Eating breakfast this morning I was thinking how the future is a clean slate. We have a huge amount of control over that clean slate through our choices, but there is the element of both “life” and other people’s choices that get in the way of our plans, making it more of an obstacle course than a sprint.
And, I thought, the obstacle course isn’t really about life as much as it is walking out our relationship with God, which led me to thinking how our personalities affect that relationship. Of all the books out there on personalities, one of my favorites is Tim LaHaye’s “Why You Act the Way You Do,” because he shows how we can let Holy Spirit change our weaknesses into strengths. (I also love “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton). While we don’t change our personality (that’s who we’re created to be), each one of us have weaknesses where we’ve become consumed by our personality, at which point it then affects our relationship with God.
For example, I always have a gazillion things I want to be doing so it’s hard for me to sit back and just chill, or to perform social chitchat. I was stunned when I read in my Meyers-Briggs personality how “INTJs may communicate that time is wasted if used for idle dialogue, and thus people receive a sense of hurry from an INTJ which is not always intended.” There have been people in my life that have made me feel that way (like they wish I’d leave so they can get to work) and I had never realized that I was one of them. How does that affect my relationship with Jesus? Holy Spirit once pointed out to me that my attitude with God was, “I’ll give you five minutes and if you’ve not shown up then I’ve got things to do and I’m moving on.”
Another way my personality has gotten between God and me is in my desire to have the set-up perfect before I do something. I have “rules” for how things should be. For example, when I write I want plenty of time, a place without clutter, and a place alone where I can focus. When I exercise I want the right equipment, the right time of day, the right clothing, the right books and videos, and the right place. How does this personality affect my relationship with God? Well, before I spend time with God I want a long period of uninterrupted time, privacy and quiet, my pen and paper available, lotion on my hands, the lighting right, and music ready. I’ve had to cut back on my perfectionism and learn to take smaller bites of time, ignore the distractions, and enjoy what I can get. I’ve had to learn that a small amount of something is much better than nothing, because by waiting on perfection I never get around to doing anything. As Sheryl Sandberg says, “Done is better than perfect.”
It is always easier, of course, to see how other’s personalities can be a problem with their relationship with God, but ask Holy Spirit to show you ways that “who you are” gets between you and him.
Here are some other examples of how personalities can affect our relationship.
“If you never expect anything you’ll never be disappointed.” God has good gifts to give, and a supernatural adventure for us to live. How can you experience any of it if you have no expectation that God will do anything? This philosophy may keep you from being disappointed in life but you’ll also miss a lot of wonderful treasures and adventures.
If no one can tell you anything because you always know the right way to do something, chances are that when God tells you something that you don’t feel is the right way, you can’t hear it.
Here’s one that God pointed out in me years ago, when he told me I had a “junk mentality,” meaning, any old thing will do. “I know we need a car, God, but an old clunker that barely runs is fine, and we’d be so grateful.” Why would a God who loves me beyond anything imaginable only give me the worst, poorest, tackiest things? It’s like the mentality I mentioned above about expectation. A stingy personality serves a stingy God. This isn’t about what God will do for you, it’s about your view and expectations of a loving God and his provision.
People who love to talk are generally too busy thinking about what they want to say to truly listen to what the other person is saying. If you can’t be a good listener to others, odds are you aren’t a good listener with God.
Others can get so locked into what they believe God will do and won’t do that it limits their ability to hear and experience him in fresh ways. Truth isn’t fragile and it isn’t threatened by us challenging something we believe, along with our motives and basis for believing it.
The perfectionist must be perfect before God can accept them. The energetic ones (me) have so much energy it’s a struggle sit still and enjoy focused time with God. The pessimist’s God is rarely big enough, and they see what God does in their lives through a lens of negativity.
Some of us are easily fearful—be it of the political situation, the economy, or of being mugged, and that fear gets transferred to God. Whether it’s fear of what God might ask us to do, that satan will lead us down the wrong path, or whether God is big enough to take care of us—these fears manifest in our relationship with him.
Many of us feel the need for security, and we love the habits and routines that keep our lives safe, secure, and comfortable, but they also can keep us from experiencing new things God has for us. Have you ever wondered why Peter was the only one who got out of the boat and walked on the water? I would have thought that once the others saw that Peter could do it, they’d be jealous enough to all go clambering over the side and head out to Jesus, but no, they all sat wide-eyed in the safety of the boat. They preferred to be the spectators. Don’t let your personality always keep you in the boat.
When Holy Spirit points things out that are keeping us from the rich relationship he has for us, let’s don’t just get offended, hurt, take it personally, or deny it (my usual response). He’s only telling us so that we can come closer to him, and he’s never angry, threatening, or condemning—if we hear things in those contexts than it’s not God. He doesn’t rebuke, he loves us into a deeper relationship. He gently points things out and patiently waits for us to initiate change, quietly persisting until we begin to understand what he wants. While he helps us, it’s up to us to make the effort to change our self-talk and the mental habits that have become the weaknesses of our personality. At the same time, the fact that God himself is pursuing you will thrill your soul and leave you breathless with wonder.