By now I'm sure many of you have heard of the Enneagram. You've probably taken the test, figured out "what number you are" and read all about yourself. Or, you've done the opposite and boycotted thinking you don't want to be defined by a number.
Eliseo and I took the test earlier last year when a dear friend of mine explained how much she had learned about herself through this tool. She read about herself, studied her characteristics, and utilized her new knowledge in a way that brought about improvement for both herself and her marriage. She learned why she thought the way she did, what roots caused her to react certain ways, and what instinctual characteristics were inbred and which were cultural. We were enamored and wanted to know more.
So, us being us, we took the test and decided to learn, and grow.
Eliseo is a challenger. Hands down, no questions asked. He loves conflict because it produces growth. Challenging others causes individuals to think critically, dig deep, ask questions, and understand where truth lies. I, on the other hand, love my little bubble of peace. A peacemaker at heart, my motives behind everything I do is to keep conflict out, away from my bubble of harmony.
Which means the question for us is, how do you resolve tension when one loves conflict and one flees?
This was where we were left to ponder.
Swimming in the wake of our explosion of insight, we have been forced to learn (in the best way possible, of course) how we move forward. Challengers are all about future thinking, so Eli loves that we're growing. He loves that we're learning and searching and understanding each other better. I, on the other hand, have had a much slower process toward excitement. I'd rather sleep, honestly. When I have too much to process or too much to think through, my mind decides it's more necessary to sleep, thus convincing my body it's a great idea to lay down on the couch instead of write out my thoughts. That's my truth at it's finest.
Anyway, our biggest moment of growth happened recently. And you all, lucky as you are, get to learn from our discovery.
A couple weeks ago Eliseo and I had the grand idea to walk to McDonald's for some amazingly unhealthy fries. Walking, we said, would help us combat the amount of unhealthy food we were to consume. Smart, I know.
The walk there was great. We chatted, updated each other on our day, laughed, joked, dreamed. We got our fries and my happiness was next level. I had the quality time I so dearly enjoyed, the fries I couldn't get enough of, and a beautiful day. Nothing could disrupt it. (Or so I thought).
A few minutes into our walk back home, fries in hand, Eliseo starts talking about our upcoming small group we were starting the following week. Much to my dismay, in his conversation about this group, his tone and choice of words (unintentionally) was geared toward what he wanted to do and what he wanted to say to the group. He started his conversation off with the simple words of, "I want to take our group through this study this year", and I was done. It didn't matter what he said after that - I already was standing behind a wall of bitterness from the simple fact that in my mind, he had already made the decision for us of how our group was to look this year.
A couple minutes later, his explanation of his thinking was finished and he asked what I thought we should do. By that point, I already had 3 points in my head of why he was wrong and why it was a bad idea because that was all I saw through my bitter stained glasses. Coinciding with my thoughts, the only thing that came out of my mouth was "I guess you've already made the decision for us", followed by a delightfully obtrusive cold shoulder.
Welcome to real life at it's finest with my childish ways.
The remaining 10 minutes of our not so delightful walk had him getting understandably frustrated and me ignoring all common sense in any response.
Upon arriving home, I had a choice to make: was I to ignore him for the rest of the night, go to bed angry and wake up in the morning acting like nothing happened, or was I going to get out of my comfort zone, face conflict and admit why I was upset to the man that had absolutely no idea.
To anyone's doubt, I chose the second option. In doing so, I was faced with a blinding reality that I had resentment shoved so deep inside me I didn't even know it existed anymore.
As we talked, he challenged his way through my thinking to get me to ask myself what I was actually feeling. Challengers are great in this capacity, guys. When healthy, they are truly amazing. To my peacemaking self, answering questions about why I'm thinking what I'm thinking in anger is the least fun thing I can think of doing. Literally. Yet, our resolution was huge:
I hated that he made a decision for us (in my perception) about how we were to handle our group, thinking I just had to get on board, because in my mind he always made our decisions and it's not fair. Yet, the only reason I thought he made all our decisions was because when our biggest decision in our marriage to date came about (our North Carolina opportunity), he was the one that physically told me no, we're not going. It was a decision we both clearly knew was right and from the Lord, but I blamed Eliseo for 12 months. I blamed him because he was physically present, and that was much easier than being mad at God who I couldn't stare down in a stand off.
For 12 months I carried around the utmost amount of bitterness simply because I didn't want to disrupt my outward persona that everything was fine and dandy when it happened. To me, it was better to act like everything was okay and it'll cause me to actually believe it's true. (Hint to all peacemakers, that's not actually how it works).
For us, the Enneagram has been a tool that helps point us to the Cross. It's teaching us about ourselves, each other, and where we need grace most of all in our lives. We hope that if it's a tool you're using too, that it's just that - it's not a crutch, an excuse to stay where you are and blame your "number" for your actions. It's not a game to play, guessing who others are so you can confine them in a box of explanation. Rather, it's an opportunity to gain insight about yourself and others, to expose the unhealthy areas of your life so Jesus can redeem you day in and day out.
Moments like these may seem like small bickerings that every couple has, and it is. However, the one thing my grandmother always taught me was to never go to bed angry, and I did that way too often before I learned why I would much rather do that and pretend nothing is wrong than actually admit what's wrong and fix it.
To all my peacemakers out there: facing conflict head on, especially when we don't want to, is exactly what we need sometimes.