The discovery of the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator was significant for my teaching career. It provided a typology for distinguishing diverse personalities based on the polarities of introversion/extroversion, intuition/sensing, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. People learn differently, experience differently—are different. For example, introverts and extroverts gain energy in opposite ways. After a day’s work, the introvert needs solitary quietness, while the extrovert suggests calling friends and “going out.”
Such diversity of personalities runs throughout scripture. Esau is “a man of the field,” but Jacob is a “quiet man” (Gen. 25:27). The reflective Mary listens at Jesus’ feet while the frenetic Martha seeks to serve from the kitchen. Peter is a doer; John a contemplative. Thus their theologies and spiritualities differ. Moses perceives God in historical events, while Elijah hears God as the whisper of “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12, kjv).
In today’s reading, Paul declares that “fullness of life” necessitates freedom from requirements (“law”) that we cannot meet. Often these are spiritual disciplines that are incompatible with who we are. When they do not work for us, we feel like a failure and we give up. The spiritual writings of John of the Cross are vastly different from those of Brother Lawrence.
Yet after finding the spirituality that fits, there comes a point when ongoing spiritual growth entails walking into one’s shadow—the undeveloped side of one’s personality. Thus, as an extrovert, I came to need the “forced feeding” of an introvert monastery.
On this day in 547, Saint Benedict died. He became the father of western monasticism by establishing a Rule that integrated spiritual diversity. Lord, dare I live intentionally by creating a “rule” of which Jesus would be proud? Amen.
Even great people in the faith have moments of imperfection. Not all biblical stories are biblical examples. Jacob should have fed his brother out of concern, but he takes advantage of the situation and robs Esau of his birthright. The psalmist asks the Lord to show him how to live. God’s word is a lamp to his feet and a light to his path. Paul in Romans contrasts the life of the flesh and the life in the Spirit. Without the power of God, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes in the flesh; but the Spirit sets us free. Jesus reminds us in Matthew that the effectiveness of the gospel is not based on our efforts. We sow the seed, but we cannot control whether it takes root.
Read Genesis 25:19-34. How do you experience God’s “nevertheless”—God’s grace—as you work through the baggage of your birthright?
Read Isaiah 55:10-13. How might experiencing moments as if for the last time bring the joy of a first-time experience?
Read Romans 8:1-11. In learning what spiritual practices strengthen you, what practices did you try that did not work? Now that you know what works, how might working on practices you once found unhelpful grow your faith?
Read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. In what unexpected place might you sow seeds of God’s love?
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