"Who am I, and why am I unloved?" I thought to myself. I knew it was a cruel lie, but it felt mysteriously comforting to accept it and wallow in self-pity.
During the quiet weekend after a wonderful, restful, active, insightful week at Electric Mountain Lodge, my thoughts rested on a dirt-heap of unanswered questions about my "personality-type."
Returning to memories around the fire on last week's Saturday night, Jonathan, Myers-Briggs-enthusiast and my good friend, had been almost entirely convinced I was an ISTP.
Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving.
"Isn't there more to me than that?" I asked myself. I could easily see myself in multiple categories and operating in different functions in different circumstances.
I didn't like being typed at all.
(In case you'd like to listen to something while you read.)
Throughout this DTS I've debated with Jonathan hard that, in the words of Stonewall Jackson, "You may be whoever you resolve to be," even when it came to personalities. A couple years ago I had come to realize that I had a natural tendency to change my thinking, feeling, and behavior, depending on circumstances as I chose.
So to be "boxed-in" as an ISTP (or any personality-type) stung a little bit. Was it pride that made it sting? Or is it an injustice to human nature and God to put boundaries on ourselves?
How come Jonathan - and many other people - finds Myers-Briggs Personality Types to be so helpful and relieving? I understand that the Myers-Briggs isn't trying to limit people in their sense of identity, and that there are tertiary functions and whatnot. But the idealist in me still cringes at the dangers of typing people.
If we were made in the image of God, and God is un-boxable, wouldn't it be nice if we were un-boxable too? Just an extrapolation.
Jonathan has reassured me that these personality-types are based on our natural preferences - meaning that a Thinker can and may often make decisions based on Feelings, but naturally prefers to make decisions based on Thinking.
But what if I don't want to be a thinker, and I'd rather be a feeler?
I have a fear of being labeled as an emotionless robot.
Maybe that's why I've clung on so hard to a personal experiment-in-living that maybe the lines between personality and character are more gray than most people realize, and maybe my personality can be purposefully changed over time.
After all, I wasn't born with artistic gifts; I was trained by an incredible artist and teacher, Kevin Murphy. Perhaps I was born with a passion and fascination for artistic things, but I turned out to be one of Kevin's slowest (and at one time, one of his most annoying) students. And I'm learning that things often perceived to be "innate" such as creativity and empathy can be learned too.
Empathy, by Dr. Brené Brown.
I suppose the question comes down to... do we forge our own identities, or do they remain immutable as false lies try to cover over them?
Over the years I've diligently trained my mind to maintain control over my actions and reactions, physical and emotional. But now I strive to be more free, loose, fearless, abounding in expressive joy, and my mind struggles to let me go.
I know I'm not the only one who has this problem.
As I read descriptions of ISTP's, I was surprised to find that it didn't sound like me at all. What did sound a lot like me was INTP, and Jonathan agreed, despite his conviction that I was a major "Sensor."
Regardless, I wasn't a fan of being stuck in either. So then I went from resisting the idea of getting "typed" to feeling insecure - that I really didn't know who I was, and no one else seemed to know either.
How easy it must have been for lies to creep inside my mind... "Who am I, and why am I unloved?" I thought to myself.
You may wonder where this "Why am I unloved" idea came from, so I will attempt to explain its source. At its core, our identities are wrapped up in how well we understand how loved we are. We were made by God, who is love, out of love, for love. Forgetting that we are loved is a huge victory for the enemy.
But the oft-sung worship song, "You're a good good father - it's who you are, it's who you are... and I'm loved by you - it's who I am, it's who I am," just wasn't cutting it for me.
Eventually I decided to go ahead and take the personality test - before all of this, it had all been Jonathan's and a few other people's speculation. I took the 16-Personalities Test (a knock-off of the heavy-duty Myers-Briggs version), and ended up getting INFJ.
More confused than before, I didn't know what to think anymore.
On Sunday, I went to Faith Bible Chapel just because it was the closest church to base. Josh and Jason came too. The talk was about James 4:1-10, and I knew God was gently trying to get through to me.
As we walked out of church, the three of us talked about our plans for the rest of the day. I had to go buy some clothes for outreach. "I'll come with you," Josh said. I knew he knew that I needed some love. We hung out for the whole day. He never asked me how I was doing; he knew I'd talk about it if I felt like it.
Ah, the magic of "just being with" someone! How it destroys the lie that we are unloved! I opened up on our drive back from the store. We ended up going to the laundromat together, and then spontaneously went to Applebee's. That Sunday just might be one of my most memorable days here in Colorado. Brotherly love is powerful, resurrecting stuff.
More than a worship song, more than a feeling, being loved by another person has always been the most powerful demonstration of God's love for me.
God's design is so creative, beautiful, and powerful; that he chose us and graced us with the privilege and capacity through his Spirit to use all of our faculties to embody the love of God...
That night, as I closed my eyes to sleep, I knew one thing:
I AM A DEEPLY PASSIONATE PERSON.
As simple as it sounds, I can't express enough how powerful that statement is for me, and how many rusty chains it tore off of my back.
As I woke up the next morning I could tell that I was on the up-swing. But I still had questions. This time, however, I was more eager to ask God those questions.
I eventually told Jonathan that I had gotten "INFJ" on the personality test. He asked me if that was really me, or if it was who I wanted to be. I had already asked myself the same question.
He's an INFJ, coincidentally.
Apparently INFJ's are hard to read, have seemingly contradictory traits, and tend to relate to a lot of other personality types - which, quite honestly, made me feel pretty good about myself.
I confess I also liked seeing that "F" in there. I admitted that I often wonder whether or not my emotions control my decisions more than I realize, and that my mind and ego are just fooling themselves.
Apparently, personality traits can be hidden due to old wounds of the past. Though I never experienced a single traumatic event in my life, I have experienced traumas that endured over a longer period of time that I hadn't always been aware of. These kinds of traumas can encroach on someone's ability or desire to be who they've been uniquely designed to be.
In light of how empathetic I was as a child, and how I struggle with it now, makes me wonder if I was born one thing and through pain began acting like another.
As we talked about it, Jonathan told me something that completely changed my perspective on personalities, something I wished I had known earlier:
According to Myers-Briggs, Thinkers are not necessarily any less emotional than Feelers.
In my mind, I had merged "Feeler" with "emotional" - one of the main causes that sent me spiraling into disarray. And after coming to believe that I am indeed a deeply passionate person, and that everybody is, my mind finally felt more at peace.
I had unwittingly condemned all thinkers (and myself) as robotic people who struggle with their feelings, but that's not true at all!
I remember looking an incredibly intelligent friend of mine in the eye and telling him with full conviction that he had a tender heart. I realize now that I needed to hear that just as much if not more than he did.
As of right now, Jonathan is currently thinking that I'm either an ISFJ or an INFJ. I still don't know what to think - both about personality types and about who I am.
But for now I am at peace, knowing that, whoever I am, God has been encouraging me to reconcile my mind with my emotions, so that I may more closely empathize with and embody the heart of God.
I can move in this direction without fear, because regardless of being a T, an F, or smack-dab in the middle, I am an emotional being.
I doubt I'll find "enlightenment" by studying Myers-Briggs, though it may help immensely. Only God who made me can ultimately satisfy my desire to know myself and be known. Thankfully though, he has a lot of specific and unique things to say about each of us.
All of that aside, this week we stayed at a church in downtown Denver and did street evangelism every day.
OUTREACH IN DENVER
Serving free hot dogs and cookies to the homeless.
I have a couple personal highlights from evangelism this week.
One day, when I was very tired, I randomly approached a lady at Starbucks and asked to hear her life story - we ended up having an incredibly encouraging and lengthy conversation about hearing from God. Maybe it was the thrill of the thing, or maybe it was God, but at the very moment I approached her all my tiredness was immediately replaced with an energetic fascination for both her and for the goodness of God.
The following day, Sophie and Rachel wanted to do this thing called "Encouragement Chair." At first I thought it was a ploy to surprise people with prophetic words, and when they asked me to join them I reluctantly agreed to try. But it turned out to be much different. The more we did it the more fun it was! As I held the cardboard sign that said "Encouragement Chair," passers-by would stare with eyebrows raised. Then they would smile and look away. Those who were brave enough would come and sit down on a chair, and we would give them earnest words of encouragement! Simple as that. I loved how non-intrusive it was, and how easy it was to joyfully spread love.
On the last day, we had a free BBQ for the homeless. I grabbed a hot dog and sat down with a lady who hadn't seen her son since the night before. She and her son had only been homeless for a short while, and they needed each other to get by. She had looked at all the hospitals and jails but still couldn't find him. We talked every once in a while, but for the most part we just sat in silence. And then her son showed up! Praise the Lord. It was eye-opening for me to see the horrors of homelessness and yet the enduring love of a mother.
Finally, us guys got together before bedtime and had a "Wrestle-fest." It was awesome! I love growing in brotherhood with these awesome men.
Can't wait to go on outreach with them!