Beyond the Enneagram

An Invitation to Experience a More Centered Life with God

About the Book

Step into the transformative life God invites you to enjoy, using the wisdom of the Enneagram paired with fresh tools and insights.

“If you long to be free from the coping mechanisms that keep you stuck, this is the book for you!”—Amy Wicks, Enneagram life coach for female entrepreneurs

For more than thirty years, Marilyn Vancil has studied, written about, and taught the Enneagram. She knows full well how using this system of nine personality types in combination with deep scriptural truths can lead people to a life of freedom. Now Vancil offers a way to deeper wholeness beyond the classic Enneagram.

Vancil proposes an enhancement, called The Drawing, which includes the Enneagram’s wisdom “but also focuses inwardly toward the center space and extends beyond the existing circle. . . . As with other spirals and circles to illustrate the spiritual life, the primary movement of The Drawing is toward the middle space, our Spiritual Center, the transcendent way of knowing beyond the more commonly recognized Centers of the Gut, Heart, and Head used to categorize the Enneagram types.” The Drawing depicts the holy attraction of our spirits toward God’s spirit as our ultimate destiny.

Vancil presents these sacred shifts to lead us from debilitating self-orientation to God-centered living:
• from What I Am to Who I Am
• from Reactive to Responsive
• from Bondage to Freedom
• from Wounded to Whole
• from Shakable to Unshakable
• from Burdened to Rested

The wisdom and practical steps that Marilyn Vancil provides will lead you to places of profound spiritual discovery and help you chart a course toward the wiser, more spiritually attuned person you long to become.
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Praise for Beyond the Enneagram

“Marilyn Vancil has done such a masterful job of setting the table for spiritual transformation. Each page is a full course in and of itself! All that is needed is for readers to open their hearts and take the simple steps of faith within this powerful book.”—Daniel Fusco, pastor, TV and radio host, and author of Crazy Happy

“Finally! An Enneagram book that’s not really about the Enneagram but rather about the transformation (or restoration) process that is available to everyone. If you long to be free from the coping mechanisms that keep you stuck, this is the book for you!”—Amy Wicks, Enneagram life coach for female entrepreneurs

“Marilyn Vancil cares deeply about returning us to our most authentic self. Through scripture and story, Beyond the Enneagram guides us into the centrality and importance of our triune God. Read this book, accept her gracious invitations, and be transformed.”—Gem Fadling, co-founder of Unhurried Living and author of Hold That Thought

“For those who love the Enneagram and want more, this book gives a textured, rich understanding of how we can move beyond labels to find who God created us to be.”—Alexandra Kuykendall, co-founder of the Open Door Sisterhood and author of Seeking Out Goodness

“Marilyn Vancil writes with the wisdom and encouragement of a spiritual mother. This book picks up where the Enneagram leaves off, offering a more holistic framework with real-life examples that gets to the heart of our deepest desire: to experience a glorious closeness with God and to live fully as the people we were created to be.”—Emily Lex, author of Freely and Lightly
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Beyond the Enneagram

Chapter 1

Inner Soul Restoration

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. —1 Peter 5:10

To ask to be healed is an incredibly courageous thing, because we will then be taken into a world that we know not and we will be stretched and challenged to make our living in a new way, not off our pathologies, but from our health. —Parker J. Palmer, as quoted by Catherine Whitmire in Practicing Peace

Visualize with me a beautiful handcrafted chair, constructed from the finest wood and assembled with masterful and flawless workmanship. Admire the intricate carvings that adorn the elegant back. Imagine sitting in the comfortable seat shaped into just the right contours. Notice the deep and rich luster of the wood brought out by the soft and smooth finish. Marvel at the splendor of this irreplaceable and priceless work of art, lovingly and carefully created by a master artisan.

Now imagine this chair, years after it was made, in the corner of a dusty and cramped garage, buried under disorderly stuff and seemingly useless to anyone who might find it. The wood is covered over with layers of paint, an arm is dangling loose, another seems to be missing, the leg joints are loose and wobbly, the carvings are indistinguishable, and the wood is etched with deep and damaging grooves.

In order to recapture its initial and authentic beauty, the chair must undergo a rigorous yet gentle process of restoration. A skillful and dedicated woodworker, who imagines and appreciates the original masterpiece and sees beyond the damage and layers of paint, would need to take on the extensive endeavor of reclaiming its former glory. If you’ve ever stripped layers of paint from furniture, you know what this involves: solvent, scraping, sanding, more solvent, more scraping, and more sanding over and over until the paint is removed, the wood is smooth, and the grain shines through again.

Replacing lost parts and reconnecting all the pieces presents a very real challenge. Although the new parts will never exactly replicate the original ones, a careful and adept carpenter can create a close match. Flaws will remain, but they will give the newly restored chair a distinctive look with its own form of beauty and an expression of its unique history. The final coat of penetrating oil or lacquer will preserve and protect the wood and give it a lustrous sheen. At long last, the furniture restorer will stand back and celebrate with satisfaction that the chair once again fulfills its original design as an exquisite one-of-a-kind work of art, beautiful to behold and a comfortable place to rest.

With this image in mind, let’s look at what the complex process of “inner soul restoration” involves and why we need it to more fully experience a centered life with God. Like the metaphorical chair, we’ve each been changed from our original sacred design by the life experiences we’ve encountered and endured. Being restored to our original undamaged condition may seem appealing and desirable—something we long for—but it’s also daunting to think of being sanded, scraped, and repaired. What does it really mean, and what might the work of restoration entail? Although the mystery of soul transformation will always be more than our finite minds and limited experiences can grasp, we can gain some initial insights by taking a look at these three words: Inner. Soul. Restoration.

Inner. The process of true soul renewal takes place in our inner life. It’s not about redecorating the old self or gluing the “seed coat” of the Adapted Self back in place. Managing behaviors and exercising self-discipline are important and may alter some habits and change our ways, but that’s not enough. If our inner life—where memories, wounds, false narratives, and habitual self-protective patterns reside—is not addressed, then long-lasting change is unlikely.

W. Ian Thomas, in his book If I Perish, I Perish, uses a humorous and striking analogy—attempting to domesticate a pig—in order to explain the futility of trying to change ourselves by altering our outer life without an inward transformation. Thomas uses a phrase that still reverberates in my mind from this hypothetical story: “Pig is pig.” The author invites us to imagine he decides to adopt a pig to prove his belief that pigs have been misjudged and that they wallow in the mud only because of their unsatisfactory environment and insufficient upbringing. He feels that with proper training and attire, a pig can change and develop better character and live a more acceptable life. The pig is dressed in little blue pants, is taught to wipe its feet, learns to sit at the table, and how to sleep between clean sheets. All is going well, and it seems the little pig is converting to a more desirable life, until someone leaves the door open and the pig gets a whiff of the outdoors. It hurries outside. “Reaching the muddiest bog it can find, the little pig plunges in, and after rolling over and over, it lies on its back in the mud, little blue pants and all. With a delightful grin on its face, and with its feet sticking up in the air, it cries at the top of its voice, ‘Home, sweet home.’”

Thomas explains the point of this allegory: “It is absolutely imperative for your own spiritual well-being that you recognize the fact that this old nature will never change its character. All the wickedness of which it is capable today, it will be capable of tomorrow—or for that matter fifty years from now.” Our natural proclivity is to go back to the mudhole when we have the chance. This may sound a bit harsh, but this truth is actually quite a relief. We don’t need to dress up our old self, train it to behave, embark on rigorous self-improvement plans, bury our hurts, deny our shortcomings, and live as if our Adapted Self persona is all we’ve got. True transformation happens not on the outside but in our inner being where the Spirit of Christ dwells, guides, and restores us. Thomas ends his “Pig Is Pig” chapter with these instructive words: “It is only when you are honest enough to face up to these facts, that you will have, on the one hand, a big enough view of what the Lord Jesus came into the world to do for you; and on the other hand, the desire to let Him do it!”

Soul. In my quest to find a good definition of soul, I encountered many different attempts to narrow this mysterious part of us to a simple and clear understanding. One’s soul is generally defined as a composite of one’s mind, will, and emotions. Tilden Edwards, in his book on spiritual direction, was especially helpful because he combines the reality of the human soul with the impossibility of fully comprehending what it is. He opens with this reflection: “Perhaps the greatest paradox of human life is the discovery that what is most substantial about us is most elusive. I am speaking of our deep souls, that essence of our being that transcends but is integrally part of all our visible dimensions of body, will, mind, and feelings.” Further, he says, “For all its fuzziness, the word soul strikes a deep resonance in many people, as though our hearts know what it means, even if our minds can’t fully grasp it.” The topic of the soul gets even trickier when we endeavor to distinguish it from the spirit; I’m not even going to try to do that!

For the purposes of this book, I won’t attempt to explain the soul, but instead offer, as it relates to the subject at hand, this conclusion: Our souls need restoration. Our minds need renewal, our wills need bridling, and our hearts need mending.

Why is this so? Because our souls are damaged, distorted, and disregarded like the handcrafted chair we imagined earlier. Even though our Master Creator fashioned us to live freely and fully as stunning masterpieces, we are in “the corner of the garage” in a variety of ways and in varying degrees. Some of us have suffered great trauma and loss, while others have endured subtle hurts. I don’t need to cite statistics to prove this is true. We know it within us, and we see it all around us. The outward manifestations of our inner soul stories show up in numerous ways, from withdrawal to aggression, from overachieving to underachieving, from resignation to rebellion, from one form of reactivity to another.

None of us are completely destroyed like the chair I described earlier, or we wouldn’t be here. We’ve managed to survive and thrive in many courageous ways, and we’ve experienced love, beauty, joy, hope, and gifts of grace. Each of us can look with gratitude at the goodness of life and the many blessings we’ve known. And we should—gratitude is so vital to our well-being.

About the Author

Marilyn Vancil
Marilyn Vancil is a certified Enneagram Professional in the Narrative Tradition through Enneagram Worldwide, a certified spiritual director, and a trained life coach through Coach Training Alliance. She has also completed coursework on the Enneagram at Loyola University and the Deep Coaching Institute. Vancil facilitates workshops and retreats on the Enneagram, focusing on how it can be used to deepen one’s life with God and improve relationships. She lives in Seattle with her husband, Jeff. More by Marilyn Vancil
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