A Part

Jennifer Robin


I am a five.

For those who speak Enneagram, you know that I’m not the likely choice to write about community.

For those who aren’t familiar with the system, fives are known to hold themselves apart from others for fear of being seen as incapable. We know what we are feeling before we feel what we’re feeling. And, we’d rather observe than participate. Fives have good qualities too — we’re typically systems thinkers, good listeners, and the person friends call when they need to feel more grounded. Fives are beautiful humans, but not naturals at community.

Some of the most memorable times in my life have been with people who are sharing an emotional experience. My 8th grade basketball team picked up momentum at the end of the season and missed the playoffs in a heartbreaking loss. In graduate school, we divided and conquered the work, held each other accountable, and made sure all birthdays, weddings, and babies were obnoxiously celebrated. I shed a few tears at the starting line of nearly all of the races I run, because all of us are there together for one moment before the gun goes off.

In all of those cases, though, I didn’t have to overcome the instinct to hold myself apart. I simply was a part. It never crossed my mind that I had a choice. Things got harder for me as I got older, and participation became more of a choice that I really wasn’t comfortable making. And, it got easier to feel separate, different. I am unmarried without children, even though most of my friends are one or the other, if not both. I grew up casually Christian, but did not have either a strong faith or battle wounds from the church. I am a triathlete, which means I spend many hours per week training by myself.

And while all of that makes me the five I am — fiercely independent, self-aware, knowledgeable — it also became painfully lonely. I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to remember the moment things changed, but I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that over the past 18 months, God has invited me in, over and over again, and all I had to do was trust Him and accept the invitations.

He invited me to Imago Dei, to a Sunday Adult Class, to a Formation Community. Yes, yes, yes. He invited me to deeper friendships and relationships. Yes, yes. He invited me to share my talents in new, more visible ways in my career. Yes. And all of these invitations are reflections of His community, one of faith and acceptance and love for each other. I am no longer lonely; the pain of separation has transformed into an abundance of connection.

But, here’s the other thing about fives…we are quite sure we won’t be up to the task, so an abundance of connection is scary. How will I manage it all? How can I stay competent despite not having time to be overly prepared? How can I possibly be a good Christian, a good professional, a good family member, a good friend, and a good partner, all at the same time?

Remembering I’m not alone is my new practice. I ask for help…not all the time, but more than I have in the past. I rely on others for emotional support…once I allow myself to feel the emotion rather than analyzing it. And, I pray. I pray for the time, energy, capability, and grace that I need to live in abundance, and my prayers are being answered. I also pray that God will use me to do the inviting — giving me perceptiveness to know when an invitation is needed and welcoming words at just the right moment — so more of us can feel a part, and not apart.

Jennifer Robin is a professor, aunt, dog person and a work in progress.

Lindsey Mooberry