One of the most beneficial things we learned in my program at the Seminary was that the spiritual journey was not really this linear path, but this ever deepening cycle where we run up against the same things time and time again, but each time at a deeper level. We learn and grow and then come back around to journey through that same struggle again but this time, with a deeper understanding of who we are and a deeper level of intimacy with the Father.
For me, this is incredibly true. It is easy to get frustrated, to ask ourselves things like: Didn’t I already fight this? Why am I not over this yet?
I keep finding myself wanting to pray, “help me be better!” But this relationship we have with the Father – it isn’t a performance review. It is a true transformation of our selves. It is all grace and truth and a returning – a coming back to where we are, where we could be. It is a re-centering of our souls.
He doesn’t call us to be better – He calls us to be His.
He doesn’t give us feedback like, “Improve this! Do more of this!” He gently holds us and walks us into a deeper way of living. He doesn’t coerce us, He communes with us. He loves us into freedom. He does make us better, because nothing can remain unclean or incomplete in His Presence. We do become better, by being His. By experiencing Him. But the end goal isn’t being better.
It isn’t about being better – it is about being His.
All is set right when we understand, deep in our soul, Whose we are. We don’t have to get frustrated by our tendencies to battle the same things over and over. We obsess with all things “self-help” as if we are capable of helping ourselves. He is not a God of behavior modification.
“Better is a seductress. It’s so delicious to run after better, better, better. Better is what keeps some women decorating and redecorating the same house for years on end, because by the time you get the last detail of the finished basement home theater just right, your countertops are just ever so slightly outdated, and so you start again. Better is what makes us go to a spinning class — or maybe two, or maybe three today, just for good measure.” (Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet)
Better is unachievable. By definition, better is an ongoing battle that is never won (but causes a whole lot of destruction). Best is a unicorn and is reserved only for maybe Usain Bolt – but we will just have to wait and see, won’t we?! There could always be someone who comes along that is faster.
We will always be striving for better. But to be His – that is already attained. We already are His. We already belong, because we are His.
Wanting to be better leads us to comparison and criticism. The only way we know where we rank with something is to compare ourselves to others. So in everything in life we compare. He has this many friends. She had this many likes on her picture. She cleans her house this many times. She makes this much money. He got this much work done today. His relationship with God has more depth than mine.
It will run us ragged and leave us feeling anything but “better.” Most of the time it leaves us feeling worse.
Wanting to be better leads us to criticize ourselves. Why couldn’t I have done this better? Why can’t I love them better? What is wrong with me that I can’t be a better friend? Self-criticism leads us to being self-focused. The whole point of being His is that we don’t have to worry about ourselves as much. We can focus on Him. The author and perfecter. The King. The Holy of Holies.
Our only goal and our main calling is to become more like Christ. Guess what? We will never be the best at that. Because only Jesus can be the best at that. Takes some pressure off, doesn’t it?
So friends, today you may feel that lame voice in your head whispering lies of shame and self-doubt, saying things like be better, do better, try harder! Just go ahead and tell shame to go back where it came from (hell). You are His. You are treasured. You are worthy. There is no striving, only resting in who we are.