In a previous post (quite a while ago, I’m sorry to say) I began reflecting on the three temptations of Christ as recorded in Matthew 4. I see the core issue we face is the temptation to do Whatever it Takes to bring us what we feel is missing in our lives. I also see the three temptations connecting with the three main energy centers of both the Enneagram and the writings of Thomas Keating.
I started with the hunger of Christ and the temptation to turn stones into bread as our fear of survival leading us to use whatever it takes to ensure our safety and security.
What about the next temptation?
Temptation 2: Caught by Angels
The scene is the top of the top of the Temple. The center of the life of the people, a place always occupied with people looking to affirm and celebrate the work of God. “Jump,” the Tempter says, “won’t those guardian angels prove your value to God by saving you before you hit the ground?”
In this case, the temptation is to do whatever it takes to receive the attention and esteem of others.
One of my oldest fears is the fear of being ignored or forgotten. I can’t even begin to count how many nightmares and small anxiety attacks involve this fear of being lost and passed by. Even though I am introverted by nature, I willingly step right into the middle of a crowd to demand attention, to preach, or at least to tell a bad joke, just so people will know I’m there. And the more I feel ignored, the sillier my actions become. Just ask my family.
“Look at me.”
From watching what is going on in society, I don’t think I am any different from pretty much everyone around me. We have this basic need for attention and affection; to know that people like us. It also goes deeper than that, if I am seen then I am real in some way and I am important somehow.
This importance we want to extend into the future also as a way to affirm our existence. Think of all the monuments created and monuments destroyed as various attempts to ensure that our names and memories continue to point to our existence, or to erase the future/present from our enemies.
“Look at me, I exist, I’m here.”
On the Enneagram, the Heart Center focuses on being seen as a success, as valued for the things we accomplish. The 3 Enneatype seeks success at any price, the 2 Enneatype is willing to give themselves away to be seen as loving and worthy of receiving love, and the 4 Enneatype demonstrates to the world how creative and wonderful they are. Keating talks about our basic need for affection and esteem.
We live in a society today that is very much prone to this temptation. We are in awe of the spectacular, with “reality” television and the growing sources of 24 hour news feeds (television and internet). And that doesn’t count how easy it is to set up a blog somewhere and write something expecting people to read it (and how we track our hits and our twitter followers and our Facebook friends almost religiously). Do I have status? Is it up (Alright!) or down (Woe is me!)? Do people know who I am? Do people talk about me? Our adulation of celebrities doesn’t even hide as we have so many different kinds of Idols in our world. And it doesn’t even matter how you get your 15 minutes of fame, the only bad press nowadays is no press.
“Look at me. Notice me. Know my name.”
That is the invitation of the Tempter to Jesus. Here is the place where any kind of miraculous stunt would be assured to be on everyone’s lips within days if not hours. And there would be no question about how spectacular this event would be. Jesus could just coast through the rest of his life and have all the adulation and esteem he would ever want. And his enemies would not be able to question the sign, it was in their own front yard.
Jesus’ response? “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Matthew 4:7) Remember the basic fear behind this temptation? That one would be forgotten and in being forgotten be seen as not existing or not being valued. To me the response of Jesus is a challenge to the idea that we need to prove our worth. In our society we feel we have to do Whatever it Takes to prove ourselves worhty of attention and affirmation because of what we do and how spectacularly or perfectly we do it. If someone doesn’t see our caring or giving it doesn’t matter. We have to always be testing others to remember that we are real.
“We are created in and by love.”
In the Enneagram, the core of the Heart Center is the invitation to Hope. I see that hope being based on the grace of God already valuing us and continuing to create us in God’s Image. The image of God we are granted include the ability to be creators ourselves, with creativity and great compassion. The pathway away from the temptation is to accept with assurance that God, the Creator and Maker of all things embraces us in this wondrous way. We not only have a future, but we have a present. And that is one of the givens of Grace. No demonstration by God or ourselves can prove this promise. We return to faith. We are invited to trust in the unseen but very real hope we have in the living presence of God. That presence is the true source of the need to exist and be valued.