|by C.J. Chase|
Any mother with more than one child can tell you she saw differences among her children from the earliest ages. Some babies are easy-going, happy to watch a mobile while Mom attends to other things. Others are more intense and demand more of Mom’s time from the very beginning, never happy unless they are with someone. Some contentedly play with toys while others are driven to move and explore.
Temperament is the innate behavioral style we inherited. Personality is how our temperament develops over time based on environmental factors such as education and family structure.
The ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates first advanced the idea of different temperaments. He named four: sanguine (extroverted and sociable), choleric (ambitious and decisive), melancholic (introverted and thoughtful), and phlegmatic (easy going). Modern psychologist David Keirsey refined these to four major types with 16 variants—the now-famous Myers-Briggs.
Last month, I had brunch with Dina and a few other local writers. Dina led a short discussion about using personality “types” to develop fictional characters. Her mention about how our personality affects our relationship with God got me to thinking about the personalities of some Biblical people.
Let’s start with Peter. I’m sure we’ve all met people like Peter—outspoken, impetuous, and always in the thick of things. When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, Peter jumped out of the boat to try it too. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter whipped out his sword and hacked off an ear. And he always had something to say even if it was the wrong thing, like the time he contradicted Jesus. I'm sure he was a lot of fun to be around—when you weren't on the receiving end of his tongue. Peter frequently shot off his mouth, and often ended up with a sandal firmly inside.
|The Denial of St. Peter by Gerard van Honthorst, circa 1623|
Contrast that with the disciple Matthew. We don’t know a lot about Matthew’s pre-Jesus years, beyond his profession: tax collector. Most Jews hated tax collectors, whom they viewed as crooks and sell-outs to their Roman overlords. Matthew must have been a bit of an Ebenezer Scrooge type—too busy totally his profit and loss statement to concern himself with the opinions of others. Accountant, loner, mercenary. He didn't say anything particularly memorable (until later). But he was practical, preferring to work with the Romans than to dream that one day the Messiah would free the Jews from subjugation.
|Jesus calls Matthew|
What I especially love about these two examples is that three years with Jesus turned the weaknesses in their personalities to strengths.
Outspoken Peter went on to preach before thousands. Two thousand souls were saved in just one day, when Peter spoke the words God gave him.
Matthew turned his analytical mind to making the case for Jesus. He gave up everything but his pen, with which he wrote the Gospel of Matthew. This particular gospel presents a logical argument for Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Matthew's gospel includes more quotes from the Old Testament than any of the others.
God uses all kinds of people: Ruth, David, Jacob, Mary, Moses, Daniel, Joseph, Sarah, Paul… But sometimes we look at others, particularly those so very different from us, and wonder if perhaps we shouldn’t change to be more like ___. Or even worse, we try to change others (particularly family members) to be more like us.
Fortunately, we have a God who meets us where we are. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t want us to “improve" (i.e., become more like Him), but that he can use us warts and all—and turn those weaknesses into strengths.
Have you ever taken a Myers-Briggs or similar personality assessment? Did you feel it adequately described your strengths and weaknesses? Here’s a quick free test if you've never tried one before. And here’s another. (I had slightly different results between the two in an area where I don’t lean strongly in either direction—the result, I suppose, of questions being worded in slightly different ways.)
Challenge for the weekend: Is God calling you to a ministry that utilizes your unique personality? Perhaps you're an artist called to create for His glory and kingdom. Or perhaps you are an exuberant "people person" called to an evangelism ministry. Or perhaps you have an analytical mind that would thrive on teaching an in-depth Bible study.
After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her next book, The Reluctant Earl, will be available in February of 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at www.cjchasebooks.com