Sunday, March 07, 2010

A Deep Review of Your Spiritual Personality by Marita Littauer

A Deep Review of Your Spiritual Personality by Marita Littauer

by Lawrence J. Clark, Ph.D.

This month I will continue my series of “deep reviews” of books on personality and temperament theory by discussing not only what each book contains, but my personal reaction to the principles that it covers and the examples it uses to illustrate the main points. Your Spiritual Personality, by Marita Littauer, was the final book I read for my Certified Personality Trainer certificate examination, and I’m glad I saved it for last. All of the other books touched on this subject briefly, so it was nice to read a whole book devoted entirely to using my knowledge of the personalities to have a better and stronger relationship with Christ.

The story of Amy in the first chapter brought back some memories. When I first asked Jesus into my heart, in the living room of a couple to whom I was trying to sell a vacuum cleaner, I lived in a small town in Maine. None of my friends went to church, and although I had attended Catholic churches as a child, I didn’t feel led to go back to that particular denomination. For the next two years, I wandered around the country, living and working in six states before settling down at a small Baptist college in Mississippi. Most of the jobs I held were in the restaurant and hotel business, so since I usually worked weekends, I wasn’t able to attend church regularly.

Along the way, I had gone to a few Bible studies with students at the University of Tennessee, attended a couple of Methodist services in southern Florida (where I was usually the only person under sixty-five), and made a few visits to a 70s “Jesus Movement” style church in an old movie theater in San Diego. When I finally got to Mississippi, I started attending a small, rural Baptist church where my friend’s sister was married to the music minister. He had a heart for youth, so he recruited several students from my college to form a contemporary Christian praise band.

This was long before praise bands became acceptable in Baptist circles, at least in rural southern Mississippi. As the guitar player, I felt as if I had finally found a place I could call home and a way to serve the Lord with my gifts and talents. Unfortunately, after our first appearance in a Sunday morning service, the music minister called a meeting and informed us that our group was being disbanded; one of the wealthier members of the congregation had threatened to leave if they ever heard electric guitars or drums again. My way of worshipping and serving the Lord was deemed unacceptable, and it left a bad taste in my mouth for a long time afterward. I eventually left that church and found another that allowed more “modern” music and was open to more expressive worship styles, but I missed the solid Biblical teaching I had received at the Baptist church.

Since that time I have lived in several more states and cities, and have often had to compromise my desire for more open worship with my need for “meaty” sermons. I now attend a “Mega Church” that has great music, solid and interesting teaching, and a variety of opportunities for worship and service. Ironically, I am not very involved in the music ministry, since my speaking and performance schedule often takes me out of town on the weekends, but that is okay for now. I could relate to the example Marita gives of her husband; like him, I have found that, at least in this phase of my life, I appreciate the anonymous quality of a church where I can attend when I am able, but am not made to feel guilty if I happen to miss one or two Sundays in a row.

Another thing that I appreciated about this book was Marita’s openness about her own spiritual practices, and how they are affected by her in-born temperament. Although I have read dozens of Christian books over the years, I must confess that I have started many more than I have finished, especially the ones that included homework and exercises. Although I get a lot out of doing the exercises and always begin with the intent of finishing them, I am constantly on the go; my Sanguine side is easily distracted, and my Choleric side is impatient and just wants to get the information and run with it, so I tend to skip the exercises and move on to the next chapter, or even the next book.

Learning that it is ok to have a different approach to my walk with Christ, and that there are others like me, was another valuable lesson I learned from this book. I have always admired people who could study the Bible in the original Greek and Hebrew, those who could quote scripture left and right from memory, and those who could wake up each morning at 5:00 a.m. for their morning devotions. In addition to admiring them, though, I have also felt guilty for not being able to “do” Christianity like that, and have often felt like a second-class Christian in the presence of such spiritual giants. I now understand that my way of studying and praying is just that—my way, and since God created me with my blend of Choleric and Sanguine personality types, He understands that and speaks to me through Christian books, praise music, teaching tapes, Christian radio and television programs, and the occasional retreat or seminar. And although I don’t have a set prayer time, I commune with Him many times throughout the day while driving, cooking, walking or swimming, or simply sitting outside and enjoying nature.

Although I am Sanguine/Choleric, my Choleric personality definitely dominates my spiritual life. Unlike many Sanguines, I do not see God as my “good buddy” or as an affectionate father figure. Maybe this is because I did not experience a particularly affectionate father figure as a child. I identify more with Marita’s description of the Choleric view of God--as one with whom to struggle for control. I know that God created the universe. I know that God is sovereign and ultimately in control. I know all the scriptures about God wanting the best for His children and working all things out for His purposes. Yet I laughed out loud when I read the poem about the child who brought his toys to God to get them fixed, but never let go of the toys so God could actually take them and fix them. I laughed because I could identify so strongly with that simple illustration. I often give lip-service to God and pretend to hand situations and problems over to Him, but more often than not I get impatient and end up doing things my way without waiting for an answer. Thankfully, He often uses me in spite of myself, and for that I am grateful and often humbled. This attitude spills over into my creative endeavors, such as music, writing, etc. I have to constantly stop and remind myself to consider when I am doing something for God’s glory or my own. This is a constant struggle, but one that helps keep me grounded.

Another thing that I found interesting in this book was the chapter on the personality of Jesus, in which Marita explained that during his time on earth Jesus exhibited the best traits of all four temperaments. I had never thought of this before, but the concept makes sense, since God created people with each of the temperaments, then came to earth to show us how to live. If he would have come and only lived as a Choleric or a Melancholy, that wouldn’t have been fair to the Phlegmatics or the Sanguines, as it would have been nearly impossible for them to follow in His footsteps. In His ultimate wisdom, though, the Master Teacher lived His life in a way that each of us could imitate. I also like the idea that as we grow in our Christian faith and walk and become more like Him, we will start to manifest the strengths of each of the personality types.

In the chapter on spiritual gifts, I appreciated the fact that Marita steered clear of some of the more controversial gifts. Although I believe there is a place for teaching on those subjects, my wife, Kristen, and I approach our ministry the same way, and have thereby been able to minister to the body of Christ in a variety of denominations. At any rate, it was no surprise to me that, given my Choleric/Sanguine personality, my gifts lie mostly in the “Public Proclaimers” square.

It was fitting that the final chapter was titled, “Encouragement and Freedom.” Those are the two things I have gained most from this book:

1) the encouragement to know that I am not a second-class Christian, and that my methods and styles of study, prayer, and worship are perfectly fine given my God-given temperament, and

2) the freedom to relate to God and to others in the body of Christ as He created me to do, not as others do, no matter how spiritual or mature in their faith they may seem on the outside.

This is my spiritual journey and my relationship with the God who created me and loves me unconditionally. That is the truth, and that truth has and will continue to set me free.


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