Monday Morning Confessional – Cultivating the Ability to Listen To Your Own Soul

I confess that I have an ailment that I’ve always called “productivity sickness.” I seem to be unable to just “be” in any given situation without trying to get something accomplished.

I confess that the enneagram has been quite helpful in helping me to see this tendency in myself. If you have never investigated the enneagram, it’s one of the best tools I’ve ever encountered in terms of its ability to help us see what’s going on in our own soul, psyche, heart, and life. You can learn about it at the Enneagram Institute. They have some free assessment tests you can take. I’ve found it to be a helpful conversation partner as I try to pursue wisdom in this life.

I’m a three on the enneagram scale (achiever, performer, status seeker). My three-ness is so intense that when I first learned about the enneagram, I picked the number that I thought was the coolest (seven), and then set out to achieve that persona. Yeah, I have issues. That I am a three on the enneagram means that my most basic desire is to feel valuable and worthy, but this desire often deteriorates into simply chasing success. I’m the kind of person that can really benefit from doing nothing for a day here and there, but this makes absolutely no sense to my task-driven personality. The fact that it makes a ton of sense to my soul is of little value to my fragile ego. The result is that I seldom allow myself the time to just “be.”

As a pastor this makes the concept of Sabbath keeping of primary importance. If I have to be constantly pushing the ball forward in some way – around the house, in my writing, on this blog, in my professional life, in my personal life and family – then when do I rest? When do I just receive my life, receive the day, delight in the goodness of just being alive?

I think the answer is Sabbath. At least one day a week I need to be unproductive (watching Nascar does not count as productivity:-). For a pastor this is also problematic because the day most readily adapted to this practice in our culture is Sunday, and that’s a work day for me. Lately I’ve been fooling around with allowing my Sabbath to leak into Monday morning a little more. My wife and I have been dreaming about what it would be like to make Monday our Sabbath day together – just disappear while the kids are at school and spend the day together adventuring. I confess that I’m beginning to love this idea.

I confess that I’m learning one deep-down soul-level reality these days: There are things that make sense to my mind – they make rational sense. And then there are things that make sense to my soul – whether or not my mind is on board. More than perhaps anything else, I think the wisdom life is about cultivating the ability to listen to the soul, to tend the soul, to care for it, nurture its health whether or not it makes sense to our minds. Only when we are able to listen to our lives, and the things that make sense only to the soul, will we ever begin to approach the place where we can experience our own soul’s worth. Only then will we understand that we are – above all else – the beloved of God.

The enneagram website says this about the 3 type:

“The United States is fast becoming a dysfunctional “Three” culture: driven, narcissistic, image-oriented, emphasizing style over substance, symbols over reality. The pursuit of excellence found (as exemplified by the healthy Three) is being replaced by the celebration of the artificial as everything is treated like a commodity—packaged, advertised, and marketed. Politics is becoming less concerned with principles or the use of power for the common good than with the display of personalities. Politics serves public relations, selling candidates with their calculated positions to a public which can no longer tell a fabricated image from a real person.”

This is part of why I’m writing this confession today. I know I’m not alone. American culture is filled with a ton of unhealthy threes. I’m trying to do everything I can do to become a healthy three, but it’s really hard when the biggest thing an achiever needs to do in order to be healthy is to do nothing.

The past few years I have this one question that I constantly put before myself: am I being a person, or a persona right now? Am I being my authentic self, or am I projecting an image of the self I want others to believe that I really am. I am very aware of when I’m putting on a persona or projecting an image. I know when I’m doing it and I am constantly judging myself harshly when I do – shaming myself for it, replaying those embarrassing moments in my head. All of this absolutely feeds into the enneagram 3′s self-delusion that we have to achieve and perform in order to be worthy of love.

I believe that one of the deepest and most vulnerable confessions anyone can make is “I don’t want to be a fabricated image. I want to be a real person. I want to be who God has created me to be… nothing more, nothing less.” That’s the confession I make this morning. I hope you can make it with me. I’m so thankful to be caught up in the mission of God as he puts the world back together again; thankful that he is doing this work in me today.

Okay, that’s my confession… time for you to make yours!

About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at TimSuttle.com

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of RedemptionChurchkc.com. He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.


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