I am an enneagram 4. What is the enneagram, you ask? Well, I won’t go into everything that I’ve learned about it over the past couple of years, but basically the enneagram is an ancient assessment of people and the complex nature of how our world shapes us. There are 9 types. For the purposes of this article, here’s what you need to know about 4s — we love symbolism, depth of thought, we are sense-attentive, deeply empathic, and emotionally charged. Fours love drama wrapped up in meaning wrapped up in feelings wrapped up in beauty wrapped up in people. Naturally, the religious world attracts a lot of 4s. Religion, and religious practice is full of drama, which is partly why feel at home in organized religion. I truly love the drama of it all. I always cry when I participate in communion, baptisms take me down too, the music, the stained-glass, the women in hats, the pomp, and pulpit, the praise, I’m here for all of it. I also love observing liturgical seasons. I take Lent very seriously, allowing my mind to go into a time of deep reflection that if I’m not careful, morphs into seasonal depression. But then there’s Easter and I come alive again. Then Pentecost, which is one of my favorite Bible passages and then of course Advent and Christmas. A couple of years ago, I learned that at different times in history, the Church has observed a 7 week Advent. I love this for all kinds of powerful reasons. This is my fourth year practicing a 7 week Advent.
This has been a tough year for my work. I didn’t get the job I thought was guaranteed to me. I have been looked over and passed over for work because people thought I was too busy momming. My ordination is being held hostage by the committee because they don’t understand my call as an “entrepreneurial minister.” I have no idea what 2020 holds and I don’t feel compelled to plan for anything because if 2019 has taught me anything, it’s that God does not care about my plans. Indeed it feels like all of 2019 has been Advent — just a long season of waiting for something I have no idea what it is.
Advent is a psychological practice in learning how to wait, trusting God, and praying for answers. Who would delve into something like that for 7 weeks when 4 weeks is a perfectly acceptable standard? Well for me, it’s about giving myself more time. More time to pray in the mindset of waiting. More time to sing the songs that tell of the coming of something new.* With 7 week Advent we have more time to prepare ourselves for whatever news the angels have to proclaim. It’s a rare moment when time is something we can negotiate.
So, take it from this dramatic enneagram 4, the wait is hard, but it’s worth it. We can hunker down. We can stretch out in the beautiful darkness and just listen. We can accept the embrace of the shadows. We can hone our patience. And when the star appears and we are finally led to that dusty, dark, and damp stable we will look for the thing that is most unexpected to be in such a place. A baby. Something new. A baby. Something challenging. A baby. Something to care for. A baby. Something that will grow.
What are you waiting for? What is the thing that is just out of reach? What is the mystery for which you seek answers?
*Some of my favorite Advent songs that you might not think of as Advent-y:
Prepare Ye the Way (from Godspell)
Come Oh Lord and Set Us Free, by John Bell
Come By Here (Kumbaya), a Swahili hymn
Light of the Clear Blue Morning, by Dolly Parton