Do you ever find yourself doing something over and over hoping for a different result? You know, looking for something in the same drawer over and over and not finding it? Or rebooting your computer over and over trying to get it to do what you want it to? Or finding yourself making the same bad choice relationally, losing your temper or being short with someone? Or regretting your time usage, or your spending? Why am I surprised when I go to Costco and spend so much money!???! Recently I was talking with a group and one of the members discussed the feeling of getting stuck in a spin cycle of worry from which he just couldn’t break free. We all have our own form of spin cycle!
This winter I visited Wheeler Dam for the first time. It was a gorgeous, if cold, winter day. I noticed dozens of white pelicans and decided to take my camera and explore. I loved seeing all of the pelicans floating and flying by. As I watched, I realized that the pelicans were floating down the river from the dam, getting to a certain point and flying back to the start. The cycle repeated itself over and over. It made for some great photography as they were in a predictable pattern. It reminded me of our conversation on spin cycles. Did the birds mean to keep doing the same thing? Or did they expect a different result?
Right now our church is studying the Enneagram in several groups. For years I have used this spiritual formation tool to help identify when I get into my own “spin cycle”. It helps me recognize those times that I am reactive and not proactive. Those times that my bad habits and compulsions don’t let me do what I want to do and be who I want to be. (Romans 7:7-25)
The Enneagram is a tool developed in the early church to help identify their best selves. The early desert mothers and fathers used the Enneagram to discern if they were working from a place of wholeness, or reacting to a situation. While everyone is different and has different responses to life’s challenges, the Enneagram breaks it down into nine different coping mechanisms, based on our personalities. We learn these coping mechanisms as children and teens to find a way to succeed. While these are usually tied into our gifts that do allow us to find success, they also are tied to what the early church leaders called our signature sins, or our “spin cycles”!
While God can and does use our predictable patterns, we are called to not be controlled by these patterns and learn to follow God. The Enneagram helps us observe these patterns so that God can transform them into something that frees us from our spin cycles. Paraphrasing the words of Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” It is through the power of the Spirit that we can learn to recognize these patterns, and we have a better chance of stopping them, or at least choosing when to engage in them.
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:19, NIV)
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