My brothers and sister and I made up a lot of games when we were kids. We were the last generation without video games, purists of the gaming community. We used sticks, tape, rocks, bricks, and nature. You know, Minecraft outside. Did I say kids? We still do.
As a youth minister, I get to still make up games and try them out on kids. At one lock-in, Joel and I made up Duct Tape Spit Wad, one of our most clever creations. The group was divided into teams, each with five rolls of duct tape, a box of tissue paper, a bowl of water, and about 20 teens. The goal was to tape a teen to the wall and then dip the tissue paper into water and throw the wet wads at the taped teen. The teen with the most spit wads won. You’re welcome parents.
I make up games with my children often. Half of the time it is a ploy to get them to do chores faster. The other half of it is simply entertaining. Myself. And over the past two years we’ve become board gamers. Like, geek gaming tabletop addicts.
Over the last two years I’ve spent some time studying a personality typing tool called the Enneagram. There are nine types, with deep nuance to each, that each person on the planet most closely identifies with. The brilliance of this tool is that it helps a person discover her mask, coping mechanism, or what Thomas Merton calls, “The false self.” The false self is the person that each of us spends the majority of our energy trying to be. It is the person that I think everyone wants me to be, or the person that I believe will benefit me the most, but not my true self. The true self is who I really am. The me that is not motivated by manipulation, but instead motivated by love. The true self is content to be himself. He is not afraid of his limitations and humbly recognizes his gifts as truly gifts. Alice Fryling says, “One of the values of the Enneagram is that it not only identifies the compulsions of the false self, it also suggests the grace that invites us to return to the true self.”
At birth, each person is given a gift. It is her gift to the world, the gift by which she makes the world a better place, the place that God intended it to be. But the false self gets scared that this gift is not enough. “People need me to be more. This can’t be all that I have to offer.” And the gift is replaced by a compulsion, a false gift to supplement the seemingly insufficient true gift. The Enneagram helps us to see this gift, its tendentious compulsion, and God’s invitation to return to the true self.
So as not to get too technical, I’ll show my cards. Not something that I like to do unless I’m highlighting my brilliance (welcome to the Type 7). I am a Type 7- The Epicurean. The gift that God gave me for the world is joy. To be able to bring contentment, laughter, fun, and life to those around me. Sounds awesome, right! However, often I don’t think that what I am contributing is enough, so my compulsion is gluttony. Not gluttony in the traditional sense, but gluttony in the sense of an unquenchable appetite. Life is not joyful enough, so I must breathe in, take in as much life as I can. And I do this through limitless projects, events, outings, creative outlets, relationships, hobbies, ministries, you name it.
Many of you know me enough to know that I can tend to a gluttonous lifestyle. In case you don’t, I’ll remind you. Last year I started a blog, recorded an album in Nashville, ran my first triathlon, began writing a book, started a new continuing education class, began a dozen books that I didn’t finish, watched every Oscar nominated movie in seven different categories, and traveled out of state about ten times, just to name a few. I have a fear that I won’t be able to get all that there is out of life. Major FOMO- “Fear of Missing Out”. I have a fear that I will miss out on something, but I also have a strong aversion to anything painful. Any suffering. I must be careful that out of all the things that I try to fill my life with, I am not avoiding the invitation from God into my pain. That He is even there, in the shadow of death. And I’m not very interested in that RSVP.
So, God offers me a special grace to get me back on track. It’s my way home, back to my true self. It is the grace of contentment. He gives me the gift that my life is enough. That I don’t have to fill every moment with some adrenaline rush, some energy charge from something new.
Last night the kids and I sat around and played a board game. Something that we’ve done a lot of over the past year. I’ve found that board games give me an opportunity to stare into the faces of my kids and see them for who they are- the gifts that they are to my life. In the pain that I try to avoid, they are reminders that God is close, that He is with us. Game night is the simplicity of life that I need to be reminded that there, between Park Place and Boardwalk, I can offer my family joy and that is enough. And they can give our family their gifts- goodness, love, creativity, wisdom, faithfulness, and peace. I once heard a preacher define joy as, “the feeling you have of being home.” My gift of presence, my gift of stability that I am learning from my parents, my gift of appreciation and acknowledgment, my gift of a place of value and dignity in our home. My gift is joy. And that’s enough.