I ended last time by saying that learning about your temperament is a good place to start to really understand who you are because, like a blue print, it gives you a general overall big picture. But in actuality, blueprints are often more detailed than just rough draft plans and as I thought more about it, I concluded that a study of temperaments can and, if properly applied, will reveal to us a far more detailed look into our selves than just an overall big picture. Let's take me for example. By truthfully answering the questions about myself on the temperaments assessment I learned that I am a Sanguine/Choleric, the extrovert of all extroverts! I have very strong Sanguine characteristics such as talkative, optimistic, emotional and demonstrative, makes friends easily, thrives on compliments, energetic and enthusiastic. And I have a few Choleric ones too, such as dynamic and active, exudes confidence, establishes goals. Those are considered strengths. However, I am also a Sanguine in the sense that when I am not careful to submit my will to the Holy Spirit (and yes there are some days...) I talk so much that I tend to go on and on (is this post getting long, already?), I can be loud and overbearing, undisciplined and disorganized, I need to have center stage and I look for credit for every little thing I do. The Choleric in me is at times inflexible and often struggles with the notion that I can do everything better than the next person. Considering both my strengths and weakness, I can now say that knowing and understanding my temperament helps me understand how God created me and gives me the grace to be myself. When I was younger, I was often told by people who perhaps were neither fond nor tolerant of my temperament that I was obnoxious and way too talkative. They were right but it hurt me to hear them say so and I although I always had lots of friends, I would often retreat to a corner trying to figure out how to get those people to like me. Thankfully, gone are the days when I need everyone to approve of me. Thanks to realizing that I just am who I am (and submitting my Sanguine need to be accepted to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit) I can comfortably get in where I fit in and allow my strengths to shine to the Glory of God. I am also well aware of my weaknesses and the places where I am prone to displease my Lord so I can be careful to submit all these weaknesses to Him so He can make of me what He wants me to be- a vessel of honor, fit for His use. It is the Holy Spirit's job to sanctify us and conform us to the image of Jesus Christ, and I for one and very grateful that image is not reflected exactly the same way in all of us. What a boring life this would be! God is far to creative to make a Stepford- like world. (Did you see that movie? In the town of Stepford, all the men wanted a certain type of wife so they replaced the wives they had with ones they created all looking and acting almost exactly alike!) I believe The Lord enjoys interacting with all of our distinct personalities. Certainly, as a result of sin, we are not the perfect beings He created in the Garden but the remedy for our imperfection is to regularly live out Romans 12:1-2 "...that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, Will of God." (KJV) The renewing of my mind means that once I find something in myself that doesn't line up with the Word and Will of God, I acknowledge that thing and submit it to Him to work out of me. It requires me to change my thinking and take on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and partnering with God as He works in me just as His Word promises us He will in Philippians 2:13,"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (KJV) That's right, He is working in me so that I want to do what pleases Him. He knows how He made me and what He is pleased for me to do. So as I commit my life to serving Him, yielding my will to His, He does the work in me, changing my desires to what He desires for me and helping me do that which we then both want for me to do! God is not delusional, He knows what happened to the nature of man as a result of Adam and Eve's original sin. He is well aware of what I am capable of doing and of leaving undone if not for His intervention. Thanks be to God! He loves us enough to meet us where we are but too much to leave us there! He also created us individually with a unique plan and direction for each one of us and His desire is to see us each live out that plan to it's fullest. Jeremiah 1:5 is a perfect illustration of this point in Scripture. God says, "Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations—that's what I had in mind for you." (The Message Bible)
Of course, God didn't set us all apart to be prophets to the nations (think Stepford!) but He has "holy plans" for each of us, just as He had for Jeremiah. Jeremiah wasn't a "super man" so to speak, nor was he obviously qualified to fit the task to which God called him. But, instead he was a man with strengths and weaknesses that yielded himself to be used by the hand of God to accomplish His Will in the Earth. Once I got to know myself, I wondered how God could use me for anything. Sure, I thought, I am the absolute antithesis of shy and I would probably say anything to anyone so I might be cut out to be a mouthpiece for Him. But what if the people reject my message or they don't like the way I look or how I speak or...? I am sure that would all cause me to be stymied and my efforts thwarted almost immediately. What if I wasn't discouraged by he crowd but I rather embraced by them and began to enjoy the acclaim so much so that my ministry became all about me? Then I would potentially go off on a tangent somehow and again, get in the way of the Lord's intended work through me. Or worse yet, what if I got bored with the work of being a full time Homemaker and homeschooling mother, and was drawn away by the idea of something that seemed bigger and better an much more glamorous? What if I decided that preaching should take precedence over Homemaking and get the timing and priorities that He set for me out of order, on a quest for acclaim and gratification now? Then I came across this passage of scripture found in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (NIV) This verse struck me immediately as a confirmation of the call of God on my life. None of what I am doing, or am in pursuit of, is my idea. I didn't come up with this on my own. He prepared these good works in advance for me to do- in advance being before He shaped me in the womb. Wow! What a sobering thought! He created just the right balance of Sanguine and Choleric that would be required to accomplish the work He prepared in advance for me to do and the same is true for all of you reading these words, whatever your temperament may be.
What about all my weaknesses? Certainly for me the list of weaknesses is as long as the list of strengths and therefore a very prevalent part of my personality. Yup, you guessed it. They are all part of the plan- the "shaping me before I was in the womb" plan- too. The Lord is Omniscient. He knew what weaknesses are a part of the package so He built in a plan for troubleshooting all my issues. My troubleshooting plan is in two parts. Part one is to push what I like to call "the reset button". The reset button is for those times when I am all grand and wonderful and everyone is telling me so. It's for when there are several days in a row when I wake early in the morning to have quiet time with the Lord, my checkbook is balanced, the house is clean, the laundry is folded and put away, I've followed my family meal plan all week, school is going well, the kids are happy, my husband is satisfied and I still have time to sit back and reflect on how great I am for being able to accomplish all that. Right about then, with all that extra time, is when I start working on an article to submit to a magazine or a message to share with the next Mom's group that calls on me to minister. After all, I am doing it all right, certainly someone else would benefit from my expertise in this area! That's when I begin to feel like all this good I am capable of is wasted where no one but my family can see it, especially considering the fact that sometimes they don't even notice! Just about then, the Lord allows all the right circumstances- oversleeping and tardiness, burnt dinner, bounced checks, lost library books, etc.- to push the reset button, which brings me back into reality and face to face with myself. The Apostle Paul had a similar experience as well. This is his account of it in 2Corinthians 12:6-7 from The Message Bible, "If I had a mind to brag a little, I could probably do it without looking ridiculous, and I'd still be speaking plain truth all the way. But I'll spare you. I don't want anyone imagining me as anything other than the fool you'd encounter if you saw me on the street or heard me talk. Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty!" Most theologians believe Paul had a physical ailment or handicap of some sort. I don't, unless you count laziness, disorganization, run-on sentences, restlessness and misplaced priorities. They are not physical handicaps, per se, but they certainly re-emerge quickly, "reset" my thinking and keep me from serenading myself with, "How Great I Am!" and get to singing "Lord, help me to hold out!...." instead!
Now sometimes, after being stripped of my bragging rights or if I have far too many consecutive days when my weaknesses are more prevalent then my strengths, the enemy convinces me that they also far outweigh my strengths and I begin to cry out to God and beg for deliverance from the not so favorable things that make me, "Me". That's when the Lord graciously employs Step 2 of the troubleshooting plan, the "re-focus button". Paul had that one, too. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 "At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become." As I yield all of me to God to use as He wills, for His Glory alone, I find a greater peace than I have ever had and joy in being me. I am more apt to recognize when I need to push the re-focus button and turn my attention toward the Grace of God that He shares so freely with me. He takes the good with bad, applies His Word to it all and "works all things together for good" because I love Him and I am called according to His purposes, just as He says in Romans 8:28.
This post has gone much longer that I intended so I appreciate you for reading this far. Next time we'll talk about what "according to His purpose" actually means.