Series: Enneagram Daily Reflections #1
Published by IVP on May 4, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Memoir
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I am a number One on the Enneagram. Juanita Rasmus continues: If you are a One, you know the weight of the world we carry. If you know a One, these readings will give you enhanced insight into our world. Either way, bring your work boots--you will need them! Guided by her own life, including experiences with exhaustion and depression, Juanita Rasmus draws from the deep wells of counseling and spirituality to illuminate the journey of a One. She shares the resources that have guided her to greater spiritual and emotional health. Each of these forty daily reading concludes with a journaling prompt, self-affirmation, or spiritual practice. Any of us can find aspects of ourselves in any of the numbers. The Enneagram is a profound tool for empathy, so whether or not you are a One, you will grow from your reading about Ones and enhance your relationships across the Enneagram spectrum.
This book shares brief reflections about how Christians who type as Ones in the Enneagram personality system can move towards a state of emotional and spiritual health in their everyday lives. The daily readings are typically two or three pages long, and are quick perspectives based on the author’s experiences, ending with reflection questions or personal practices that readers can consider. Instead of being a collection of essays from different Enneagram Ones, this is all written by a single author, Juanita Campbell Rasmus. She draws on her personal background as an African American pastor, and writes about how she discovered her Enneagram type after a period of overwork and personal exhaustion that pushed her to a breaking point.
I am also a One, and I looked forward to this book’s release, expecting that I would connect with it and find it helpful. Unfortunately, I ended up being disappointed with the content and with aspects of the author’s teaching. On a personal level, I didn’t relate to the author’s life experiences, because even though we have some similar personality elements, the majority of her writing focused on her personal breakdown and experience recovering from a workaholic lifestyle.
I didn’t connect with this aspect of the author’s experience at all, and because it was central to the book, she didn’t touch on as many different things that other Ones would relate to. She also referred to her struggles to experience joy as if they were a universal element of this personality type, when it appears that this was primarily an aspect of her family upbringing. It’s important to her life story, but I think that she over-attributed this to other Ones.
More importantly, I have significant issues with the author’s theology. While writing about God’s love for us, she says, “I found the God who knows no condemnation and has no capacity for it.” This is completely inconsistent with what the Bible teaches about God and goes against the entire gospel story, in which Jesus came to take our sin and condemnation so that we could be forgiven. She provides no support for her claim or others like it, and even though I understand that she is trying to recover from a punitive view of God, her assertion is not biblical or helpful.
The Bible clearly teaches that people who do not repent of their sins and follow Christ will face judgment, and in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said about self-righteous religious people, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” That is incredibly heavy, and gives people lots to process, but it shows that righteous judgment is part of who God is, along with His mercy and compassion.
Ultimately, what has given me peace in my very Enneagram One struggles with perfectionism and self-judgment is the gospel, in which “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). In this shift from judgment to belonging, God takes my sin seriously, but has provided a solution where I am free from condemnation forever. This gives me hope, and has changed my life, while saying that God has no capacity for judgment distorts His character in a way that is only as therapeutic as it is untruthful. I find it alarming and frustrating that Rasmus dismissed a part of God’s character in order to make her point.
The same day’s reflection prompt invites people to fill in their own name instead of Jesus’s while reading Matthew 3:13-17. This passage tells the story of Jesus receiving baptism from John. When Jesus rose from the water, the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” With all of the passages in Scripture that express God’s love specifically for us, why would Rasmus hijack the sacred moment that began and confirmed Jesus’s earthly ministry? It means something in context which does not apply to every Christian, and there was no way that I was going to insert my name repeatedly into a quoted Scripture passage where John the Baptist says, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” He was not making that claim about me!
I am comfortable with reading books from a variety of perspectives, and there are lots of theological areas where I can agree to disagree, but this book distorts the gospel in such a way that I cannot recommend it, and I also found it extremely discouraging and frustrating on a personal level. I really wanted to connect with this book and gain deeper insights into my life, but instead, I’m just reminded how much my spiritual peace as an Enneagram One depends on a right understanding of sin and redemption, where I don’t have to ignore my condemnation-worthy acts, or pretend that they don’t matter to God, to know that I am deeply accepted and loved in Christ.
There are lots of daily readings in this book that are perfectly fine and good, and people can definitely benefit from the author’s personal illustrations and insights, but even though some Christians will enjoy this and find it beneficial, this is not something that I can recommend. Also, even though secular readers and people from different faiths wouldn’t have my same objections to this book, it has so many Christian elements that readers from other backgrounds would probably not connect with much of the material.