Growing To Perfection

Growing To Perfection | marissabaker.wordpress.comHave you ever wondered why God commands us to become perfect when it seems so impossible? In English, the word means to lack nothing essential, to be without defect, and “completely suited for a particular purpose” (The American Heritage Desk Dictionary). We know this is only possible with God’s help, but it is still discouraging to look at ourselves and realize how far we are from perfection.

The task of becoming perfect seems even more daunting when we read, “you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt .5:48). How could we ever become as perfect as God is? If we don’t give up altogether, it’s easy to get caught in a cycle of trying to be perfect, failing, and then falling into depression. What’s the solution?

What is “Perfect”?

First, let’s remember that Jesus told us things which are impossible for men are possible for God (Matt. 19:26). He can save and work with even the people who seem most hopeless. Second, let’s look at what the Bible actually means by “perfect.” It’s not quite what it seems in English.

In the Old Testament, God described Job as “a perfect and an upright man” twice at the beginning of Job’s story (Job 1:8; 2:3, KJV). We know that Job learned and grew as a result of the trials he went through, and yet God could describe him as “perfect” with complete honesty before this growth happened.

The word in Hebrew is tam (H8535), which refers to completeness and entirety. It doesn’t necessarily mean finished, though — rather someone moving “naturally toward that which is ethically sound” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament). Thus in the Bible, we can be described as “perfect” while being on the path toward perfection.

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the Lord? and who is a rock, except our God? God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect. (2 Sam. 22:31-33)

God is perfect in an absolute sense, and He takes on Himself the task of moving us toward that perfection. As long as we are growing toward being like Him, He can describe us as “perfect.” This idea of growth fits in perfectly with the way perfection is spoken of in the New Testament. There are two main words translated “perfect” from the Greek, and one is teleios (G5046). It means something that is finished or complete, as in completely blameless, or a person who is full-grown in mind and understanding (Zodhiates). It is what Jesus Christ prayed His followers would experience.

And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:22-23)

Perfection as a Christian has everything to do with growth. If we think we’re already perfect, then we’re not. But if we’re pursuing perfection by trying to be like God and deepening our relationship with Him, then He calls us perfect.

On To Perfection

We’re not left in the dark about how we can pursue perfection The key is not so much trying to be perfect versions of ourselves, but rather trying to be like our Father and Jesus Christ.

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40)

Growing To Perfection | marissabaker.wordpress.comHere, we have the other Greek word frequently translated “perfect.” Katartizo (G2675) means “to put a thing in its appropriate condition.” It can mean repairing something that was broken, setting a person right with God, and preparing or equipping someone for a purpose (Zodhiates). Here in Luke, Jesus is telling us that in order to become whole, complete and right with God, we have to become like Him (Eph. 4:10-14). The closer we get to being like Christ, the more mature we become as Christians. If we stagnate instead of growing, then we’re in trouble.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (Heb. 5:12-6:3)

“Why aren’t you growing?” Paul asks. “You know what the elementary principles are, so build on them.” We have a foundation — Jesus Christ whose sacrifice perfects us (1 Cor. 3:11; Heb. 10:14) — and now is the time to start building on that foundation. Even though God refers to us as  perfect before we actually reach that goal, we can’t become complacent.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. (Phil. 3:12-15)

Even the Apostle Paul didn’t think he was doing well enough as a Christian to stop pursuing perfection, and he wrote over 30% of the New Testament text! But he didn’t let the fact that he wasn’t perfect yet discourage him, and he made sure he was encouraging his fellow Christians toward maturity in Christ. Like Paul, I hope we can accept the fact that we’re not yet perfect while continuing to move towards being like Christ. We don’t have to beat ourselves up over not being “good enough,” but we do have to keep moving forward.

“Thinking” Women and “Feeling” Men

For people who study Myers-Briggs, one of the ways we relate type to culture is by saying most Feeling types are women and most Thinking types are men. This seems to work quite nicely as a partial explanation for gender stereotypes in Western culture, since Feeling attributes (emotionally expressive, nurturing, relational, etc.) are typically considered “female” and Thinking attributes (impersonal, fact-oriented, business-like, etc.) are considered more “male.”

Type Distribution

As with many generalizations, there’s a whole slew of problems related to this observation. According to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, about 57 to 84 percent of women are Feeling types and about 47 to 72 percent of men are Thinking types. It’s hard to get exact numbers on type distribution, but even these broad estimates show that, while the generalization holds true, there’s also quite a few Feeling men and Thinking women.

Thinking Women and Feeling Men | marissabaker.wordpress.comJust in my family of 5, there are three good examples of exceptions to the general rule that most men are Thinkers and most women are Feelers. My dad (ISFJ) and brother (ENFJ) are both Feeling types, and my sister (INTJ) is a thinking type. Only me (INFJ) and probably my mother (she has asked me not to type her) fit into the “women are Feeling types” generalization.

Thinking vs. Feeling

Lest you think by this generalization that Thinking people don’t have emotions or that Feeling people can’t be intelligent, let’s take a quick look at what Thinking and Feeling refer to when we’re talking about Myers-Briggs types. Both Thinking and Feeling are Judging functions, meaning they describe how you like to make decisions.

When Thinkers make a decision, they like to base it on facts and understand the basic principle behind that decision. They aim for consistency and logic when making decisions, and try not to let themselves be swayed by emotions (which they do have, but don’t trust as a basis for decision making). When Feelers make decisions, their focus is on how that decision will affect other people. They want to maintain harmony and stay in line with their personal and societal values.

In your function stack, Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) is going to be your primary or secondary function. You’ll either be most comfortable using T/F since it’s your primary function, or you’ll support your primary perceiving function with T/F for decision making. If you’re a Feeler, you can access Thinking as your tertiary or inferior function, but it’s not as well developed or easy to use (same for Thinkers accessing Feeling).

  • Primary Feeling: ISFP, ISFP, ESFJ, ENFJ
  • Secondary Feeling: ISFJ, INFJ, ESFP, ENFP
  • Primary Thinking: ISTP, INTP, ESTJ, ENTJ
  • Secondary Thinking: ISTJ, INTJ, ESTP, ENTP

Stress of Cultural Expectations

One of the hardest things for Feeling-type men and Thinking-type women to deal with is a sense that there is something wrong with who they are. It’s becoming more socially acceptable for men to express their emotions and women to be seen as impersonal, but not much. For example, ESFJ is considered the preferred type for women in the United States, making INTP the opposite type. Nancy J. Barger and Linda K. Kirby’s research indicates that the words and phrases most often used to describe INTP women are negative, and the female INTPs they interviewed all reported feeling some kind of disconnect with or disapproval from other people because of their personality type. Several specifically mentioned that they thought it was their Thinking side which put people off.

Like these INTPs, many Thinking women feel out of place in society. They identified more with boys and men growing up than they did with other girls, and were often criticized for not being “nice” enough. Similarly, many Feeling men felt like they didn’t measure up to what a man “should be” in the eyes of their father, teachers and peers. They found competition and conflict uncomfortable, and often felt more at ease around women and girls than other boys.Thinking Women and Feeling Men | marissabaker.wordpress.com

This is one of the reasons finding your Myers-Briggs type can have such a positive impact. Knowing that you’re hard-wired to respond with Thinking or Feeling gives you permission to finally start using the judging function you feel most comfortable with. If you’re a Thinking woman who’s trying to use Feeling, or a Feeling man who is trying to use Thinking, you’re crippling yourself by bypassing the way you naturally approach decisions. Learning to use our tertiary or inferior function is useful, but it’s much easier if we start by developing our primary or secondary function and then support it with the opposite.

There are still going to be gender-related differences between male and female Feeling types or between male and female Thinking types. I know both male and female ENFJs, for example, and while they are similar in terms of personality the guys still relate to Wild At Heart instead of Captivating (John and Stasi Eldgredge’s books on the secrets of men’s and women’s souls).  If the judging function you’re most comfortable with doesn’t match society’s stereotype for your gender, that doesn’t mean you’re “failing” at being a man or a woman — it means the person God created you to be doesn’t fit neatly into a box … and that’s okay.

Lies That Isolate Us

Lies That Isolate Us | marissabaker.wordpress.com We know how important a relationship with God is to our Christian walk, and last week we talked about how important it is for us to also have relationships with other believers. For some of you, that comes fairly easily — you have a church home where you feel welcome, and good friends who share your faith. Many of you feel much more isolated, through. Maybe there aren’t any options for fellowship in your area, but if you’re online reading this blog post you have at least one way to connect with fellow believers, if we’re willing to take advantage of it. Peter describes our “adversary the devil” as a “roaring lion” who walks about “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). When predators like lions hunt herd animals (like the sheep we’re so often compared to in scripture), they try to isolate one before going in for the kill. One of the tools our adversary uses to do this to us if the lies we tell ourselves that keep us from seeking out fellowship — things like “I’m not good enough,” or “I have nothing to offer,” or “No one values me.”

Let Them Love You

No matter how true these thoughts feel, they are not an accurate reflection of how God sees us. You say, “I have no value,” God says you’re so valuable that Jesus traded His own life to save you.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

Jesus Christ’s was the most valuable human life ever, and that’s the price He and His Father paid for you. They didn’t do this because they “had to.” They did it because they thought you were worth it. Paul tells us that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief,” and He came to save you as well (1 Tim. 1:15).

 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:13-14)

Jesus said this to His disciples, but He meant it for us as well. He died for you because He cares about you, and if you’re following His commandments you have the right to claim friendship with Him as well.

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:9-11)

Because of the love of God for us, we as His followers should have love for each other. This applies to us having and showing love, but also to us receiving love. You should be able to walk into a group of people who are following God and find love and companionship there. Sure there’ll be a few bad apples in most groups, but don’t focus on them — there’s usually more good people there who will love and befriend you if you give them the chance.

Accept Your Gifts

God loves, values and wants you, and He expects people following Him to love you as well. And that’s not where it ends. You might think you have nothing to offer God or a church group, but God tells us we’re each necessary to His family. God sees value in every life, and it is His desire for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). He doesn’t give up on people, and He can work with anyone who seeks Him, including you. In fact, if you turn your back on Him, you’re depriving His family of someone He thought was important enough to call into relationship with Him. You’re not doing anyone a favor by “getting out of the way” or thinking they don’t need you.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (1 cor. 12:7)

You might think it seems like everyone except for you has a spiritual gift, but God doesn’t say He makes exceptions in this. You do have gifts (click here to start discovering them), and He did have a reason for inviting you into His church.

For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. (1 Cor. 12:14-18)

This is one reason that comparing ourselves among ourselves is not wise (2 Cor. 10:12). There is a wide range of available gifts, and you will fit much more comfortably into the body if you recognize your value and discover your gifts rather than trying to mimic other people. You are needed in your own unique way. If God wanted everyone to be the same, He wouldn’t have created so much variety.

And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. (1 Cor. 12:21-25)

God doesn’t want you to feel like you don’t fit in the body, and He doesn’t want anyone else to tell you that you don’t fit. His goal is unity, mutual respect, and genuine concern between members of His church. That’s what He wants for you, whether or not you think you deserve it. The truth is, none of us are “good enough” for God. That’s why Jesus had to die for us. Once we accept that sacrifice and repent, though, God does not intend for us to wallow in inferiority. He wants us to take the amazing gifts and opportunities He gives us and use them boldly. He wants us to take our place in His church and stop sabotaging ourselves with lies that keep us away from Him and from our brethren.

The Bookshelf Tag

I was going to skip having a post today because of my busy weekend, and then I saw Carissa’s post with this tag. The original tag comes from Raindrops On Roses and Whiskers On Kittens. Since I love my books so much (as you will know by the end of this post if you didn’t already), I thought it would be fun to write about them.

Describe your bookshelf (or wherever it is you keep your books-it doesn’t actually have to be a shelf!) and where you got it from:

The Bookshelf Tag | marissabaker.wordpress.comI have multiple book shelves. My computer desk has books on the shelves, then there’s a book shelf next to that and books in the china cabinet as well. One of the closets in my bedroom is a bookshelf, there’s 16-feet of shelf space above my sister’s bed, I have more books a dresser and cabinet that I think were designed for clothes, and a few crates of books in another closet. In total, I have 1,075 books that are on my master list of books I own (I recently cleaned out the book shelves — it was closer to 1,200 a few months ago).

Do you have any special or different way of organizing your books?

I have them loosely organized by subject. The system doesn’t make much sense to anyone else, but it rarely takes me more than 30 seconds to find any book I’m looking for.

What’s the thickest (most amount of pages) book on your shelf?The Bookshelf Tag | marissabaker.wordpress.com

I’m not checking the page count, but I’m guessing The Riverside Shakespeare has all the others beat.

What’s the thinnest (least amount of pages) book on your shelf?

I have quite a few thin books, so I’m going to go with the thinnest on the shelves around my computer. It’s The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (and how to avoid them) by Jack M. Bickham.

Is there a book you received as a birthday gift?

Several, including Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and some of Regina Doman’s fairy tale retellings.

What’s the smallest (height and width wise) book on your shelf?

Robin’s Country by Monica Furlong.

What’s the biggest (height and width wise) book on your shelf?

For width it’s The Riverside Shakespeare again, but for height is The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles as translated and collated by Anne Savage.

Is there a book from a friend on your shelf?

Yes. Friends give me books fairly regularly :)

Most expensive book?

They aren’t the most valuable books I own, but my hardcover copies of The Lord of the Rings are probably the ones I spent the most money on.

The last book you read on your shelf?

I own and am currently reading Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.

Of all the books on your shelf, which was the first you read?

I have no idea. Maybe one of the Hardy Boy or Nancy Drew books? Of the ones just out here by my desk it was probably Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne.

Do you have more than one copy of a book?The Bookshelf Tag | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Yes. I have reading copies and display copies for The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, and I have several versions of some of my favorite classics like Pride and Prejudice.

Do you have the complete series of any book series?

Yes. I probably have more complete series than I do incomplete series.

What’s the newest addition to your shelf?

Shadow of the Giant by Orson Scott Card. I’ve been looking for a nice copy, and finally got one through Paperback Swap.

The Bookshelf Tag | marissabaker.wordpress.comWhat’s the most recently published book on your shelf?

I think it’s Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

The oldest book on your shelf (as in, the actual copy is old)?

An 1895 edition of Ivanhoe that I picked up at a little shop in Wisconsin.

A book you won?

I won an English Book Award my last year at The Ohio State University, and was given Equivocal Beings: Politics, Gender and Sentimentality in the 1790s by Claudia L. Johnson, The Iron Pen: Frances Burney and the Politics of Women’s Writing by Julia Epstein, and The Swerve: How The World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt.

A book you’d hate to let out of your sight (aka a book you never let someone borrow)?

I’m pretty good about loaning books if people ask and I trust them, but I probably wouldn’t give out my nice copies of The Lord of the Rings or books with sentimental value like my mother’s copy of Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter (technically it’s still hers, but I swiped it from her bookshelf).

Most beat up book?

The Bookshelf Tag | marissabaker.wordpress.comA 1901 King James Bible we found in my grandparent’s house after Grandma died. It’s so fragile I’m scared to open it, but I love it.

Most pristine book?

That’s easy — my gorgeous blue Barns and Noble edition of  The Arabian Nights is still in it’s shrink-wrap plastic.

A book from your childhood?

So many — I have most of the original Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tom Swift Jr. books.

A book that’s not actually your book?

Well, technically some of them may or may not belong to my sister …

A book with a special/different cover (e.g. leather bound, soft fuzzy cover etc.)?

Several of my Louis L’Amour books are leatherette bound, and my copy of The Hobbit has a lovely green cover with green speckles on the page edges.

Book that’s been on your shelf the longest that you STILL haven’t read?

Maybe my collection of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve read several stories from it, but not all of them. Or perhaps it’s one of my Charles Dickens books like Oliver Twist or David Copperfield.The Bookshelf Tag | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Any signed books?

My copy of The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers is signed up-side-down on the title page. I got it through Paperback Swap and wonder why someone who went to a book signing got rid of the book.

The Second Greatest Commandment

Our relationship with God is the most important thing in our lives. How we stand in relationship with God determines whether or not we’re in His family and included as part of Christ’s church. It is not, however, the only important relationship.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

If we ignore the second commandment, then we’re not keeping the first one very well. Christ said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), so if we’re truly in a good relationship with God, we also have to be cultivating good relationships with other people.

From Death To Life

In the Greek, “neighbor” refers to anyone in your sphere of influence. If you know about them or are near them, they are your neighbor. For now, though, let’s focus on loving people we meet within the church. Sometimes it seems like they are the ones we have the hardest time getting along with, perhaps because we expect so much more from them than from people “out there” in the world. We’re less inclined to cut them some slack for being human.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

If love is how people are supposed to identify Jesus’s followers, then I’m afraid there are far too may of us hiding our identities. I know many loving individuals who proclaim by their actions that they are true disciples, but loving churches seem few and far between.

The Second Greatest Commandment | marissabaker.wordpress.comChristian denominations are rife with division, disagreements, and fighting. It seems like there’s always someone with a new doctrine or a better way to run things, followed by arguments and people taking sides in a divided congregation. If we were all walking in the light, there would be love and not division (1 John 2:9-11). But we’re not always perfect, and it’s so easy to stumble right along with divisive people in an unloving reaction to their lack of love. We can’t control other people, but we are each responsible for how we respond to them, including those who really have done something wrong.

In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another …. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:1-11, 14-15)

“We have passed from death to life because we love the brethren” — that’s how important love is. If we hate instead of love, we don’t get eternal life. Even brethren who have stumbled and fallen away from the faith still need and deserve our love, since they still come under the neighbor category or even “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44).

Vital Friendships

We’ve talked about loving people because we have to, but there should also be people in our lives who we love because we want to — family and friends with whom we share common interests and who will be there for us as we go through life. We need other people, especially friends in the faith who will build us up and help us in our Christian walk. Jesus had 12 disciples who were closer than His other followers, as well as friends like Martha, Mary and Lazarus. When He sent people out to preach, He sent them in pairs (Luke 10:1). Paul also traveled with other believers, including Barnabus (Acts. 13:2), Silas (Acts 15:40) and Timothy (Acts 16:1-4).

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:24-25)

“All you need is God” is true to a certain extent, but it is also true that God is the one who tells us it’s not good to lack human companionship. He is the source of our strength and our life, and He can sustain us through times when we have no friends or believers to fellowship with, but He also supplies our need for people around us because He knows friends and brethren are good for us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

The Second Greatest Commandment | marissabaker.wordpress.comI know people who say they don’t need friends because they have God, and people who stopped fellowshipping with brethren because no one agreed with their particular view of the sacred calendar. I am frightened for these people, because the God they say is all they need tells them in His Bible that they also need relationships with other believers.

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)

One of the ways we demonstrate our love for God is by loving other people, and we can’t do that if we deliberately isolate ourselves. It’s one thing to have no one else around who shares your faith, and if that’s the case I pray and believe that God will supply your need for fellowship. But it’s another thing entirely to avoid other people, no matter how tempting it might be for some of us introverts or for those of us who have been hurt by past associations with church goers. But if we aren’t around other people, then how can we keep the commandment to love our brethren? If we isolate ourselves, how will we keep the second greatest commandment?

The INFJ “Door Slam”

Shutting people out of your life after they’ve hurt your or someone you love isn’t specific to INFJs, but it happens often enough that we’ve given it a name: The INFJ Door Slam. I like the definition given in “How INFJs Deal with Conflict: 10 Confessions.”

It means you’ve hurt me so much, I’m no longer investing any of my (limited) supply of energy in you. It means I’ve come to resent you. If you value me, don’t let it get to this point. It’s really hard to go back.” – Jenn Granneman

This may or may not involve actually cutting a person out of your life. Depending on the circumstances, a door slam can range from ignoring someone completely, to limiting contact to the bare minimum, to carrying on as normal from the other person’s perspective. In the INFJ’s mind, though, something has definitely changed.

INFJs are typically tolerant, understanding, and patient. We hold ourselves to a strict code, but we don’t expect most people to adhere to that code and we’re understanding of individual choices and personality differences. The closer you get to an INFJ, though, the more we expect from you. In our close relationships, we want a certain level of trust, commitment, and commonality — just like every other personality type.

It takes INFJs a long time to open up, and once we let someone in we’ll do just about anything to keep that relationship. Too much disappointment, especially a breach of trust, results in the “door slam.” This rarely happens to casual acquaintances — there’s no point in “door slamming” someone who wasn’t close to you once. We’ve poured energy into this relationship, but if it just turns into a one-way energy drain that’s hurting us emotionally, then we finally reach a point where we cut off contact. Usually there’s a build-up to this in the INFJ’s mind, but it may not be apparent to the other person until the INFJ starts distancing themselves from the relationship.

If you’re an INFJ on the giving side of a “door slam,” make sure you’re not shutting people you care about out of your life simply out of a desire to avoid conflict. Sometimes slamming the door on a relationship is good for you, sometimes it’s not. Knowing the difference is a key to healthy relationships.

If you’re on the receiving end of an INFJ door slam, know that it’s a symptom of much larger problems in the relationship. Rebuilding the relationship after an INFJ has cut you off is possible, but it’s not going to be easy and it will require lots of honest communication over a period of weeks, months, perhaps even years depending on what happened.

All-In

Today is the first day of Unleavened Bread on God’s Holy Day calendar (Lev. 23:6-8). We just observed Passover, and now we’re starting a season of purging the leaven of sin our of our lives. Even if you’re not one of the Christians observing the Passover season, putting sin our of our lives is a necessary part of our walk with God so I hope you’ll keep reading.

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:7-8)

In my personal pre-Passover studies, I spent time in Romans 12 and 13. This section of scripture covers what my study Bible calls “practical living.” It lists instruction, reminders, and exhortations that are crucial to our walk as Christians. I found it helpful as a guide for self-examination, and there was one thing in particular that I want to share today.

Time To Wake Up

The last few verses of Romans 13 are a summation of the previous exhortation to practical, godly living, as well as a call to active de-leavening.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (Rom. 13:11)

Let’s just pause for a moment and consider this verse. If we have to awake, then that means we’ve fallen asleep much like the ten virgins of Matthew 25:1-13. This subject of spiritual sleepiness also comes up in connection with the Passover.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Cor. 11:28-31)

Where it talks about judging ourselves, the Greek word is diakrino (G1252). It means to discern, to make a determination, to separate something and come to a judgement. I think of it as sorting through our thoughts, motives and actions to judge them in the light of God’s word. It’s when we stop doing that that we fall asleep. So it follows that when we wake up, we have to go back to the light in order to stay awake.

Putting on Light

We’ll get back to Romans 13 in a moment, but first let’s look at another passage that talks about what to do once we wake up.

You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. (1 Thes. 5:5-8)

All-In | marissabaker.wordpress.comSleepiness on a spiritual level is connected here with darkness and drunkenness. When we fall asleep, we’re stumbling around in a dark place, and we need light to wake us up. This light must come from God, but we also have a responsibility to take what He referees. We have to be the virgins who were ready to fill their lamps when they woke up, not the ones who had to run back to the shops.

The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. (Rom. 13:12-13)

Once we commit our lives to God, that’s not the end of our responsibilities. He will help us, but we also have a role to play. We can’t put on light by ourselves, or put leaven our by ourselves, but it also doesn’t just happen without any action on our part. God wants us involved in working out our own salvation and resisting sin (Phil. 2:12-13; Rom. 6:12-13).

The Role of Christ

In John 1:9, Jesus is described as “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” it should come as no surprise, then, that both passages we’ve quoted about waking up and walking in the light conclude by talking about Jesus.

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. (1 Thes. 5:9-10)

God has not set us up for punishment, even those of us who have fallen asleep. His own Son died to offer us salvation – -surely He wants us to embrace that opportunity! We have the chance to be like the wise virgins who woke up from their sleep and were still ready to meet the bridegroom.

 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Rom. 13:14)

If we’re truly committed to putting on the character of Jesus Christ, we can’t try to keep one foot in the world at the same time. Paul tells us here that we shouldn’t make any provisions for fulfilling the lusts of the flesh — there shouldn’t be any part of us that’s holding back from God hoping to enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin. Easier said than done, I know, but that should be our goal. Let’s use this Passover season and the days of Unleavened Bread to continue de-leavening our lives, and filling the spaces that are left when we get rid of leaven with the light of Jesus Christ’s mind and character.

The Power of Fiction

Fiction affects society, for good or ill, often as much or more than real-life situations. If Charles Dickens had lectured about the plight of real-life orphans in London, would it have had the same effect as writing Oliver Twist? Or to use an example I see as very negative, would as many people have been obsessed with an essay about BDSM as they were with 50 Shades of Gray?

Fiction is powerful. We talked about this a couple weeks ago, but all in a positive light since I was arguing that fiction has value. It can also have a more negative influence as well, which is why I think both writes and readers have a responsibility to self-censor. It’s not up to someone to tell writers not to write a certain kind of book or discuss a specific topic, or to tell readers what they can and cannot read. But it is a good idea (particularly if you’re a Christian) to think carefully about the reading and writing choices we make.

Writer Responsibility

On March 31, 1750, Samuel Johnson published what has become one of the most famous statements in regards to the potential of fiction. While I don’t agree with his arguments against imaginative invention of the fantastic (I write fantasy, after all), this passage intrigues me:

if the power of example is so great as to take possession of the memory by a kind of violence, and produce effects almost without the intervention of the will, care ought to be taken that, when the choice is unrestrained, the best examples only should be exhibited; and that which is likely to operate so strongly should not be mischievous or uncertain in its effects.”

I think what Johnson is saying is that authors have a responsibility not to use the power they weld to influence their readers negatively. Responsible authors exercise a form of self-censorship, which doesn’t necessarily mean they shouldn’t talk about complex or even “bad” ideas. But fiction can be enormously influential, and authors should be conscious of the fact that what they are writing has the potential to fill their readers’ minds.

Writers of fiction set out to create a story that draws readers in, and once this happens the readers are under the writer’s influence. Johnson thought that, “the best examples only should be exhibited” so that there is nothing “mischievous or uncertain” in fiction’s effect. I don’t think we need to go that far, but we should be mindful of the power we have to influence readers.

Reader Responsibility

As readers, we should also be mindful of what we expose our minds to, remembering that we’re giving our reading material the opportunity to change or influence our thinking. I came across a great article titled “Self Censorship Better Than Book Banning” a few weeks ago about teaching your children how to make good decisions about their reading material instead of trusting the schools or government to ban “inappropriate” books (which will be defined differently for each individual).

This is pretty much what my mother did, though I wasn’t required to talk about every book with her after reading it (I usually did anyway, so she didn’t really need a rule). The only time I remember my mother taking away a book was when I broke down sobbing one day and confessed that I was having trouble dealing with the main character losing her father to cancer. There were a few other books that she strongly recommended I give up, and I usually (eventually) agreed with her. Harry Potter was “banned” in our house when it first came out, and that’s the only book I can remember being specifically told not to read.

It seems to have worked for the most part. There are books I wish I hadn’t read (and a few I’m sure that I really I shouldn’t have been reading), but for the most part I’m glad I had that freedom. It helped teach me to think for myself, which, to reference John Keating from Dead Poets Society, is the goal of good education.

Lovers of God

loveAs long as I can remember, and I’m told well before that, “Why are we here?” has been a familiar refrain in sermons. I’m not sure if other churches ask this question so religiously, but in mine it’s trundled out every Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), and at least once more on other Holy Days and/or Sabbaths throughout the year.

The answers are equally familiar by now: “Because God called us,” “Because today is a commanded assembly,” “Because you’ve been given understanding the rest of the world doesn’t have.” Last time I heard this question was a few weeks ago, and that time I tried to think beyond why I was sitting in an uncomfortable blue-upholstered chair on a Saturday afternoon. When we really boil it all down to the question of why God called us in the first place, why are we really here? What is our purpose as followers of God?

A Great Mystery

From the very beginning God’s focus has been on relationships. Looking back to Genesis 1, we see God speaking the world into existence, and proclaiming that it was good. Finally we come to the pinnacle of God’s creation.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26)

This is the first time in the Bible where we see both The Word/Jesus Christ and God The Father talking about something together. I’m sure they collaborated on the rest of creation as well (Eph. 3:9), but mankind is the one creative act where They made sure we knew They acted together. “Let Us make man” is a collaborative, relational statement, announcing Their intent to make people “in Our Image,” and therefore capable of relationship.

The specific way humans were created also points out the importance of relationships. With other creatures, both male and female were apparently created at the same time. With humans, however, man was created first. This gave God a chance to point out, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). As Paul explains much later in the scriptures, the marriage relationship created here is a picture of the relationship God wants with His church.”

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)

Here, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 to teach us a great mystery about the relationship between Jesus Christ and the New Testament church. At its core, the goal of “Let Us make man” was to build familial relationships. We are made children of God and co-inheritors with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:15-17), and betrothed to our adopted Brother (2 Cor. 11:2). We are designed to be in relationship with our Creator.

Lovers of God

In 2 Timothy, Paul describes “the last days,” warning that bad things are going to happen because men will turn away from loving God.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Tim. 3:4-5)

Note that these people have a “form of godliness.” As bad as they sound, they aren’t just people outside the churches — there are some inside our groups as well trying to pass themselves off as godly. But because they are not truly “lovers of God,” they are denying His true power and refusing to walk in His ways.

What does a “lover of God” look like? We’ve quoted John 14:15 several times over the past few weeks, where Christ says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” He expands on this idea through chapter 15 as well.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:9-10)

Obedience is key to being in a relationship with God. If we ignore His commands, we’re telling Him we don’t care about a relationship with Him. But if we keep His commandments, we’re saying how much we love Him and want to be close to Him.

Dearly Beloved

When was the last time you heard Song of Solomon quoted in a sermon? For that matter, how many Christians do you think would have included it in the Bible if canonization had been up to them? No one seems quite sure what to do with it. My KeyWord study Bible says that portions of the Song were sung at Passover, though, so with that coming up next week maybe today is the perfect time to take another look at the Song of Songs.

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Second Isaiah and Lamentations all use this metaphor; the rabbis merely amplified what they had already found in the Bible. The Song of Songs, to the rabbis, was the completion of the metaphor. The prophets may have denounced infidelity but the Song of Songs spoke of reunion and love, the kind of love that the believing rabbinic Jew felt for God. Even the Psalms do not talk about God as the lover or bridegroom of Israel. The Song of Songs is seen as a dialogue between God and Israel, and this provides the book with a unique religious intensity.” (Benjamin Edidin Scolnic, “Why Do We Sing the Song of Songs on Passover?”, page 4)

Lovers of God | marissabaker.wordpress.comScholars can’t agree on who wrote the Song of Songs or when, much less how to interpret it. Some claim that it’s nothing more than a secular love song, others say it only has allegorical applications. The more balanced view is that it operates on two levels — as an account of human love, and as a picture of Christ’s love for the church and/or God’s love for Israel. That’s the one I like, and there is much to learn when we read this book looking for insight into our relationship with God.

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me. (Song 7:10)

Do you feel like this about your relationship with Jesus? We should, for we do belong to Him since He desired us so much that he redeemed us by giving His own life. The only time we see God’s name in the Song of Songs, it is not translated into English. It’s in chapter 8:6, and “Thus at the end of the Song the woman describes her love for her man as being like ‘YHWH’s Flame,’ the love between them will not only be as strong as death; it will be as strong as YHWH’s love for His people” (Andrew Greele, quoted by Scolnic, page 6). With a love so strong offered to us, we should offer all our love to God in return. What’s why we are here — to be lovers of God.

Fictional MBTI – Cinderella (ISFJ)

Fictional MBTI - Cinderella (ISFJ) marissabaker.wordpress.comI had two Myers-Briggs-related thoughts while watching Disney’s new live-action Cinderella last Sunday. 1) she’s a perfect example of an ISFJ, and 2) she’s a perfect example of why people mistake ISFJs for INFJs and vice versa.

Usually when we talk about fictional ISFJs we talk about men — Samwise Gamgee, John Watson, Steve Rodgers … and they are all very good examples of ISFJs in fiction. But in real life, ISFJ women outnumber ISFJ men, so it seems odd not to have a woman on the list of famous fictional ISFJs. I think Cinderella is a great example of an ISFJ, and here’s why.

Why ISFJ?

Fictional MBTI - Cinderella (ISFJ) marissabaker.wordpress.comCinderella, like other ISFJs, leads with a process called Introverted Sensing (Si). Dr. A.J. Drenth considers it one of the “least understood of the eight Myers-Briggs functions,” and David Keirsey chategorized them with the Guardian types (SJs). All Guardians use Si as their their first or second function.

They are more concerned with ensuring their beliefs and behaviors are consistent with an existing standard than they are in formulating their own set of standards. In many ways, they are dependent on what has already been already been tried and established, systems of thought that grant them a sense of consistency and security. –Dr. Drenth

Because ISFJs pair Si with Extroverted Feeling (Fe), which is a deeply relational function, they are largely motivated by a desire to help other people. They need to be needed, and they are more willing than other types to serve without looking for a reward. This doesn’t mean they don’t crave appreciation, or that they won’t resent being treated like a doormat, but they are unlikely to upset the status quo by telling those in authority that they deserve better.

My sister (an INTJ) has always described Cinderella as her least favorite Disney princess because she’s such a “spineless push-over” and she’s “too nice.” No one would actually put up with being treated like that, right? Actually, yes. An ISFJ would given the right circumstances, but it’s not because she’s “spineless.” It’s because she feels like she has a duty to stay. In this new version of Cinderella, Ella tells a friend in the market that she stays with her stepmother because the house was important to her parents. She will not leave because the grief she has to put-up with from her step-family is not too high a price to pay for fulfilling her duty to her parent’s legacy. For an ISFJ, it is more important to maintain peace, help others, and preserve important locations and institutions than it is to be independent. An INFJ, for example, would stay for different reasons.

INFJ vs. ISFJ

Before I even left the theater, I knew I wanted to write about the difference between ISFJs and INFJs if I mentioned Cinderella in a blog post. When I got home and checked my e-mail, I saw I had a comment on a post I wrote several months ago about Myers-Briggs types among the Disney princesses. I’d typed Cinderella as an ISFJ, but this commenter argued, “she’s an INFJ. She thinks and dreams about the future (Ni) way too much to have Si rather than Ni.” This is a perfectly understandable argument. I’m an INFJ, and while I was watching Cinderella I realized that I would have acted almost exactly the same way Ella did in these circumstances. At least, it would have looked the same to an outside observer.

Fictional MBTI - Cinderella (ISFJ) marissabaker.wordpress.com

INFJs lead with Introverted Intuition (Ni) instead of Introverted Sensing (Si), but they both interact with the outer world using Extroverted Feeling (Fe). Personality Hackers calls Fe Harmony, because every type who uses Harmony as their first or second function are interested in maintaining peaceful relationships with others. They will do, or put up with, almost anything to avoid confrontation. That would be a chief motive for an INFJ who stayed in a situation like Cinderella’s. In that, they are like ISFJs. Duty, however, would not play much of a role in an INFJ’s decision-making. They would be more likely to feel trapped because they weren’t sure how to turn their dreams into reality, not because they thought they shouldn’t leave.

This brings us to the idea of dreaming. Cinderella’s imaginative side is more visible in the 1950 version, with the song “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” But I don’t really get the impression that Cinderella’s dreams function the same as the way as an INFJ’s dreams about the future. For an INFJs, the inner world is real, often more real than the outer world. For Cinderella, I think her dreams serve a more self-encouraging role as she insists on framing things in a positive light. You see that more clearly in the 2015 version, when Ella convinces herself that being banished to the attic is actually a positive experience. An INFJ dreams about the future because that’s what INFJs do. Cinderella dreams about the future because she needs to believe things will get better.

Both Si and Ni are perceiving functions, meaning they take in and process information on an almost unconscious level. Dr. Drenth says, “Si more or less preserves and relays information in its original form. Ni acts more synthetically, weaving together disparate information to construct novel theories, visions, and insights.” Intuitive are more creative, and Sensing types are more detail-oriented. INFJs are concerned with possibility, ISFJs with reality. Ella didn’t go to the ball for the abstract possibility of meeting the prince, falling in love, and being rescued from her mundane life. She went to the ball with the more realistic expectation of attending an enjoyable party and seeing a man named Kit again.

Please feel free to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments. What did you think of the film? Do you think I’ve typed Cinderella correctly?