Rainbows and Leprechauns
Growing up, I used to love hearing stories about leprechauns and their hidden gold held at the end of a rainbow. I admit, there are times today when I’ll see a well-formed rainbow and only the adult pressure of responsibility keeps me from throwing caution to the wind and trying to find the end of the rainbow. It’s not that I actually expect to find the end or gold, but there’s still that little boy inside wanting to try. Now, I know that finding the end of a rainbow is impossible. No matter how fast or far I go, it will always be just out of reach.
Christianity could sometimes feel like that. Becoming like Jesus is the Leprechaun’s pot of gold all Christ-followers are after. But, no matter how hard we try, it’s impossible to attain. You can run with all your might, but Christ-likeness will always be “just out of reach.” For some the challenge is invigorating, while for others it’s depressing. I think the idea of becoming like Christ is what keeps some from following him in the first place. I’ve heard people say, “I could never be a Christian because I could never be that good.” It’s like the call to be a Christian is synonymous with unattainable moral perfection and it’s a game many people would rather never play. Who wants to play a game you can never win?
But, the search for perfection doesn’t end with Christ-likeness. There’s the question, “Am I a good dad, husband, worker, and in general, human being?” I’m not sure I can even describe to you what the perfect “good dad” looks like. But, whatever it is, I know I’m very far from it. In every area of life there’s some vague concept of perfection we want but will never be able to attain. Our very noble goal to be good feels like we’re running on a hamster wheel to nowhere.
The Pass/Fail Problem
Let’s get out of the hamster wheel to nowhere! The problem is not our goals, but our grades. We give ourselves a pass/fail grade based on ideal perfection and that’s the problem. Am I a good (read perfect) husband? No. Then I’m a failure, game over. We need to change the spiritual scorecard.
Reading with a First Grader
My son Caleb is in first grade and learning to read more and more everyday. Instead of being disappointed that he’s not yet reading Shakespeare, I’m continually amazed by each new word he’s learning. There are a thousand small successes a person passes on the road to reading.
In Psychology this process is called shaping. Instead of focusing only on the target goal you’re trying to achieve, you focus on small wins that slowly move you towards your end goal. The secret to spiritual success is found in the concept of shaping. When we view the process of spiritual growth like shaping, then every small win in the journey towards Jesus is ultimate success.
The Journey of Becoming
We need to focus more on the journey of who we’re becoming, instead of the end goal. One of the biggest ways we can do this is by changing the questions we ask ourselves. Typically we ask questions focused on our end goal like, “Am I a good dad?”, or “Am I a good Christ-follower?” These pass/fail questions usually leaves us feeling deflated.
Instead, we need to start asking questions based on the small successes we can accomplish in our journey towards our end goal. From now on I want to ask, “Am I becoming a good dad?” or “Am I becoming more like Jesus?” I love this question because it immediately points me to one or two things I can do today to become who I want to be. If I can say I am becoming a better spouse, co-worker, Christ-follower, or dad today than I was yesterday, then I’m winning.
This week, get rid of the pass/fail questions you ask yourself regarding your spiritual health. Stop worrying about whether or not you’re a “good” this or that. Instead, focus on becoming the person you want to be. Take one or two steps in the right direction and view each step you take as serious spiritual success. Maybe it’s time to stop “being” and start “becoming”.
- How would you describe the person you’d like to become?
- What’re two things you can focus on today that would move you towards becoming that person?
- How am I different today than I was 5 years ago ? (How far have you come?)