Experiencing God

32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

1 Corinthians 14:32 NIV

The construct of “personality” is complex.  Over the years there has been much study and research about how it is defined.  Personality includes all the special qualities people have that make them different from each other – charm, energy, disposition, attitude, temperament, cleverness – and the feelings and behaviors they exhibit. Personality has been framed within the idea of dispositions, underlying/inner qualities, environmental adjustment, genetic/hereditary factors, and responses to significant trauma (where applicable).  Much of the research agrees that personalities are stable and enduring with little variation over an individual’s lifespan.  One text defines personality as “the reasonably stable patterns of thoughts, emotions and behaviors derived from both genetic predisposition and social learning that distinguish one person from another and crystallize over time.”

For as long a period as researchers have battled with defining personality, various types of assessments (formally referred to as “inventories”) have been developed to characterize individual personalities.  Some of the more traditional ones include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the 16PF Questionnaire and the NEO Personality Inventory (that utilizes the five personality factors of Openness, Conscientious, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism – “O.C.E.A.N”).  More recently D.I.S.C (Drive, Influence, Support, Clarity) and the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (or simply “Enneagram”) have come to prominence.  All of these assessments utilize an underlying theory of personality (MBTI uses Carl Jung’s theory of psychological type for instance) to categorize traits and assign personality descriptions to people. Even though people can be described multi-dimensionally, predominant characterizations are assumed to dominate individual responses to personal circumstances.  These assessments are usually tested for their reliability (how easily can the results be duplicated) and their validity (how widely across different people are they accurate).  Much of the research indicates that these assessments explain between 60% to 70% of who we are.

Whatever concept we utilize to explain personal difference, the fact remains that we are unique creatures made by a God who values diversity (Psalm 139:14).  As a result, the way we experience God will be filtered through our personalities.  In the Corinthians passage that is referenced, the apostle Paul is providing guidance to a young church in which spiritual expression is assumed to be an irrepressible response to the Holy Spirit’s leading.  Paul points out what seems obvious to us now.  The Holy Spirit works in concert with the inhabited person, utilizing the uniqueness of that individual in a way that reflects orderliness and design.  God is not an orchestrator of chaos.  It therefore follows that as much as we differ in personal expression, we will differ in the spiritual expression of the same God.  The gift that we have been given through the specificity of our individuality is designed to experience and express God uniquely.

Some are quiet while others are loud.  Some are creative while others are analytical.  Some are gregarious while others are reflective.  Some are organized while others are free flowing.  Some are expressive while others are reserved.  Some are extraverts while others are introverts.  Some are intuitive while others are data driven.  Some are spontaneous while others are measured.  For some an experience with God involves a quiet time of reflection and the creation of insight.  For others an experience with God involves the connecting fellowship of gatherings and socializing.  For some public expression of worship is rejuvenating.  For others the private solace of closeted prayer maintains the godly connection.  There is no one right way to experience our great big God.

What gift have you been given that would be a pleasant offering to the Lord, whose expression you resist because of its difference to what you see around you?  Whatever it is, it has been given to you to both experience and express your Creator.  If you are in a place of hesitation, share with people who love you and can support you to uncover your wonderful offering.

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