’s in Richardson, Texas three months ago; last week I started rattling off to Dan the 100 things I would like to do yesterday. My mind keeps spinning and my body keeps saying, “Slow down!” I asked Dan, “Why would God give me a mind with so many ideas, and a body that can’t execute most of them?”
Like a 2x4 to the head, the Spirit stopped the mental spinning and gave me the answer: because then I need others to accomplish anything significant. If I had the chance to go it alone, I would, but that’s not faithfulness. God calls us into community, mutuality, relationship, vulnerability and shared mission. My sensitive body not only reminds my ego and my will that I cannot accomplish much on my own, but also that that’s not how God wires any of us! Duh! I’m not sure why it’s taken nearly 56 years to deeply understand this, but better now than not at all! #neverstopgrowing.