Part of my ordination training involved doing the Myers-Briggs personality test. Now I realise that this is not strictly mandated by the Pastoral Epistles, but on the other hand it was a good old giggle. (See mildly amusing prayers for the 16 personality types here.)
I came out quite strongly as ENFP which means I’m an inveterate procrastinator, big-picture, no-detail, scatter-brained, last-minute, wing it with a smile and talk my way out of it later kind of guy. At this point all the ISTJs (the opposite to me on all four spectrums) are waking up to why my blog really bugs them. (Myers-Briggs did actually help me understand something of my bible college experience – the majority of Anglican ministers I trained with were ISTJs).
But already you’re probably sensing what everyone should know about these ‘personality types.’ They’re not neutral. They describe real patterns alright – and extremely hard-wired patterns too. But a lot of what they describe are patterns of sin. A good part of each of the 16 ‘personality types’ simply identify chosen, self-protective schemes that enable us to navigate a cursed world along paths of least resistance. Whether we buy into the ‘loud’ or the ‘shy’ persona, the ‘organized’ or ‘shambolic’, we’re basically doing the same thing – finding a way to make life work apart from Christ. By some combination of retreating from the thorns and sewing our fig leaves we hit upon a style of relating that minimizes pain and maximizes self.
Now we cluster together in different groups of sinners because there are natural contours to our make-up, and there are unique events shaping our development. Those internal and external differences are not in themselves sinful. What’s more God redeems our Adamic personalities (rather than replaces them) and gives us distinct and glorious gifts. This is all a very good thing. Differences are not a problem. Not at all. The new creation will not be monochrome! And different gifted-ness is not something to be ironed out in the name of Christian maturity. We are trinitarian! Our goal is not the absence of difference but the harmony of God-given distinctives.
The problem is not difference. The problem in fact is a lack of distinctiveness to our personalities because instead we slide into personas that deny our particular identity in Christ.
How many times have we flinched from serving Jesus by making such claims as…
‘I’m just not an extrovert.’
‘I don’t really do organization.’
‘I’m not a morning person.’
‘I get energy from withdrawing and being alone’
‘I need order/control.’
‘I’m not good with authority/structure.’
‘I’m not a people-person.’
See more “I am not…” statements here, and their effect.
Even as we think of these deep-seated statements of identity it should be clear that they’re not just descriptive. They are also very strongly aspirational. I got that sense even as I took the Myers-Briggs test. So many of the answers I gave were actually the answers that I thought the artsy, laid-back Glen should give. In fact it was almost exactly like doing the Star Wars personality test where I tried my hardest to come out as Han Solo (but ended up as Princess Leia. My wife was the Emporer – but that’s another post). The point is our reactions to events are partly innate but also strongly determined by the persona we’d like to hide in.
So who’s identity are we hiding in and why?
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4)
Rest of series: