A Funny Thing Happened to Me On the Way Back from SabbaticalSeeing the Finish Line
I only have a few more weeks left on my sabbatical. When I first thought about pursuing a sabbatical, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought there would be times for experiences that I had never had before. I knew I would go places that I had never been before. I believed there would be times of rest and relaxation, perhaps even times to read and write, even though I’m discovering that writing isn’t my favorite task.
Now, over three months into my four-month sabbatical, I find I was correct on many of my sabbatical anticipations. I have gone places and done things I would have never done if Lilly had not approved my grant proposal. I’ve also had time to read, study, and write.
While I had an idea of what a sabbatical might be like, some aspects have been surprising.
One of my plans was to dive deeper into Evagrius Ponticus, a third-century desert father. The Lilly grant allowed me to purchase some fairly expensive books about Evagrius, which were helpful. My main interest in Evagrius was his view of humanity, the things (or thoughts, or sins) that keep us from becoming more like Jesus, and his thoughts regarding growth, wholeness, and transformation.
A Surprise Memory
As I read, I was reminded of something called the Enneagram. I’m not going to go into detail about the Enneagram, its genesis, history, or development. Basically, the Enneagram is a tool that helps people understand themselves better, giving an opportunity for growth and transformation.
I’m somewhat hesitant to share the Enneagram because even though it is helpful, it can also be dangerous when used against others. Nevertheless, I want to share how the Enneagram entered into my sabbatical.
The Enneagram fits into Evagrius’ story because it is believed that he had a hand in the genesis of it. I’ve done quite a bit of reading, and while Evagrius is very insightful into the human condition and thoughts we entertain, which keep us from wholeness in God, I have yet to see a direct connection to the Enneagram. Nevertheless, I can see where many of his insights could be the driving force behind the tool.
The Enneagram and Me
So, where does the Enneagram fit into my sabbatical story?
As I read more about and from Evagrius, I thought I would revisit the Enneagram. I had taken a ‘test’ several years earlier, so I knew my “type” (there are nine different Enneagram “types” with many nuances within those types). [Sidenote: After learning a little bit more about the Enneagram, the ‘tests’, while helpful, are not necessarily needed. Reading descriptions of the nine different types is sometimes all someone needs to do to get a sense of their ‘type.’]
Here’s what I didn’t realize several years ago but discovered while I was on my sabbatical, the Enneagram isn’t just about knowing yourself better; it can also provide a pathway to transformation. While many people take an Enneagram test to simply discover their type and more about themselves, what’s important isn’t your type but transformation. Along with transformation, such understanding and transformation can help us have compassion for others.
While each of the nine Enneagram types has wonderful qualities (Virtues), there are other qualities that aren’t so wonderful (Vices or Sins). I identified with both the good and the bad, leaving me with a decision: Would I bask in the wonderfulness of my type, or would I start the journey toward wholeness and health? Several years ago, I looked at the wonderful qualities of my type and snickered with identification at the vices, but now I sense a different call, a call to transformation.
The decision to pursue transformation confronts all of us. Will we continue on the path we have always walked, or are we willing to take the path Jesus offers us? On the surface, it seems like a simple decision. It is not.
Not Funny HA HA
I find it funny that I was confronted during my sabbatical. I had not expected that at all! I assumed I would be traveling, reading, and spending time in reflection, but God’s call to continued conversion wasn’t something I expected.
The decision to pursue transformation means we must let go of attitudes, practices, behaviors, etc., that we have not only grown accustomed to but are convinced we need to survive in this world. Jesus said the enemy comes to “steal, kill, and destroy,” but he convinces us we need him, and he is on our side. He continues to tell us that things, while not great, are fine just the way they are. He will fight to stay around.
Jesus offers us life! Life comes with a cost. Jesus died. So must we.
The Enneagram has shown me what I’ve been hanging on to and revealed what abundant life might look like. It has pushed me closer to Jesus because transformation comes only through Jesus.
You, too, are invited to life! Life comes as we let go and embrace Jesus. It might be a difficult path (letting go always is), but it will be worth it. What’s your decision?
Let me know if you’d like to know more about the Enneagram. I can suggest some resources that might help you in a transformational journey.