The Type E Person

The Type E Person

cheese puff backgroundI have a weakness for Cheetos. I admit it. I think about them in the grocery aisle. Sometimes I hide them in my pantry when others come snacking. I notice if anyone’s eaten more than his or her fair share. I’m a Cheetos aficionado, but it’s not a dangerous obsession. Yet.

Far more perilous are the mindsets that remain hidden and “run” my life. What’s insidious about these deeply held ideas is that they’re good things—things woven into the fabric of what it means to follow Jesus. It sounds like this…

“Do all the good you can…by all the means you can…in all the ways you can…in all the places you can…to all the people you can…as long as ever you can.”   —John Wesley

I embraced that sort of mantra down to the core of my being—even as a young girl— because it seemed good and right and true. But application is everything.

photo-4Just a few days ago, I realized that the only Beatles song I ever purchased was Eleanor Rigby. It struck me. What a sad song, about sad people, living sad lives.

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”

I cared. I worried. I tried to help and serve the marginalized, the rejected, the lonely, the troubled ones, the brokenhearted, the welfare mom, the elderly, the homeless, the kid in my high school who was persecuted for being a narc.

Drunk woman with glassI can remember weeping at frat parties in college because so many kids were destroying themselves with alcohol, drugs and promiscuity. Crazy I know. Who does that? This acute awareness of others felt like wearing high-definition glasses. I saw too much.

Go the extra mile.Over the years, my “do-all-you-can” thinking was reinforced through Scripture, preaching, books, and even trusted people I admired. The title of Oswald Chambers’ devotional, My Utmost For His Highest, just about summed it up.

The enemy is treacherous, because he will take good things and make them more important than God, while convincing you that it’s all for God.

So The One who loves me had to paint a dramatic picture of what was happening to me. He seems to get my attention when I’m sleeping.

Faceless unrecognizable man without identityOne night, I dreamed a shadowy man was stalking me. He had greasy hair and wore a black hoodie. When I managed to get a good look at him, he glistened with sweat and was unshaven. He probably hadn’t showered in weeks.

The scene was a shopping mall. In my peripheral vision, I knew the guy was tracking me. I’d go into a store, hide in the dressing room for ten minutes, then sneak out the back entry. Yet each time I returned to the mall, there he was—thirty yards away, still keeping tabs.

After hours of this sinister cat and mouse chase, I found two friends and asked them to walk with me. I felt frightened. We strolled by different storefronts. He followed. We quickened our pace, but the man was closing in. My heart pounded. He was making his move. Heat rose to my cheeks. His steps clicked right behind us.

I couldn’t stand it. The tension became unbearable. So I whirled around and faced him. “WHAT IS IT!” I screamed. “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?” I thought he’d grab my arm or take a swing at my face. Instead, his eyes were watery, his eyebrows twisted up with pain.

He held something, enclosed by both hands. My chest grew taut. Slowly, he moved forward to show me what was cupped in his hands. I stepped back. My friends linked arms with me. I held my breath as he opened his hands. A tiny green plant growing in a small clump of dirt rested on his palms.


“This is all the life that’s left in me.” He said, leaning forward.

I leaned back.

“If you don’t help me,” he pleaded, “I will die.”

I had expected a violent confrontation. His request seemed so benign in comparison.

But that was God’s point. The needs of others stalk me relentlessly, and it’s not benign at all. Left to myself, I will let it rule my life, my time, my choices and even my health. Helping others can become more important than God.

The dream bowled me over. I saw with new eyes. I was a Type E person—someone trying to be everything to everybody. I shared that dream with others who were also exhausted on the Martha treadmill.

Several months later, a friend called me on the phone. “You won’t believe what just happened to me!” She sounded breathless. She’d been shopping at Walmart. On the way back to her vehicle, a shabby looking man followed her. She quickly loaded her bags, but still, he had enough time to approach her. He held a small potted plant in his hands. He said it was all that he had. And he needed her help.

Can you believe it? When God says something twice, He really means it. I can refrain from eating too many Cheetos. It’s much harder to resist the urgent needs all around me. And it’s one of the many reasons I need to hear God’s voice.

How would you interpret this?


  1. It is a form of legalism, Satan is so good at this. That is the power he tried to keep us in death – the law. Its why Jesus came, because we can NEVER be free from the law, unless we accept that no matter how hard we try, we simply CANNOT keep it. When we humbly accept we need a savior and redeemer, that we cannot mend or make our selves better, then we are freed from the law, by the grace of God through Jesus Christ – that HIS suffering and mutilation and death has to be enough-not our striving, then we become free. HE IS the heart of fulfilled law because he alone; totally fulfilled it and then did what we can never do he OVERCAME it and conquered it, He broke it, smashed it and put it to death forever. Only he could be that obedient.

    Humans take life, and sooner or later they turn that freedom into law -because they forget that WE can NEVER do ANYTHING without submitting to the Cross. Because in us, in this life we are at war – between submitting to God and saying to God ‘I CAN MY-self and that IS enough.’ and therefore we do it by the law, striving and arrogant or we say ‘I can’t, but You Can. As the bible says, Motive is everything. God is not so interested as what we are doing, but why we are doing it, as my pastor Peter Holmes says. Works by themselves are dead. Or as Paul put it, if I talk in the tongues of angels but have no love, if I give everything to the poor and have not love, if I give my body to the fire and have not love, then it is all useless. It is what Jesus told the pharisees. It is why He was so angry with them. He said ‘You your selves hold the doors of heaven open, but you do not go in, neither will you let others in.’ But in their arrogance they would not listen, they held only to the law but would not see that the law kills, it does not save. The law brings fear and condemnation, Grace through Jesus Christ brings freedom.

  2. janet sharpe byler :

    This is so interesting and haunting and convicting all at the same time!!!! I interpret it to my own life in the light of my own experience….I thought of how I am irritated by the people who seem to be taking advantage of my good nature, I resent their intrusions on time I think I need to do a good job…and maybe its those very people, the ones who have the complicated problems, the pressing urgent needs, that are who I am supposed to stop, take a breath, and really look into their eyes…and take time to let them know I do care, I do love them, and that they are valuable and worth my attention…even when im tired and think I don’t have one more ounce of energy.
    As a type E myself, I need to streamline out the static in my life, and plug into the lifegiving force of Jesus Christ, who gave His most when He was the weakest. love you susan, thank you for your beautiful messages. janet

    • Thanks for your great insights here ladies! Love the parable, Linda. And Nicola–your keen understanding of legalism. It really comes down to hearing God’s voice so I know what I have grace to do, and what I don’t which will lead to burnout and exhaustion.

  3. Such wisdom here Susan! Hearing God’s voice is everything.

  4. Oh my. Can I ever relate? I remember even as a child and a teen, at night if the wind blew, I couldn’t sleep for anxiety. What if the roofs blew off the houses of little old ladies? What if somebody got blown off the bridge and into the Yellowstone River below? What if? What if? I was sure my frantic anxiety was helping God somehow.
    I read an example in a book I wish I could credit. The man was asked by God to haul a rock to the top of the mountain. Of course he would! On his way, as people heard of his mission, they asked if he could also haul this log, that bundle, to the mountaintop. Of course he would! By the time he got to the foot of the mountain, his cart was so overloaded, he was discouraged down to his toenails. “God,” he wailed, “Why did you give me such a hard job?” God answered, “Let’s see now. What exactly was it I asked you to do for Me?”
    That’s me. Susan, you really pegged it.
    I attend Celebrate Recovery, the church version of AlAnon. When I first learned about ‘detaching in love’ I was positive these people didn’t care about others. How wrong I was. When God wants me to serve, He has the power and ability to communicate that desire. I don’t have to be His little cheerleader, taking care of things while He gets a quick nap.
    Thank you for a most insightful post, and for sharing a powerful dream.

  5. wow, that’s a tough one. i know the feeling of responsibility to make sure everyone gets attention from me. it’s almost like a curse. and i wonder if my ego is involved. like why do i think someone will be crushed if i don’t respond to their emails immediately? but i am afraid they will think i don’t care. you have it even worse than me. crying for people at fraternity parties in college. you would definitely have worried about ME! that was B.C. in my life, before christ.
    but anyway, that dream you had being followed by your friends experience in real time….i don’t know! interpretation? god trying to get you to step back? reevaluate? check out priorities?
    but then, as with the oil that kept coming from the widows pitcher thingie the more she poured it out, maybe the more we can pay some attention to a need that is right in front of us, the more grace god will give us to help, stretch out time a bit so we can use it to give someone a bit of attention and not end up running ragged to catch up? the interpretation seems like it could go both ways. dang. not sure.