Lenten Invitations for each Enneagram Type
by Julie Cole
What are you giving up for Lent? Depending on your church background, you may or may not have heard that question. While the Christian church celebrates Christmas and Easter, many evangelical churches don’t closely follow other seasons on the church calendar. Lent is one of those seasons.
The first time I became aware of Lent, I was in grade school when my family began attending a Methodist church. I knew it must be important because the decorations on the church pulpit and the pastors’ robes changed during the Season of Lent. I learned that the Lenten season was the six-week period before Easter which began every year on Ash Wednesday.
As I grew up and later attended charismatic churches, I stopped hearing about Lent – people were only counting how many weeks there were until Easter. However, as I have become a spiritual director and learned more about the church calendar, I have tried to participate in the Lenten season in some way.
For me, paying more attention to times and seasons on church calendar has added meaning to the concept of time. I’m not as prone to drift through the seasons. Each day is important.
Seasons such as Lent invite us to slow down, look within and prepare our hearts for more of God. Lent is a more solemn time of soul searching and self-denial to remember Jesus’ death and prepare for the celebration of his resurrection.
This kind of slowing down and self-reflection aren’t always easy. It’s easy to lean on our own personality strengths or coping mechanisms which can keep us from fully embracing the sacrifice Christ paid for our freedom from sin and death.
Yet this kind of slow, thoughtful reflection can bring spiritual growth and even help us in addressing blind spots or weaknesses in our own personalities.
In utilizing tools such as the enneagram, it’s interesting to look at how different personality types might experience Lent and ways they can engage in the practice that brings growth.
Let’s look at some possible challenges and invitations that Lent brings for each enneagram number.
Type One: Moral Perfectionist. These types can appreciate quality and they are good at seeing what needs to be improved and making it better. The temptation for a Type One is to set up an ideal goal for how to observe Lent. If that doesn’t happen, they can beat themselves up for not perfectly achieving it. A Lenten challenge for a Type One might be to relax their grip on some things. While Lent often means adding more control in an area of life, for Ones, the challenge is surrendering control. That could look like many things – maybe it’s laying down work on Friday and not picking it back up until Monday. Maybe it’s waiting to do the dinner dishes until morning. Finding small ways to embrace imperfection helps a Type One realize we all need a Savior. Redemption can’t come from our own perfection.
Type Two: Supportive Advisor. Twos are tuned into the needs of those around them. They feel most loved when they are doing for others. A true Lenten challenge for a Type Two is to turn the focus onto their own self-care. Is there an invitation God is giving to rest from responsibilities in some way? Oftentimes, stepping back from helping others opens an inner emptiness for a Type Two. What would it be like to invite God into that place? Could you practice voicing what you need from someone close to you? This is often neglected terrain for a Type Two. Letting go of the drive to meet others’ needs for a season can heighten the realization that only God can truly fill the voids and needs.
Type Three: Successful Achiever – Threes are motivated to do great things and inspire others. They love the thrill of a challenge and with this focus they might be tempted to construct big self-denial goals to achieve during Lent. These kinds of hefty goals can inadvertently turn the focus onto performance rather than one’s connection to and need for Christ. A true challenge for a Three is to choose something that forces them to be still, slow down and listen for the voice of God. Perhaps it is practicing a short time of silence each morning. It can also be beneficial for a Three to invest time in family and friends during Lent. The purpose is to experience a greater realization of the Savior’s love for you just as you are, not because of your accomplishments.
Type Four: Romantic Individualist – Many Creatives live in this space. They put beauty in the world, and they feel very deeply. A season that involves opening up to the emotions related to our own sin and suffering can feel exhilarating for a Four. They know emotion. However, left to feel by themselves, Fours can sometimes spiral in their emotions. A Lenten practice for a Four is to do something creative with these feelings – maybe it’s creating something that others can enjoy or sharing a spiritual practice with others. It can be helpful to also practice gratitude so that in exploring deep emotions they are also rooted in God’s love.
Type Five: Investigative Thinker – Fives love to study and think about situations in order to be able to understand and manage them. They can sometimes be emotionally detached. They might be tempted to purchase all kinds of Lenten publications and dive into a study of the season. This can keep them isolated and in their head. A Lenten practice for a Five might be to connect with their community in some way. If you want to study Lent, join a group for a book study. Attend an Ash Wednesday service with a friend or reach out to someone you might like to get to know. This brings balance and the realization of the importance of community in one’s spiritual journey.
Type Six: Loyal Guardian – Sixes are responsible and tend to be anxious for whatever they can’t prepare for. Remembering the suffering and death of Jesus, without the hope of the resurrection, could get them caught in a place of fear and dread. A Lenten invitation for a Six is to release their fear and focus onto God’s ultimate and complete power over sin and death. A wonderful Scripture to meditate on would be Hebrews 12:2 – fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. The journey through the Lenten season doesn’t stop at the cross but at an empty tomb.
Type Seven: Entertaining Optimist – Sevens love adventure and they are fun to be around. However, they can sometimes struggle with follow-through because of the fear of missing the next exciting opportunity. Slowing down to focus on the solemn topic of our sinfulness and Jesus’ death can feel like a wet blanket for a Seven. It might be helpful to join a group study so that the Seven’s sweet spot of community is built into the practice. It’s also helpful to remember that Sundays during Lent are feast days – days that you break from your fast. Looking forward to Sunday can bring strength and perseverance for the challenge of whatever fast is chosen.
Type Eight: Protective Challenger – Eights are advocates for justice. They are influential in moving others to action. They do not want to be controlled and are often hesitant to share deep emotions. A natural practice for an Eight would be to go without certain luxuries in order to walk in solidarity with the poor. An extra challenging step would be to practice vulnerability in some way. Perhaps reach out to someone – either a stranger or a friend and hear their story – zero in on their experience and feelings. Then allow yourself to share your own feelings. This opens you up more fully to not only observe Lent but also experience deeper spiritual engagement.
Type Nine: Peaceful Mediator – Nines are peacemakers and bridgebuilders. They can often neglect their own opinions and needs in order to merge with others and keep peace. A challenge for Nines is to dedicate some time to ask “What does Lent mean to me? What is God’s invitation to me in this season?” Once you have an idea of the answer to those questions, formulate a way to respond to that invitation and follow through to observe Lent in the way in which God is inviting you. This affirms the Nine in trusting their own ability to hear God and then acting on it.
What is God’s invitation to you in this Lenten season? The purpose of this article is not to label everyone with a number but to simply identify some ways that different personality types might experience and grow through the Lenten season. Whatever your personality type, Lent provides a rich invitation of self-reflection. This Lenten season, may we all hear more clearly what Jesus wants to reveal to us about ourselves and receive more deeply the work He accomplished on the cross for each one of us.
Bio: Julie Cole is the Director of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care at The King’s University
in Southlake, Texas. She’s a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed minister with Open Bible Churches desiring to inspire people to connect with God and to see His hand in both the miraculous and the mundane experiences of life. Julie is a member of Sherpa Cohort 2 and she’s excited how spiritual direction can powerfully point people to Jesus. Julie and her husband, David, live in Trophy Club, Texas, and have four children and eight grandchildren.
Top photo by Ron Reeve