A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"


Of Personality and Spiritual Wholeness

A few weeks ago I wrote about being in a depleted state, then a couple of days later I wrote about running a self-supported 80km ultra run as the best thing to do on a stay-cation. I’m guessing that didn’t make sense to some people.

OK… I’m depleted, but then I do something that makes people feel depleted just by thinking about doing that, and seems to be the opposite thing that I should do. Not necessarily.

Because we are all created differently, we have different ways of rejuvenating. Different personality types gravitate towards different ways of resting, practicing spiritual disciplines, and also wearing themselves out. I know that I’ve been frustrated in the past when I’ve felt down or tired or whatever, and people suggest that I do this or that. I don’t want to hear what I should do, necessarily.

When I have commented that it is time for me to take a small break (such as half a day), some people have made suggestions that seem good, but don’t really appeal to me. Sometimes I’m game to try something new and I do as suggested. However, when it doesn’t do anything for me sometimes I feel even worse because I feel as though I’ve squandered the time that I had for rest and rejuvenation. I also feel like I don’t get it and that I’m a spiritual discipline flunkie.

Where I want to be…

If you are surprised to learn that I’m an introvert, perhaps this evidence will convince you: no extrovert will spend an entire day running on rural roads alone without even an mp3. Activity provides me a kind of rest in which my body is engaged, and I don’t have the distractions that I have at home. My mind is free to think, pray, listen, enjoy the scenery, and concentrate on running. When I’m done, both my body AND my brain are exhausted and it helps me to rest. I had lost my mojo for work, and even training. But when the idea to run the Samoeng loop burst into my consciousness I was so excited!

Robert Mulholland, in his book “An Invitation to a Journey”, discusses some of the different spiritual practices or disciplines in the context of what type of personality (Myers-Briggs, for example) may tend to do. A-ha! I’m not wrong or a flunkie for not feeling like doing a particular discipline or that I get more out of practicing certain disciplines than others. And when others give suggestions for my time, I don’t have to feel bad about not following them. Even so, Mulholland makes the point that it is good to practice certain things outside of our comfort zone for our holistic growth.

Mulholland defines spiritual formation “as a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” Regarding the process, Mulholland writes: “The primary arena of individuals’ natural spiritual path depends upon their preference pattern.” And later: “…in order for our spiritual pilgrimage to be a balanced growth toward wholeness in the image of Christ for others, we need to have dynamics of spiritual life that will nurture both sides of our preference pattern” “One-sided spirituality, while it may be comfortable and may seem to be advancing us on our spiritual pilgrimage, will ultimately begin to disintegrate under pressures for nurture from our shadow side.” (italics mine)

For me, this looks like embracing and not cringing every time the worship leader asks us to break up into groups of three or four, share, and pray together. But I’m challenged here to evaluate my spiritual formation and see where I have neglected my shadow side and how I may be more attentive to developing a more holistic growth. It is too easy for me, as a single person who mostly works alone, to always go to my default preference, at the cost of growing closer to God and even sabotaging my spiritual growth. Disintegrate is a powerful word, yet from my own experience, I think Mulholland is right about using it.

What is the personality and preference of the worship community at your church? Can you detect one-sidedness or is it balanced and more holistic? One-sidedness tends to attract the same kind of people, and others may not be as drawn to it. Mulholland: “Paul’s word to the Corinthians [1 Cor 12] becomes a reminder to us of our need for one another in our pilgrimage toward wholeness in Christ for others. The different members of the body bring to each other the strengths of their preference patterns as gifts of God’s grace to those of different patterns.”

What is your natural preference? Can you see how it is related to your personality? Where is your shadow side and how is it being nourished/neglected?

What other questions come to mind in this brief introduction?