Change Is a Journey, Not a Destination

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it; most of us have heard it: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” That journey typically comprises many “legs” that we call seasons or transitions–many of which become “Aren’t we there yet?” journeys in their own right.

Did you make a 2015 New Year’s resolution to break a habit, lose weight, find a new job, write a novel? Are you moaning yet that no matter how hard you try, you can’t see ANY progress? It’s been estimated that somewhere around 90% of resolutions–not to mention goals set at other times of the year–are forgotten or abandoned within a few weeks. The usual cause is overwhelm. No matter how often we taste the reality that major changes aren’t quick or easy and that daily obligations and stress won’t “give us a break” by standing aside until the change is fully established, the delusion that “once you make the decision everything else should be straightforward” is among the most eternal and convincing of hopes springing within the human breast.

I’ve been tormented by perfectionism for most of my life. The craving to rise above stress once and for all, the desperate hope that extra time margin will open up permanently if I just finish this overloaded to-do list, the tendency to seek everyone else’s guidance before God’s because humans at least answer quickly and clearly–I’m painfully familiar with all of them. We perfectionists have an extra obstacle to surmount in achieving goals: it’s hard to concentrate on the desired outcome when worries about not getting there fast enough or well enough keep pushing to the front of your consciousness. Even knowing that attitude is wrong tends to just add guilt over not getting the attitude right immediately.

A perfectionistic Christian serves what J. B. Phillips called “the god of one hundred percent”–a God made in the perfectionist’s own image, a God who tolerates no mistakes, a God we hesitate to turn to for help and comfort because we expect Him to respond with an “I’m ashamed of you” scolding, a God we fear will write us off as hopeless if we don’t hurry up and get things right.

Perhaps Jesus had the perfectionist in mind when He said the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who “become like little children.” Small children are eager to please without being obsessed with pleasing “well enough.” They practice their walking skills with enthusiasm and have no hesitation about calling for help when they fall, confident that Mommy will respond with gentle comfort, never fearing an exasperated “Won’t you ever get it right?!” They keep trying without blaming themselves for clumsiness or pleading for step-by-step instruction. They do it in the way that feels natural to them, not caring whether big brother pulled himself up on a different piece of furniture. And, invariably, they do succeed.

We are all spiritual toddlers with a loving Father Who knows and sympathizes with our weaknesses. Let us emulate physical toddlers as we make needed changes in His strength.

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2 Comments

  1. Steve Duson

     /  January 16, 2015

    Nice.

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    Steve Duson | Executive Director
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  2. Jo Swank

     /  January 19, 2015

    Wise words, Kathy! Thank you!

    Reply

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