Spaces In Your Togetherness
I'm an Enneagram 3, which may not mean that much to some of you, but suffice to say that because I am an Enneagram 3, I love being a hero, or at least appearing to be a hero.
Let me explain this a bit...
The Enneagram is a model of the human psyche which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. I identify as a 3 on the Enneagram--the type that is commonly known as "The Performer."
Here's how this plays out in practical terms.
One of the many things that I've learned about myself in the past many months is that I have a tendency to take on the anxieties and concerns of others---mistakenly thinking that I can fix them all.
I don't believe that I am the only one who can fix them, mind you, but I want to be the only one that does.
To be fair, most of the Enneagram types have a dark side to them that tends toward co-dependence in relationships. But the Enneagram 3 tends to make an absolute art form of it.
Not to brag, but I'm kind of like Picasso when it comes to this kind of thing.
[Is it bragging if it's not a thing to brag about? I'm thinking it isn't.]
Still, this isn't a devotional that is applicable only to one type of person, because we all struggle with boundaries, especially during uncertain times like the ones we are inhabiting together.
Even in the best of circumstances, there is a temptation for many of us to get too involved in the lives of the people around us. We think we can fix them. We think we can manage their worries or the chaos around them.
And some of us take this so far that we become enmeshed with the people we think we can fix, which means that we begin to internalize some of the very worries, problems, or issues they brought to the table.
Then we resent them for it.
The line between being enmeshed and helpful is a thin one sometimes. But the healthier we are, the easier we can see it. We also learn that even though we might think we know what someone needs, we might be wrong about it.
Or at the very least, we need to tread lightly and do our best not to impose our will or outcomes on another person. This takes a tremendous amount of surrender and self-awareness---the kind that Jesus exhorted his followers to employ.
I recently read a poem by Kahlil Gibran that beautifully illustrates what it means to be a non-anxious presence in the lives of others:
Let there be spaces in your togetherness... For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
I love the imagery of this because it speaks of togetherness that is healthy---the kind that is spaced close enough to hold up the roof of a temple, or the cover of a forest, but not so close that the structure itself is compromised.
When there are "spaces in your togetherness," you are able to be in touch with the people in your life, but from the kind of distance that prohibits you from becoming too enmeshed.
In other words, you do your best to be helpful, present, near, and supportive without being smothering and co-dependent.
And from that safe, supportive distance you learn that not only is it not your job to fix everything for everyone else in your life but also that some of the things you think need fixing in others, actually need fixing in you first.
May you learn what it means to maintain "spaces in your togetherness" with the people God has placed in your life. May you be a healthy pillar of support for them, close enough to give them strength, and also distant enough that they are able to stand on their own.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.