I got a text message this week from someone that read “I hope to be like you someday.”
We are closing out the season of Lent. It is a season of 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, marking a time of preparation, a time of growth. If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you probably know that one of my pet peeves is the phrase “that’s just the way I am.” It irritates me because I believe it is mostly used as an excuse for bad behavior. I also believe we should always be changing and growing.
I am convinced that most people, really most adults, don’t change. Growth is difficult and often uncomfortable. To grow we must acknowledge and accept the past and then move on. For me, Lent is a great time to reflect on where I have been and where I hope to be in my spiritual life, my health, my work and with my family.
I haven’t always felt this way. I used to live in the “that’s just the way I am” camp. It was a great excuse for a bad attitude, a bit of unkindness, a moment of selfishness. Now, not to say that I am free of ever having a bad attitude, being unkind or acting selfishly. But there is something about just sitting in the rut of those habits that wears on you. At some point I decided that growth was good. Sitting with Pastor Jason each Sunday during Lent we have been learning what it means to cut away dead weight. We are most dangerous to ourselves when we refuse to change and grow. I think we have to find a way to let go of “just the way we are” and find a way to be something more, something better.
My response to that terrifying text was to tell my friend “just work to be a better version of yourself every day, every year.” That’s the wonderful thing about growth. You’re not trying to be someone else, or someone else’s version of who you should be. For me, it means to try my best to be faithful to Jesus and the Gospel, to be generous with my time and my family, to be kind and patient with those around me. It also means accepting that others can grow and not holding them to their past choices or mistakes. Of course some things about me will probably stay the same. My voice will get 3 volumes louder when I get stressed or excited, my desk drawer will always have a secret stash of candy and my love of chai tea latte doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. But I hope that loud voice will do more cheering for others this year. I hope that sweet tooth of mine sends more cards, texts and words of kindness and love to the world around me. I hope my love for the least of these and my neighbor is greater than my love for myself and my coffee. I hope that I continue to grow into a person who reflects an image of hope for the future. And I hope you’ll join me.