This question informs my writing, teaching, preaching, and, of course, my living. I’m convinced that as we explore that one question we go far in growing as a follower of Christ.
This is one of the questions that keeps drawing me to the Enneagram as a map and tool for the spiritual journey. I resonate especially with the writings of Don Riso and Russ Hudson (The Enneagram Institute). So it was with sadness to hear of the death of Don Riso in 2012. I had not yet met Don but appreciated his writings and the stories his colleague Russ Hudson told us during training.
On Don’s memorial page I read a saying of his that continues to call to me.
“Nothing to defend,
Nothing to promote,
Nothing to fear.”
As I reflect on these three lines, his simple negations have included affirmation. The first line expands like this:
“Nothing to defend,
Everything is a Gift”
I am naturally a defensive person. Ask anyone who knows me or has tried to know me, I have a pretty solid shell that protects my heart from the pain of past betrayal and fear of future hurt. The origins of this desire to hide are old and complex and like an archaeologist I have spent time and energy trying to dig through and even demolish the walls. What then happens is that the defenses become stronger. I become more isolated from others and even shut out of my own life.
One thing I have learned is that as I construct these emotional defenses against my fears, I wall myself off from enjoying the abundance and joy that life can offer. That is a problem, because I want to live fully present to my life.
Lately, I have turned my energy away from understanding the layers of the shell and more on how I can live free of the tyranny of inner security.
How do I do that?
My view of the universe needs to change!
The walls rise up whenever I think the world and others in the world are out to hurt me. It is beyond my control and is more subtle than simple paranoia. As I feel my own woundings from past betrayals and losses and as I project my own anxieties and uncertainties into the future, life looks bleak and terrifying.
Then the walls go up.
Instead, what if I see the world and others in the world as gifts from a Loving Source?
Instead of seeing people to be suspicious of, I see brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, even mothers and fathers whom God has brought together to increase joy and laughter, love and compassion, and adventure and learning.
We are invited to trust God’s promise that there are no circumstances or persons that can remove us from the Presence of the Author of Life. (Romans 8:35,37-39). This Presence is here to guide us into a life that is filled with unimaginable wonder and grace(Romans 8:18)
Yes, there will be more betrayals and woundings in our living, but the Spirit of Healing does not leave us abandoned but holds us with the preciousness of Gift.
The movement of gifting also turns us towards others in our world. When we focus on defending what we have, we focus on taking everything in, holding onto it, and protecting it from loss.
The trust that transforms our stone walls of defense into foundation stones of giftedness invites us to turn the movement around and become people of generous hospitality. It is only as I choose to welcome people freely into my life through the gifts of love, compassion that the defenses fade away.
But this raises one of our fears in giving to others: we might run out and be left empty.
This is where our deepening trust in the Giver of Life helps us. Will God run out of Love and Mercy for us? Will the Fountain of Creation run dry? What I am discovering is that the more I open myself in giving, the more I find available to me to give.
As I find myself practicing this openness to give, the more transparent my defensive barriers become.
Nothing to Defend,
Everything is a Gift.