Marriage seminars were never really “my cup of tea.” Not that I feel my performance as a husband is exemplary and does not need adjusting. Personal failures of both the witting and unwitting variety are sufficient to merit a closer look. Yet, the idea of sitting in a closed space with couples bearing their burdens for an extended period of time while a “trainer” provides helpful advice was not appealing to me. Of course, my stalling tactics fell on deaf ears and subsequently Julianne and I “agreed” to attend one sponsored by a friend. And, you know what? It wasn’t bad. In fact, we both learned lots and enjoyed it immensely; moreover, we now choose to attend one, maybe two, every year. The lessons learned in this “on the job training” have been invaluable in the continuous growth and strengthening of our marriage.
Enter the Smalley and Trent Personality Test developed in 1999. We were exposed to it during our first seminar as couples completed dual exercises. Its premise is that human beings share the characteristics of four well known animals in terms of their basic personality. Lions are deemed fast paced, task oriented, achievement driven, competitive and efficient. They cherish the challenge, action, power and credit for high achievements and, therefore, are our leaders and go-getters. Golden retrievers are loyal, easy going, sympathetic, compassionate, dependable and people oriented. They can be counted to be there when needed, which means that we should all have at least one golden retriever friend. Beavers “go by the book,” are accurate, analytical, orderly, methodical quality control freaks who avoid making decisions without substantial informational input. They are our scientists, accountants, engineers and architects, among others. Then there are the otters, those excitable, fun seeking cheerleader types possess great networking skills and demand to be the center of attention. They are enthusiastic, optimistic, dramatic and passionate, talkative and excitable, unrealistic and reactive. Of course, these categorizations are apt to overlap. For example, some folks can be considered lion/beavers while others may be otter/retrievers.
Well, it would be safe to say that I am an otter; a total and complete otter! In fact many consider me “an otter on steroids,” while some have crowned me “King Otter.” This is accentuated by an attitude of limited boundaries, jovial mocking, an “in your face” approach and a life punctuated by few details. The moniker “I have never met a stranger” duly applies here. And while it may sound fun and exciting to be me, there are certain drawbacks to this approach. Much like the life of a clown, this otter uses laughter as a coping mechanism in dealing with early family experiences and the burden of surviving at an early age without much assistance. It has been said that wise men listen much more than they speak; thus, this basically describes me as a fool, given the numerous people hurt by my insensitive, unfiltered remarks through the years.
So here is a conundrum. How does a full blown “otter Christian” have a significant impact on the Kingdom with such limitations and contradictions? Although Jesus Christ came to share humanity with us in complete perfection, it would be safe to say that we do not associate his tenure here through the prism of an otter. Interestingly, I became a Christian many years ago in a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) Hispanic congregation. It did not take long for me to realize that my style was a tad different than that of “the frozen chosen,” so it became necessary to have a chat with the pastor regarding my standing in his flock. To my surprise, he recommended to “stay the course,” for he felt the church needed a character like me to balance things out. Turned out that he was up to something, since I remained with the brethren there for about 15 years, became a deacon and an elder, and was privileged to be allowed to preach on several occasions.
Still, can the Holy Spirit indwelled in me have any type of communion with the fun loving creature I adhere to? The apostle Paul communicated in the letter to the Galatian church that the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh. Yet, he admitted in Romans 7 that he tried to do good but ended up doing what was wrong. I have spent many decades trying to merge the two, the caring with the carefree, and as I step from life’s autumn to a withering winter, it has become evident that it can be accomplished WHEN and IF the former is prioritized. God uses our talents and faults for His glory as long as we view them through the lens of our Counselor and Comforter. Yes, in God’s economy there is real value to the eccentricity of this sinner, as long as I am able to allow the “otter Christian” to become a Christian otter.
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