It’s Rather Complicated

The following was an assignment for my Christian Thought and Culture class at Regent College in Vancouver, which is quickly becoming my favourite class. We had to answer the question “Who are you and why are you here at Regent?”

I am a passionate, curious, and tortured soul. I long to understand a million different things, and feel most alive when I am learning, discussing, writing about, and teaching ideas that really matter, that are central to the beautiful, eternal meaning of the human experience. Unfortunately, this also means that I often feel like there is not enough hours in the day or years in this life to do and learn and experience all the things that I want to. I often get depressed when I feel I have no time to read all the books and articles I want to, see the all the films I’ve been told are brilliant, or learn how to play the instrument or perform the artistic skill I can sense I would love.

For this reason, I am fairly undecided as to what I want to do with my life. Up until this point, I have wanted to be a lawyer, teacher, writer, humanitarian worker, photographer, counselor, theatre actress, backpacker-hostel-owner in Northern India, and Anglican priest. Just last night, when I heard the lecture on reading film, I wondered if I should leave Regent and go to film school, as I realized that the art of telling stories is so fascinating and important. After taking Dave Diewert’s class in the Downtown Eastside this summer, I wanted to become an addictions counselor. I thought, What is more Christ-like than reaching out to the poor and marginalized? After going to the Festival of Faith and Writing in the spring at Calvin College, I was sure that it was my destiny to become a writer, as writing has always been a true passion of mine. I even drafted the beginnings of book proposal – a spiritual, philosophical and cultural analysis of the epic prophetic narrative that is LOST (yes, the TV show, but it is so much more!), which has now fallen by the wayside because a million other things have drowned it out.

As a result, I’ve often experienced somewhat of an ‘identity crisis’, as my intense desire to learn about and do so many things with my life overwhelms me. After recently expressing this desire to several friends, they recommended the ancient personality-type system of the Enneagram. In the book The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, authors Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert write that although the Enneagram has pre-Christian roots, the Desert Fathers and Mothers as well as many other Christians throughout the centuries have used this system for understanding the depths of who people are and how they can grow in maturity.

In preparation for this paper, and with a strong desire to learn more of the textured, multi-faceted layers of myself, I began to research the Enneagram and took the test to discover my type. I am most certainly Type 4, which has been called ‘the Individualist’ or ‘the Artist’. According to the Enneagram (and all of the following rings true), I have an intuitive sense of beauty in the world, am aware and deeply connected to my emotions, and need to be unique and special. I am most happy when I feel like I am being authentic and ‘true to myself’, and despise all that is boring, average, mass-produced, or ‘normal’ (in terms of clothing, decorative items or vehicles, etc.). Rohr and Ebert write that “many fours are vegetarians, animal rights activists, feminists, and adherents to eccentric ideas about health.” I laughed out loud when I read this, because I am (or have been at one time) all of those things! I am also emotionally honest and unafraid to reveal my emotions to others, both good and bad. I am imaginative, creative, sensitive, deep, witty, and self-expressive. Most importantly, at my core I am a social being, and love connecting with others in meaningful ways.

According to the Enneagram, and as explained by Rohr and Ebert, at my most unhealthy I can be utterly melancholy and fearful that I will never be truly ‘myself’. This is really the story of my life, as I have struggled with on-and-off depression for as long as I can remember. However, at my most mature, I can be creative, original, and like the Oyster ‘transform dirt into pearls’. Self-discipline, community, and a strong ‘connectedness to the real world’ are essential for me to realize the essence of who I have been created to be.
But knowing oneself intimately can only take one so far. At some point I must stop looking inward and look outward to the bigger picture. I can sense profound insight in Alasdair MacIntyre’s quote, “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’” I first heard this quote this past year, while studying with Brian Walsh (author of Colossians Remixed) at Wycliffe College in Toronto. We talked about the paralyzing, disorienting nature of post modernity. With so many options available to us, how are we to find our way? The conclusion we came to was that we must indwell the Story of God, and engage in what N.T. Wright calls ‘faithful improvisation’ as actors would in a play that is missing a part of its script. If I am an actor in God’s Drama, I first must study vigorously the parts of the script that are available. I must study the characters of the Drama that have acted up until now – the biblical characters, the apostles, the church fathers and mothers, and so on – so that I get an intuitive sense of the Director’s character and his dramatic intentions for the Story. It is only then that I will know how to ‘faithfully improvise’ at this part in the Great Play – using my unique personality, passions, and gifts in a way that will contribute beautifully to God’s overall purposes for the world – redemption, compassion, and justice.

Essentially, I have come to Regent to study the Story, so that I may know better the Author in order to ‘faithfully improvise’ as a creative actor in the Great Drama. As of now I am in the MDiv program, but am intending on transferring to the MCS with a concentration in – what else, with such a broad range of interests as mine? – Interdisciplinary Studies. It is my hope and prayer that as I learn, discuss, wrestle with, and write about the many different elements of the Story, that God will reveal to me the unique role I am to play in it. I look forward to the topsy-turvy, glorious journey ahead.


1 Response to “It’s Rather Complicated”

  1. 1 Rachel November 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    I don’t recommend being a lawyer if you’re Type 4 — the boredom and regimentation will drive you crazy! 🙂 Hope you find your vocation in the road ahead.

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