My God-given personality has certain tendencies.
I tend towards observation, and away from participation.
I tend towards being a consultant, and away from being a practitioner.
I tend towards gathering ideas and collecting models (architectural models, abstract conceptions of society), and away from the working-out of such ideas and models in the lived world (where the models are adapted and in a sense abused, because people rightly resist control).
The immature expression of such a personality has to withdraw from the world.
The mature expression of such a personality can withdraw from the world.
There is a world of difference between the two.
The world needs people who can withdraw, who can step back far enough to spot patterns and predict potential outcomes.
And so in seeking to participate with God in growing in maturity, in growing into the person he has invested in me to be, I need to throw myself into situations that, being self-centred rather than Christ-centred, I would naturally pull away from. In the milling crowd in the shopping mall, my impatience with the thoughtlessness of shoppers towards other shoppers is confronted by the herd intelligence (despite all projections, people hardly ever walk into one another). Where I might withdraw inside myself in judgement, I discover I can choose to step back and observe something beautiful unfold…and then step out into the swirling dance.
Jesus was able to withdraw from the crowd, to spend time alone with the Father or together with a close group of friends. But he also gave himself to others, and threw himself into the glorious muddle of life.
It isn’t a matter of resisting my God-given personality, of trying to be someone I am not called to be. Rather, it is a recognition that we find our life when we die to it; that we lose our life when we try to protect and preserve it, but gain our life when we give ourselves away, to God and our neighbour.
Of course, my personality is only one of the things God has given me. Others include my family history, certain enhanced and impaired abilities, particular opportunities. None of these are unique to me – but the combination is. And they are given in order to help me respond.
Which is why the mantra, ‘I am the way God made me’ can never be the final word.
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