Categories
Beauty Choices Contempt Journey Motives Rejection

Behind the Times

I’m a bit behind the times I know. I could use the excuse of living overseas but with the advent of the internet, that excuse really can’t get me too far. At the touch of a key on my wireless keyboard, I have the world and endless search engines at my fingertips (literally). I can study just about any subject in any field, read news from the farthest corner of the earth (not to mention space news from NASA and beyond) and almost correctly diagnose any ailment (much to the chagrin of physicians worldwide). No, I have no excuse to remain disconnected from the rest of the world, except for the times that the power goes out and then I digress, I have an excuse, albeit a temporary one.

Yet, I somehow missed one of the past “things” that made the rounds online and in books called the “Enneagram.” The Enneagram is simply another method to discover different personalities. On the Enneagram, I came to discover that I am a 2w1 personality. This makes me someone who feels deeply and can read emotions and situations with surprising clarity. Twos (as we are known) are helpers and at their core, they want to be recognized for helping, they actively seek love and approval of others by what they do.

The spiritual journey a Two has to take is one of giving beyond investment expecting a return to giving simply without expectation of anything in return; that’s what we call true love.

This is perhaps why I relate with Leah of the Bible. Not only do we (almost) share a name, but we seem to share some of the same characteristics making me wonder if Leah of the book of Genesis was a Two on the Enneagram.

Leah was married, underhandedly by her father, to Jacob. Jacob expected his love, Rachel, to be the one under the wedding veil but was disappointed when his father-in-law gave him Leah instead. As the story goes, Jacob did manage to marry Rachel, but was bound first to Leah, who knew she was unloved.

As time went by and Leah began to bear children, she named them accordingly:

1. Gen. 29:32 – Reuben was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”

2. Gen. 29:33 – Simeon was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.”

3. Gen. 29:34 – Levi was born and Leah said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

Each time, Leah’s disappointment in being “unloved” was further cemented into her conscience. Jacob must have made his utter contempt towards her clear in his treatment of her (this is another subject for another day) and Leah, due to the time and culture, was bound to continue serving. She hoped her actions would sway the love of her husband towards her, but it was to no avail.

The fourth time Leah, again I’m quite sure she was my fellow Two, learned a lesson vital to the spiritual growth of a Two, she learned to love and trust without expecting love from anyone – except the Lord.

Gen. 29:35 “‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah.”

What helped Leah cope through the rest of her life feeling unloved and rejected by her husband? How did Leah manage to juggle the responsibilities of her household when everyone knew no matter what she did, Rachel would be her husband’s real love?

She learned there was only One Whose love was unfailing and whatever she did for Him wouldn’t go unrecognized. She simply learned to praise the Lord.

There are a few times in scripture we read of Leah stumbling again into her past patterns of seeking approval (much like we all do even though we know better). But those times were few; I imagine each time she stumbled the pain she felt reminded her to return to the One Whose love never fails, never has strings attached to it.

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For more on The Enneagram, I recommend:

https://www.amazon.com/Road-Back-You-Enneagram-Self-Discovery/dp/0830846190

Categories
Beauty Church planting Missions

Mud or Dust? Take Your Pick

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Mud or dust? Take your pick.
We often joke about our church floors; they’ve all been either rock, dirt, and, on occasion, cement. They’ve never been pretty; they are always of the “needs improvement” variety. I used to be bothered by the floors, especially those of rock, as they would ruin my shoes. It didn’t matter what kind of shoes I had, the rocks would eat them up. Together with the rocky floors, we also have a permanent dust issue. It’s mostly dusty in our church “facility” (a tent) and if it’s not dusty, it’s muddy. I much prefer dusty to muddy, as the dust is much easier to clean up than the mud is.

I’ve long forgotten what it is like to wear nice shoes to church; I have to think of what is sensible, easy to clean, and what to wear that I won’t miss in the event they get ruined in the mud. The ladies and I of our churches have concluded that we can identify who goes to our church by looking at their shoes.

How do you clean a dirt floor? Isn’t it impossible? By definition, a dirt floor cannot be clean – but that doesn’t mean we don’t try to clean it. The floors are swept before every meeting; admittedly the sweeping makes them appear neater but they are no cleaner. The chairs get set out on the neat-looking floor and service begins. Once we have finished, the chairs get put away and the dirty floor remains ever the same: dirty. Dirty as it may be, the floors tell a tale that can be seen in the footsteps, and sometimes knee prints, of those who made it to service.

That people would come to church still amazes me all these years into our service in Africa. All over the world people are busy; everyone has laundry to do, children to care for, jobs and businesses to tend to and yet, our people make time to come to church. They don’t make time to come to a church that meets in a nice building; they are making time to come to church that meets in a tent with a dirt floor.

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One might be tempted to think that here in Africa people don’t care about their surroundings – I must disagree with that perception. As much as anyone else in the world, Africans love beauty but their understanding of beauty supersedes what the rest of the world perceives as beautiful. Here on the continent, we have understood that beautifully built buildings don’t make the church. Church meets wherever God’s people come together and this has allowed for massive church growth all over the continent. Our floors are dirt and sometimes our roofs are little more than the shade offered to us by the trees, but we have church. And that is what we find to be beautiful.

I’ve been to services where musical instruments were fashioned from discarded car parts and soda tops – never has there been a sweeter sound. I’ve sat on stones in the sand and heard beautiful choirs sing amazing melodies and watched as tears rolled down the faces of the singers – a truly beautiful moment. I’ve gone to funerals and watched parents lay their children to rest and lift their hands to the Lord in surrender – a sacred moment if ever there was one.

Beauty, I have come to find, is much more than what I used to think it was: beautifully manicured lawns and stained glass windows. Beauty is found in the footsteps on the dirt floor of this life; those steps mark lives of love and loss. My eyes, every time I set foot into the tent, go to the floor, to look at the footprints there. I wonder who is behind the prints I’m studying and what brought them to our tent – and I pray, Lord, may we value the lives behind those prints, for they are beautiful.

I look forward one day to having a building with proper chairs and a proper floor; it will be a real treat to wear a nice pair of shoes to church one day. But in the meantime, I’m busy praying over those footprints on the floor, they are the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

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