Personality tests have been around for decades, but suddenly you can’t quite turn around in the evangelical world without finding books, podcasts, or conversations oriented to self-discovery.
What is my type? Who am I? What is my unique purpose in this life?
Before you roll your eyes or start arguing, let me be clear: you might not find anyone more enthusiastic about personality tests, spiritual gift discovery, and helping people to lean into God’s purpose for their lives than I am. I love all of it and I think it is God-honoring and kingdom-enhancing. In fact, for someone who thought I was an Enneagram 7 and discovered I am actually an Enneagram 8 (those are, ahem, different), these tools have been enormously helpful for both confessing my sin and discovering my inherent gifts from God. I believe these guides can be indispensable for Christians as they seek to discern their stories, gifting, and place in the church. God created each of us uniquely in our mothers’ wombs; he gives us individual spiritual gifts when we become his children; he planned specific good works for us before the world was created!
We should do all we can to discover and steward these gifts from God.
These self-discovery tools are not bad things—they are good things. But good things turn into bad things when we put too much stock, effort, and time into them. When we turn them into idols or use them to make ourselves the center of the universe. “Not me!,” we all protest. But take a quick inventory: how much do you know about the numbers of the enneagram or Myers-Briggs types other than your own?
Empathy for others? Um, maybe a little.
We live in a self-centered culture and we are all are fallen people with the inherent tendency to make everything about ourselves. We so often take all the great gifts God has given us and use them only for the enjoyment, advancement, and fulfillment of ourselves.
If this is my personality and these are my gifts, here is what I need to find my fulfillment in my career, my family, or even in my church.
We constantly reenact the first sin of the Fall, making ourselves into gods, wanting to make our own choices and decide what is good and bad for our lives.
But in Philippians 2, Paul reminds us to “look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
So, what does this attitude look like? Is it self-actualization? Is it finding acknowledgement and appreciation for what we bring to the table?
To emulate the attitude of Jesus is to make ourselves nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, humbling ourselves and being obedient even unto death.
Here’s the thing, following Jesus is first and foremost about dying.
In order to truly find ourselves, we have to die to ourselves. Truly finding who God created us to be can only happen by following Jesus to places that can be hard and requires radical trust that He will provide what we cannot. Loving God with all that we are means stepping outsideour comfort zones. Loving others means “washing their feet,” and giving up all we think is rightfully ours for the benefit of other people. We have to step out of the center of our universe, and put Christ there where he belongs – trusting and obeying him.
It is in these moments – the broken, the difficult, the stretching moments – that we can truly find the life he has called us to in Christ. Whatever our individual stories, gifts, or personalities, this where our purpose is found: a life of love and service.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Are you finding out more about yourself? Your motivations, your struggles, your strengths? Are you learning where you can best serve your local church and engage with God in deeper ways? That is so good; good and beautiful and important. As I mentioned, I am an Enneagram 8, and I have a deep desire to leave my mark on the world, to change it for the better. But, this mark? This mark should be in the shape of a cross. A mark of love and sacrifice that looks like the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of me.
My prayer is that my journey of self-discovery, and yours, is Christ-centered and other-focused. A journey that leads not to fulfillment of our own needs and desires, but to radical stewardship of all God has given us to be poured out for our King and other people. A journey of self-discovery that helps us die to ourselves and then be truly found in Christ.