The Christmas tree was still up and decorated—though slightly drooping in our dry Colorado air—when I cracked open my new journal on January first. (We follow the custom learned in Germany of celebrating all twelve days of Christmas, right up to Three Kings Day on January 6. I love these days for meditating about the first days of Jesus’ life: what was he like at a week old? did his hair curl like Mary’s? when did he begin sleeping through the night? did Joseph find work in Bethlehem before fleeing to Egypt?)
It’s rare that one of my brand new journals actually begins on the first day of the new year. More often two years (or more) of scattered words fill one book with several blank pages at the end. But this year the fresh, blank pages were waiting for what God would bring to mind, or what I would cry out in writing when I couldn’t—or wouldn’t—wail those thoughts aloud.
Before writing on that unmarked new page I printed out copies that have been pasted in the back of many recent journals. Information that I frequently turn to through the year: my Myers-Briggs Personality Profile (want to guess what/who I am??), my Strengths Finders analysis, and the results from Your Personality and Your Spiritual Life by Reginald Johnson. I am definitely not a “navel gazer” (one who engages in useless or excessive self-contemplation), but a deeper understanding of my personality—as God made me and as the Holy Spirit continues to refine me—has been of immeasurable help in my spiritual and emotional growth.
This understanding also helps me evaluate my work so that I don’t sink into a “slough of despond” (as described by Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress) when I see nothing productive happening, nor am I tempted to glorify self effort when success is at hand. Knowing myself with clearer vision also helps me see when circumstances, events—even people!—knock on the door of life ready to draw me away from God’s call for any particular day.
As I occasionally glance at these personality traits, I find myself offering honest gratitude to God for making me who I am. It’s so easy to fall into the trap—the Enemy’s trap, I’ve come to believe—of wanting to be something or someone else. “I wish I were like .” From that point it’s only a small step into saying, “If I were like , I could do great things for God. But since I’m not, I’ll just stay here in my puddle.”
Lest you think I concentrate only on my strengths or the characteristics that are thought to be more positive (or more socially or—yes, even more spiritually) acceptable, I also glance at the weaknesses (from Strength Finders) or the infirmities (from Johnson’s analysis). This keeps me grounded, avoiding an inflated ego.
So what does all this have to do with becoming God’s Perennial Woman? Aren’t these practices, or isn’t this understanding, primarily beneficial for the young person just starting on the path of following Jesus? Remember the yardstick measurements many of us marked on a door jamb when our children were growing up? How many inches (or centimeters) did Johnny grow this year? The Apostle Peter, a pro when it came to beginning, falling, and beginning again, wrote what I call the yardstick of growth in his letter to Christians who we might say had every “right” to give up on growth as they were forced from their homeland and “persecuted from without and subverted from within.”* In the first chapter he repeatedly says, “add to.” Don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t give up. “If you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive…”
No matter the age, physical condition, education, past experience, or sociological standing, God’s Perennial Woman is meant to keep growing, be effective and productive. Some might be discouraged because of decreasing energy (all of us??) or mental capacity, but we are responsible for those areas of life over which we have control.
Maybe it’s time to take inventory of who you are. Praise God for creating you in his image and look for ways each morning to make his light shine brightly (that’s what “glorify” means) through your strengths and your weaknesses. And remember: “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
*Encyclopedia of the Bible