One of my favorite lines from my favorite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, is appropriate as I write this post on January 1, 2020:
“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”
Who can say what the new year holds? It is a blank calendar thus far, a set of open days yet to be filled. How will we fill them? What will we turn our attention to? How will we apply ourselves?
No one knows what lies ahead. There could be glorious, miraculous things. There could be heart-shattering moments, or days of illness or infirmity. If your life is like mine, this year will contain all of these events, mingled with the business of doing the needful tasks of daily life.
At the micro-level, the changing of a year merely happens in the turning of one day into the next. It’s true that the new year is only new to us because humans keep calendars to mark the advancing of days and years. Why do we do that? It’s a fascinating question that I don’t have a complete answer for, but I think it has to do with the notion of progress.
Before people had calendars, they lived in agrarian societies that ran according to nature’s clock. One season was for planting, another for harvesting, and so on. Change came slowly; technology, such as it was, remained the same for long stretches. Life wasn’t so much about progress as it was about survival.
But innovation eventually built upon innovation, and humans got better at surviving. We got to the point where life wasn’t always “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”; we got the idea that we could do more with our lives than just survive. We could make progress.
This is particularly true in the spiritual sense. Those who follow Jesus are working toward something, not just waiting for something. That is, while we have a joyful expectation of eternity in God’s presence, we see that God’s work on this earth is not done and that we have a part to play. We see that spiritual progress is possible. We see from examples past and present that progressing in spiritual intimacy helps us not only know our creator but helps us understand and navigate the world as well.
And by “navigate” I don’t merely mean learning how to stay safe or observing social cues, though both are useful. I mean going through life with a purpose, toward an end, as a ship does when it leaves port. I mean learning to weather storms and steer around obstacles as we make purposeful progress.
The more tools and skills we can bring to this navigating, the greater the likelihood of reaching our destination at all, and specifically in a timely manner. In the spiritual sense, our destination is our particular path or place in the world. Our destiny. And notice, by the way, that destiny and destination have the same root!
The Enneagram is a set of tools for self-, other- and God-understanding that helps us find and stay on our destined path. It is and always has been a tool set for spiritual transformation. The Enneagram has helped me and countless others begin to discern the difference between our true and false selves, to distinguish between the voices of our Inner Critics and the Holy Spirit, between our personalities’ desires and God’s desires for us.
2020 will be a year of things that have never been. We have little control over many aspects of our lives, but we do have the ability to choose to say yes to what God has for us, both this year and for our whole lifespan. Let’s dig into the Enneagram and every other thing God puts in our path to help us make progress on the path of our particular destinies. Let’s resolve to give him maximum glory by becoming a nearer version of who God created each of us to be!
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