I am grateful that God has placed many wonderful relationships in my life, throughout the years and around the world. Even though each new move has brought anxiety that, perhaps, this would be the time where I would be friendless. Thus far God has proved himself faithful in the midst of my faithlessness, and has always brought about friends in each new season and place. But There are certain friendships that still find themselves unparalleled in my life. My friend Lauren is one of these unparalleled people. We can (to both our benefit as well as detriment) share a quick look or facial expression and understand immediately the others' perception of the situation. We don't need a description when we send a screenshot or a quote because the other can usually quite accurately guess the intention behind it.
The other day, Lauren texted me and asked if I had read Fleming Rutledge's superb book, The Crucifixion. In a manner that has stopped seeming surprising to me because of its frequency, I told Lauren I had just mentioned that book to someone that day. She then sent over a quote from one of Rutledge's footnotes that I needed only respond with a resounding 'YES!' for her to confirm that we had the exact same feelings behind it. In it, she references that 'The suddenness of this change from social action and liberation theology to spirituality has been enormously confusing to faithful Christians who are served a smorgasbord of enneagrams, labyrinth-walking, and all things Celtic... Classical and biblical Christianity is lost in this unmoored environment.' (Rutledge, 52) A few days later, I sent Lauren a screenshot of a Christian blogger who was advertising speaking at a conference that claimed to "guide you on your journey to knowing your inner self". It was focused on a certain personality type system that seems to be all the rage these days (hint: Rutledge references it in the quote above).
Lauren didn't need my explanation to know how I felt about this post. Having dabbled in every personality system there is over the past few years, in Christian and non-Christian environments, I have come to the same conclusion: they're helpful until they're not. I have little patience for Christians especially who base their lives around their personality type-- whether it be an acronym, an animal, or a number. I don't dispute that they can be helpful tools in understanding motivation and action and others, to a point. But I get incredibly frustrated (as Lauren sensed) when it seems like these personality tests are viewed on an equal level of Scripture, or worse yet, more valuable than Scripture.
In order to know ourselves better, we don't need a test or system. What we need is to encounter and know God. In the fall, I wrote an essay on Isaiah 6, which is where Isaiah encounters the Lord on His throne, in His temple, and the study of it wrecked my life as much as it wrecks Isaiah's in the chapter. As he witnesses the seraphim praising God, he says “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” It is the encounter with the Lord Almighty that reveals his sinfulness and lack. Isaiah recognizes that when focusing on God, there is not room for our own egos. I worry that these personality systems are more 'ego systems' than revealing our uniqueness. We can become so obsessed with what these tests tell us that we let that drive the way in which we view the world, and the way we interact with others. We hold so firmly to these beliefs that we can believe that this is the truest truth that is. And let me tell you: that is a lie.
I don't want to say there's not benefits to these things, to helping us understand others and ourselves. But the temptation to let these things replace letting God's Word help us understand these things, for if you believe that God is the creator of all people and the redeemer of your life, then why wouldn't you want to learn about yourself and about others through His Word? And the more we read God's Word and encounter him, the more our lives will be wrecked and transformed like Isaiah's, where our focus becomes less on knowing ourselves, and more on knowing God. For it is only when we know God that we can ever know ourselves, and know the way we fit into the world, and our purpose. God knows you better than any personality system. Let Him reveal that to you through His Word.