I was around thirty years old when it hit me...With a smirk on my face, I said to myself: “The title to my life story is surely going to be: The Perils of a Passionate Woman!” By then I had already experienced in more than one of the domains of my life, the myriad ways my singular way of embracing life could be received or rejected, or just misunderstood.
This quote by Henry David Thoreau, gave me words for what every sensory cell of my body, heart and soul knew:
I wanted to live deep and suck out the marrow of life
As an unenlightened Enneagram T3/One-on-one subtype, it didn’t even feel like a choice. I had no idea of any other way to live life but passionately. But little did I know then that my education on the many denotations, let alone the myriad connotations, of this word passion was only just beginning...
Since this is a blog post, not a book, I will just tease you with this. Here are the somewhat chronological chapter titles I have created for my life story:
· Passion as Protection
· Passion as Rebellion
· Passion as Intensity
· Passion as Blinders
· Passion as Excuses
· Passion as Suffering
· Passion as a Revenant
· Passion as a River
Suffice it to say, these titles represent the evolution - and revelation - of passion over the span of my journey. If you look up the word passion, the top two definitions could be the bookends of my passion education:
1. an intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction; or devotion to some activity, object, concept, or person
2. the suffering and death of Jesus
But first, I needed to gain some awareness...Awareness of the shadow side of my hard wiring for living out loud. What part of being a passionate woman might be also a part of my false self? What part of my intensity was counter-productive in becoming who God created me to be – bringing Him glory and partnering with Him in His work? Hmm...Gaining that awareness could be its own book!
But allow me to jump forward, onto the other side of the birth and infancy of my self-awareness. What I discovered was a whole new world previously unknown to me:
How others experience me – and the chasm that can lie between my conscious motive and the message received at the other end!
I had learned in a study of Jesus' Temptation in the Wilderness that what He faced are the primal temptations we all face; and they are all about misuse of power. All of us, regardless of our particular wiring or Enneagram Type, have personal power – our own superpower, if you will.
But, when we overuse or misuse that power, we give up the ability to bring our special goodness to the world. Instead, living out of this backside of our strength, results in levels of damage to ourselves and those in our relational circles.
The blinders were coming off...I began to see my misuse of power as a Type 3/One-on-one. Let me share just one example: Type 3’s have a natural ability to read a room, to quickly assess where the ‘juice’ is. We are drawn to be with other passionate people. What could be the problem with that?
Well, it all comes down to motive. For T3’s, we are always driving for approval, recognition – admiration even. So it can be a slippery slope when we gravitate to the movers-and-shakers circle at the party. We have a tendency to work so hard at getting that approval that we can end up ‘morphing’; that is, transforming our public persona in the moment to be whatever will get us acceptance into the au courant crowd.
What’s so bad about that? Well, I can tell you for sure that behavior pattern doesn’t move you towards living an authentic life, let alone getting your genuine need for love and affirmation met. It’s all counterfeit.
Hmm...Doesn’t that sound like something that would need taken down (or dismantled) to build something truer? Something God would shine His light on as a roadblock for living out of who He created me to be? Wouldn’t I better bring Him glory by using my intuition in social settings to key into those who feel overlooked and give them my laser-like eye contact and full attention, asking questions that show my interest in their story?
Ahhh...finally some light coming through the darkness! I actually began to understand the beauty and gift of repentance that I’d read about in biographies of the great faithful ones over the centuries of Christendom. But He had more for me regarding this educational journey about passion...
...The setting of the revelation was quite conspicuous. It was Lenten season during an excruciating stage of a more-than-a-decade-long physical condition that produced a pain cycle that almost did me in. And as anyone who has dealt with chronic pain knows, the ripple effect of the physical setting off alarms in the neural, and the brain then sending shutdown messages back through the nervous system to the body...well, it’s a total takeover of your life. Something had to give. I was in a forced tap-out.
Meanwhile, as He does, God was at work in the unseen...A dear friend shared a Lent devotional with me she thought I might appreciate. It is by Spiritual Director, Author and Transformation Center Founder, Ruth Haley Barton.
Every page captivated me, even while I was being undone by the conviction of the relentless truth in her words. Here’s just a sampling from Week Five (the week before Holy Week) about suffering:
“[Lent represents] …the season of the spiritual life in which God is dismantling the false self in order for the true self to emerge more fully...this season feels like death, and in fact it is—the death of that which is false in order for something truer to come to life.... even Jesus had to die in order for the will of God to come forth in his life...one of the great paradoxes of our faith—that in order to really live, we must die. That before we can reign with Christ we must first share in his sufferings. That when God begins to do a new thing, old things must pass away. That in order to experience resurrection we, too, must die.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the only thing we stand to lose is the false self, which is not real anyway. The only thing passing away is that crusty old thing that is no longer useful.”
That is but a drop in the proverbial bucket overflowing with the divine messages I received over the six-week course of these daily devotions! Let’s just say, dismantling became a very personal descriptor of what I was experiencing; and yet, I felt a deep abiding peace that God’s plan is always good, and His goal is always wholeness. He will sustain me.
I was reminded of something I had read that had the potent pointedness of truth to penetrate my anguish and ultimately gave me hope for some purpose to my pain: Many times, pain is the invitation in... I had accepted the invitation...
During this personal desert time, I found myself wrestling with this theme of faith paradoxes repeatedly: die in order to live, false self must die to reveal true self, old must pass away to experience new, surrender or sacrifice precedes revelation. Biblically basic, but not so simple when you are living in the liminal space between the old and new.
But He was directing me through the devotional, and it was in those pages I had the aha:
Hmm...the suffering of Christ is referred to as Christ’s Passion or the Passion of Christ. Could it be that my suffering might be translated into the passion of Geri or Geri’s passion? There it was – the revelation of a word I had gotten so cozy with: Passion - but now seen through an entirely different lens.
But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1Peter 4:13
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him... Hebrews 5:7-9
I knew the full story of following Christ – that in this world I will have trials and tribulations (John 16:33); but now it was choosing to stay with Him through the suffering. (Matthew 26:40) Choosing to find Him in the midst of the pain and uncertainty.
Then the moment of clarity:
Just as Jesus accepted the suffering of the cross to obey and glorify the Father – who was making a way for us to have restored relationship with Himself - trusting God for the ultimate outcome of defeating death and being resurrected...My part here is to bring Him glory even in my suffering, knowing He will sustain me, even as He refines me – separating the chaff from the wheat, the old from the new, my false self from my true self – trusting Him for ‘Resurrection Life’ on this earth!
If you reference back to my chapter titles, you will notice that the one about Passion as Suffering is not the last one. Thank God! He has brought me through so much since those days of chronic pain being my constant companion. And I have experienced such joy from the fruit of accepting the invitation to ‘go in’ with Him, to give the Potter permission and access to remold the clay in ways seen and unseen, increasing its beauty - with cracks and all - and usefulness in His hands.
And just as Ruth Haley Barton said, the only thing that has really ‘died’ is that crusty old self that is no longer useful! In fact, I’m living deeper than ever and still sucking the marrow out of life! And now when I am anticipating being in a social setting, I grow excited about the opportunities I may have to use my superpower to help shine a light on someone in the background, or enjoy having a deeper conversation one-on-one with an introvert.
The last chapter title you see up there is Passion as a River. This is Resurrection Life for me – to be available to Him, ready to join Him in His work, flowing in the unforced rhythm of His grace [river].
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. John 7:37-38
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Matt 11:29
As we commemorate Christ’s death and resurrection in the coming days, might you consider reflecting on a few questions Ruth posed?
What needs to die in me in order for God’s will/purpose to come forth in my life?
What new thing is God doing in my life that requires some old thing to pass away?
Where do I sense God wanting to teach me obedience through the things I am suffering [– be it physical, mental, or emotional pain, relational heartache...]?
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