April 30, 2017

Daniel Jepsen: Loving God According to our Personality

Chillin’ Bear 2014

Loving God According to our Personality
By Daniel Jepsen

I struggled with this title; the term personality is more elastic than a spandex jumpsuit, and the phrase loving God is not much more definitive.  But my main point is this: We rightly express our devotion to God differently than other people because of the unique ways we have been shaped by God.  

Anyone who has wandered through a forest or spent time snorkeling at a reef begins to realize how much God loves variety.  Even flowers and trees of the same species are different from each other, and every snowflake has its own unique shape.  If this is true of God’s expression of Himself in creation, will not it also be true of His New Creation, of which we are a part?

When all things are fulfilled, I believe the differences of our personalities, unencumbered by social conformity and our desire to fit in, will be more pronounced than now, not less. We will not be drops of water lost in the ocean of God.  We will be unique masterpieces reflecting His work.

Even now we should embrace our differences. What great artist designs only cookie-cutter shapes?  How then can we not see our uniqueness as the special creation of God?  How can we not see how the uniqueness of the other person’s walk with God is something beautiful and valuable?  Let us cease trying to make others in our image; His image is quite sufficient, and has enough hues and facets to embrace all His children.

In particular, we should embrace and celebrate the different ways Christians express their devotion to God, according to their temperament, personality and history.  Allow me to express how I see some common patterns (though their combinations and particular expressions will be almost infinite):

  • Colorful Parrot 2014

    Intellectuals love God by forming their mind according to truth. They have an inner drive to know more about God and His world, and abhor shallow or misleading teaching.  Books, magazines, and lectures are the tools God uses to shape the intellectual. For the intellectual all truth is God’s truth, and in learning of His Word and His world they are drawn towards Him.

  • Activists love God by working for righteousness and societal justice.  They are impatient with a faith that does not express itself in transforming the world around them, and feel closest to God when fighting His battles.  Their deepest desire is to see “Your will be done on earth, even as it is already done in heaven”.
  • Servants love God by loving those made in God’s image.  Like the activist, the servant cannot imagine a God-devotion divorced from action; unlike the activist, this action will more likely be in personally serving those in need. They long to be the hands and feet of Christ to the suffering and needy.
  • Mystics love God through an inner ardor that others may not understand. In fact, the mystic may not understand the waxing and waning of their passion, just as a married couple may not always understand the same waxing and waning of their romance.  But the mystic desire to love God in a way similar to a romantic love (indeed, for a mystic, human romantic love is a foretaste and symbol of the divine romance).  Nothing brings the mystic more pleasure than to sit in utter silence for hours before God, contemplating the beauty of God, and praying words of adoration and surrender.
  • Enthusiasts find their love for God best expressed in exciting or intense corporate worship. He or she feeds off the enthusiasm of other believers and revels in God’s mystery and supernatural power. This, in turn, often ushers in surrender and submission to God. New and creative expressions of worship are prized by the enthusiast.
  • Naturalists worship God through nature. The beauty and majesty of creation speak to them of the beauty and majesty of the Creator, and they often feel closest to God while simple contemplating a mountain lake or a magnificent sunset. For the naturalist, the physical creation is indeed a revelation of God, and they fully understand Wordworth’s admonition, “let nature be your teacher”.
  • Talking Giraffe 2014

    Traditionalists eschew the new for the familiar; they find great meaning and spiritual beauty in the patterns of the past.  Reciting a creed used for 1500 years, singing a hymn used by God’s people for centuries: these connect the traditionalist to the stream of Church history, and make them feel united to something greater than themselves or their own time and place. For this person, submitting to such tradition is an act of godly humility. A traditionalist is not always High-Church; A Baptist or Church of Christ adherent can find their own traditions as meaningful as an Anglican’s, even if of more recent vintage.

  • Sensates worship God through their senses and take seriously the sentiment that “beauty is truth, and truth is beauty”.   For this person, art and music are the portals to heaven, the way that God shines in a dark world.  They find the architecture and appointments of their house of worship greatly affect their worship to God, and nothing brings them greater spiritual fulfillment than to embrace, or even create, beauty. A sensate who also values tradition will be very devoted to liturgy.

Not for a minute would I suggest this list is exhaustive or definitive.  Nor do I think most people fit neatly into only one temperament.  My point is that in 2000 years of Christian tradition, a number of equally valid ways of loving God and following Christ have become evident. At best, these streams of tradition will balance and correct each other, for each has its own strengths and weaknesses.  At the very least, let us embrace the fact that not every Christian has to look and think like we do, and not every church worship God in the same way.  God is always bigger than our church, and bigger than our understanding of what it means to love Him.

For Christ plays in ten thousand places
Lovely in form, and lovely in eyes not his

(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Where would you place yourself? Or would you come up with different categories?

Comments

  1. Good essay, Daniel. I’ve come to peace with the basic truth of your aritcle. I don’t have to conform people to my image any longer, and can appreciate and even celebrate their own unique expressions of being conformed to the image of Christ.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      +1

      I am not a Sensate … but as an Activist I have recently learned a lot from them; and I am better at Activism for it. Servants have certainly helped to instruct this Intellectual.

      God may love diversity for utilitarian reasons – – – because it works.

  2. Wait, wait, Daniel, are you saying we aren’t allowed to bash people different than us any more? Why would anyone come here if they couldn’t bash other people, especially those awful Evangelicals and, God forbid, those wretched Calvinists. What would be the point to life? The whole reason for being of this Monastery down the tubes. No more pleasure, no more fun, no reason to get up out of bed. Oh well, whoever is the last to leave, please turn out the lights and lock the door. Wait, you didn’t mention political differences. There may be hope.

    • Daniel Jepsen says:

      Hi Charles. As an evangelical I have sometimes felt bashed, as you put it, by some people on this site. But not by most; most people here are, I think, pointing out the faults and weak points that any movement will have. Sometimes the criticism hurts, but I usually learn from it.

      I also try to keep in mind that many people have been deeply hurt by the church, evangelical and otherwise, and perhaps need to express that somewhere. It may be a needed part of their own journey with God (though not without dangers, I suppose).

      • Brianthegrandad says:

        You forgot to include Curmudgeonists on your list

      • >> . . . most people here are, I think, pointing out the faults and weak points that any movement will have.

        Or to put it somewhat differently, rising up in self-righteous indignation, surely one of the keenest pleasures afforded this life on Planet Earth, if not up there at the top. Be that as it may, any attempt to right the balance such as yours today, Daniel, deserves kudos and commendations. Don’t worry, if the balance tips the other way, I’ll be here.

    • Oh no we can always bash the Calvinists. That’s ok. I mean, what choice do we have? Get it? Get it? heh heh heh.

    • Wait, wait, Daniel, are you saying we aren’t allowed to bash people different than us any more? Is that self-depricating irony? There may be hope for you yet.

  3. Great post, Daniel.

  4. Burro (Mule) says:

    Let it also be duly noted that each temperament has its own particular challenges as well. I don’t think I need to get specific. Reading each category brought the extreme case quickly to the front of my perverse imagination. Thus, each needs to be balanced by communion with the others = another argument for a unified, one-size-fits-all Church over against the smörgåsbord approach to Christianity/spirituality that prevails today.

    Just sayin’

    • “That sounds like the Alliance. Unite all the planets under one rule so that everybody can be interfered with or ignored equally.” – Mal Reynolds

      Seriously, one big reason why we *have* the cacophany of smorgasbord Christianity today is that the so-claimed “unified, one-size-fits-all” church let it go to its head.

    • Daniel Jepsen says:

      Duly noted and appreciated

  5. Thank you for not ordering your nomenclature system according to a four quadrant structure, a series of letter combinations, a pie chart, or any kind of polygonal, multi-lineal diagram.

  6. Funny that you shied from that title. I was immediately drawn to it. Mystic is my inclination without trying to sound like Mr. deep spiritual holy man. It simply fits my approach. Though I don’t find hours at a time to sit silently I do practice centering prayer in spots throughout the day. Communion with the Lord Jesus is a continuing salve to the wounds of the cross, not in time and space of course but in the eternal dimension. It is his just reward to be adored by his imps.

  7. A little bit different than personality, there is too a spectrum of psychological make-up.We live in a fallen world so all of us are mentally ill to some degree. Some more than others. Often it has very little to do with the moral choices that one makes (although it can, and then it is called “sin” but you have to be careful about assigning sin to someone based on a psychological problem). In many Christian sub-cultures, a certain psychological make up is considered more godly than others. I think of my aunt (now 91) for most of her lift she never darkened the door of a church, and was about as non-Christian as you can be in faith (not now). But she has always had the ideal Christian personality. She is extremely happy, kind, cheerful, and with a servants heart. So, like you said in the article, we have to measure ourselves by ourselves and not by a cookie cutter idea of what it means to be spiritual or godly. Those who struggle with anxiety, depression or anti-social tendencies can love God as well as the happy extrovert as my aunt.

    • –> “We live in a fallen world so all of us are mentally ill to some degree.”

      Oh gosh…this SO resonates with me at the moment. I had a slight incident a couple days ago that triggered my brooding, self-pity mode. I made life miserable for my family this weekend. I told my wife this morning, “I think I have a serious flaw, just so you know that I recognize it.” I mean seriously, I KNOW that I have a slight mental illness!

      • I’m sorry for crackin’ up over here but that’s funny! Not because it’s untrue but because it resonates as you said. As long as you’ve got a couple a three people who love you as you are, mental disturbance and all, without carrying around an agenda for your improvement then you’ve got the fixings for finding the way out of those spells that we are all subject to in numerous different forms. I think you’re perfect Rick but then I don’t have to live with you do I ?!! 🙂

  8. Thinking about expressing our devotion to God differently made us think about distilling it down to some basics. And then considering the killings that occurred in Lyons in 177 AD…..two of them said the same thing. The slave girl Blandina and the man Sanctus both said, “I am a Christian”. Blandina’s death took so long it left her torturers “faint and weary”.

  9. Dan from Georgia says:

    Very nice post Daniel. Now are you telling me that we ALL have a place in the body of Christ? OK, I am now gonna say it, and I may ruffle some feathers, but in my experience, it seems like the Intellectuals think they have a corner on the market of God’s revelation and Gospel, and look down on others who don’t share their intellectual superiority.

    /buckshot

    Ok, anyways, good post again. I believe that this hearkens us to I Corinthians where we are all a part of the body of Christ. Me? I am mainly a naturalist and sensate.

    • Yep. There is definitely more than a touch of that in modern American Reformed circles. I know, I was one, and perpetuated it for a bit myself. :-/

    • Pride is THE pitfall of just about everyone who has a brain. It almost can’t be helped as it is just natural to feel superior to those who know less than you. You have worked and studied, probably putting in vast amounts of time to aquire such depths of knowledge so why wouldn’t you feel ahead of the game? The salvation of every intellectual in escaping such insidious aggrandizement is the recognition that the heavenly and earthly value systems are cattywumpus. God places brains pretty much at the bottom of the pole (knowledge puffs up) and heart at the top (love builds up). He is just not impressed. It ain’t all that! A tome could be written on the scriptures that address that subject. It is to the point in our modern society where the strict intellectual honestly doesn’t know what heart is or how to relate to God on that level as intellect has ruled and reigned for centuries now. The language of the heart has not been learned and cannot be spoken so everything goes through that noggin between the ears. It genuinely isn’t something to be proud of in the heavenly economy but on earth it is cherished so there you go. Now that giant intellect that combines heart and feeling and kind humility is usually a genius. That is a thing to behold and we could all hope to be so gifted.

      • “intellect has ruled and reigned for centuries now. The language of the heart has not been learned and cannot be spoken so everything goes through that noggin between the ears.”

        *cough*Charismatics*cough*

        Never make sweeping generalities in front of an intellectual. 😉

        • Good point! I suppose what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. My only point is that many Christian intellectuals consciously strive with their pride. There’s a great freedom to be found in putting it into a spiritual perspective. Intellect has tremendous value and importance in the world but it is not a requirement for knowing God. It helps for sure but it can also be set aside when it gets in the way.

          • Dan from Georgia says:

            Agree. All the above types of individuals will have pride issues. If you are one who is motivated by activism, you may have the tendency to look down your nose and questioning the salvation of those who are not driven to activism.

            RE: intellectuals, I have several friends with strong faith who are not considered very intellectual.

            • Yes, just the point. A man need not be smart to love his wife or his children. It helps to know that.

  10. I see a little bit of all of these in myself, well maybe except for the “Enthusiasts”. Other than anything having to do with my kids, there’s not much I get enthused about with the exception of Spring Training and Opening Day.

  11. “it seems like the Intellectuals think they have a corner on the market of God’s revelation and Gospel, and look down on others who don’t share their intellectual superiority…”

    Well assuming this is not a compliment every point of view has its own shadow does it not?

    The intellectual has the pedant.
    The activist has the inquisitor.
    The servant has the masochist.
    The mystic has the obscurantist. (And they’re never there when it’s time to do the dishes.)
    The enthusiast has the busy body.
    The naturalist has the lotus eater. (And they’re never there when it’s time to do the dishes.)
    The traditionalist has the fuddy-duddy.
    The sensates have…hmmmm…the sensates have…uuuuhhh…wait a sec I’ll think of it…uhhh…no no we’re good…

    • Dan from Georgia says:

      Stephen, yep. True for those items! Similar to when I took those “Spiritual Gifts Inventories” – lists of positives and negatives of each gifting.

      • If I had a buck for every “spiritual gifts test” that was shoved at me over the years… I could buy a 5th edition D&D Players Handbook.

        • +1000. Oh I could paper the walls with them. And I never fit the catagories. To this day I wince when I hear the fellowship group is going to study Spiritual Gifts.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            All too often, “Spiritual Gifts” means “Tongues, Tongues, Tongues, Tongues, Tongues, Tongues, and Tongues.”

            Or if you’re a Spiritual Warfare type, “Discernment” (in the Witchfinder-General definition, not the original).