They were the kind of sobs that you feel like rock your whole body in such a way that something must certainly shake loose from your heart. They were the kind of tears that feel like they reach back years in time, pulling up issues you didn’t know you were concealing. Those tears snuck up on me as I listened to “Six” from Sleeping at Last, the song Ryan O’Neal wrote from the perspective of an Enneagram six in his series of songs written to explore each type.
When I listened to that song I felt known and seen, like someone had crawled into my brain and saw what it was like to see the world through my eyes. But more than that, I felt like I was seen and loved anyway — like someone saw all my fears and said, “it’s okay. I know you’re broken you’re not alone.”
I had been late to the Enneagram trend on purpose. I avoided it exactly because it had become trendy in Christian circles. I didn’t want another fad; I longed for depth. I had been gravitating toward more contemplative and ancient practices of early Christianity for years and the Enneagram personality typing didn’t seem to fit (until I learned that the Enneagram is possibly 6000 years old).
It was my love for the works of Franciscan priest Father Richard Rohr (as I slowly worked through Immortal Diamond and then Falling Upward, both of which mention the Enneagram often) that finally made me say, “Okay, okay.” He talked about the Enneagram not as a personality test but as an indicator of why you think and act the way you do and a way to uncover your path to God
It was one of those moments when you say, “It’s so crazy how everything seemed to be pointing me in the same direction; it must have been God.” Everything I read or heard seemed to be leading me into discovering my True Self, about an invitation into a deeper knowledge of who God was and the discovery of who God had created me to be.
I took a few Enneagram tests and they seemed to point in every direction but the right one so I abandoned the pursuit. A few months later after a season that was full of crisis, crushed dreams, and loneliness, I picked up The Sacred Enneagram and read Chris Heuertz’s description that the Enneagram “illustrates the nine ways we get lost, but also the nine ways we come home to our True Self.”
I felt utterly lost and all I wanted was to find a way home, so I tried again. And reading that book was like holding up a mirror to my aching soul. Heuertz says, “when we can find the courage to be honest with ourselves, we’re ready for the Enneagram, for the Enneagram exposes the illusions that have defined our sense of self.” After a year of an international move that made me let go of everything I ever knew before, battling anxiety and depression and experiencing personal and family crisis, I was ready to be honest.
When I met with a spiritual director for the first time the next week I choked on my laughter when she asked me if I knew what Enneagram type I was. We talked about what it looked like to be a six who struggles so immensely with fear and I felt another layer of hurt being peeled back.
Shortly after that is when I found myself sprawled out across the bed weeping as the lyrics “Oh God, I’m so tired of being afraid” turn into the prayer I couldn’t utter myself. Someone finally said all the things for me I couldn’t put into words and I just let them wash over me as I listened on repeat. I silently held them out to God and felt my grip on my need for control and all my fear loosen just a little more.
I wasn’t magically whole after my tears dried. The Enneagram didn’t solve all my problems and tell me how to find my way instantly to wholehearted and abundant living. It felt, instead, like finding another piece of a puzzle I’m trying to put together without seeing what the final picture looks like. Most days I feel like I’m fumbling around, trying every wrong piece and wanting to throw the whole thing against the wall. Every now and then another part of the True Self snuggles into place in just the right groove and the picture gets a little less fuzzy.
So yeah, say I jumped on the bandwagon. I don’t mind. For me the Enneagram is not about saying, “this is who I am” as much as it is about saying, “this is who I can be, who I long to become.” It’s clinging to the promise that the One who began a good work in me can and will bring it to completion (Philippians 1.6). It may not be the right tool for you. It may not be for right now. But then again, it might just be another step on the way home to the God who wants us to be known and loved and whole.