For about the umpteenthIt’s time in my life, I have participated in a Myers-Briggs personality inventory. We did it in conjunction with a workshop on Radical Hospitality with church volunteers, along with a Spiritual Gifts inventory. These are two key components in evaluating a believer’s understanding of her call to ministry, defined by S.H.A.P.E (spiritual gifts, “heart” or passion, abilities, personality, and experience).. Rev. Rick Warren made this popular as a part of training volunteers in his book “The Purpose Driven Life” about 15 years ago. Our students at Titus 2 go through this process as part of their required curriculum. They often experience significant personal insights in the process and find new things to value about themselves as they discover how God has created them to be a part of and operate within the community of faith.
It’s comforting to realize that even after 40 years of taking the MBTI in various contexts- college class, employment application, promotion evaluation, team building workshops, candidacy for ministry, church volunteer training- I’m still who I’ve always been. It makes me laugh.
As changeable and whipped about as some aspects of my life have been at times, some things have remained the same. I am who I am and God has always been there, even in seasons when I floundered, even when tossed about by the storms of life, even when I felt like I had lost my “self” or that God had withdrawn his presence from me. I have come to depend upon the truth of what I know of myself and God instead of what I feel in the circumstances of the moment. It doesn’t keep me from being ambushed by my emotions at times. But it certainly keeps me from despair of questioning whether God exists, whether God can get me through the storm, or whether God loves me and others in the boat.
I’ve heard it said that people don’t really change as they age, but that they simply are more clearly who they have always been. I think that’s mostly true if they live authentically out of who they are, not wearing masks or hiding behind walls. As one ages it becomes harder and harder to wear masks or hide behind walls, so what may appear to be changes in personality (other than in the sad context of the physiological and psychological ravages of dementia) are really just the shedding of the defenses one has carefully crafted and clung to over the decades. Some find the process of de-masking or wall-smashing jolting and destabilizing. Helping people find their footing again when such stripping away of the guards happens is part of the gift that God has given me.
I’m not perfect. But I do know who I am and whose I am. I am still being polished in the tumbling drum, refined in the heat, and pruned every season. Many things change. But some things are changeless. The heart of who I am is one of them and God’s presence here with me is another.
Those who know and love me well are likely to say exactly this, “Oh, that’s just Cathy.” It happened again Sunday in church as I chatted with a young man and his wife about some recent events and our observations. He said that others among his professional peers and friends had commented on some things I was known to champion passionately. They asked him, “What’s up with her????” It was clear that he defended me in those conversations and had said to them, “That’s just Ca…thy. If you knew her heart you’d understand.” He then said to me as he hugged me, “I love you! I’m glad you are who you are.” I felt the sting of tears to realize that here was a young man who knew me only rather casually through church contacts and a few things that had brought us together through the last few years, but that he seemed to see and value the Jesus in me and not just observe the Cathy! Do we look for and love the Jesus in people or can we not get past the rough edges or the straggly branches that God is still polishing and pruning?