I keep failing. I’m trying to do better. I’m trying to improve the way I think and be less selfish but it’s not working. I was reminded of this last Saturday at a charity organization near our house.
A group in our town runs a small store to raise money and provide household items to the community. My wife and I thought it would be a good idea to buy a bunch of children’s books at the store that we could then donate to the church where my daughter attends preschool. So the whole family loaded up and spent about 30 minutes inside what is essentially a thrift store.
While we were sorting through books, two random high school students that were volunteering came over and began restocking the shelves. In my head, I instantly started to think, “Oh no, they’re going to think I’m poor because I shop here. I won’t look cool in front of them. I’m ashamed.”
“No wait, maybe I’m ashamed because I’m not poor and I’m shopping here and they think I shouldn’t be. They don’t know we’re donating the books to a church and will think we’re ripping off this store. We can afford Amazon.com, shouldn’t we be shopping there and not at some thrift store? And, if we were really a good Christian family, led by a good father, we should be here volunteering on a Saturday, not shopping.”
Round and round I went in my head until I finally landed on the thought that I was the most selfish, self-absorbed person on the planet. Who cares what two complete strangers think? How arrogant of me to think they were analyzing why I was there? Why am I still like this?
I’ve tried to get better. I promise I have. My bookshelf is littered with self help books about focus and attitude and purpose and drive. I think a lot about changing my thoughts and trying to fix the way I look at the world and how I can improve myself. But it’s not working. And I don’t think it ever will, because God is a God of new, not better.
I want him to slightly improve me or enhance my existing life and He keeps saying no.
He keeps showing me that I’ve been misreading 2 Corinthians 5:17. I read it as, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is an improved creation; the old has gone, the better has come.” But that’s not what it says, matter of fact, that’s not what it shouts. What it really reads is:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
But I forget that. Sometimes I act like the Bible is a self help book. I treat it like a self help book for a better marriage, a better attitude at work and an easier life. That’s not what it is though. It’s the word of God, and His word is riddled with the idea of “new.”
The great thing is that new isn’t my job. I’m not in charge of renewing my mind. I can’t fix me with me and God knows it. When David prays in Psalm, 51: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” He’s not asking God to give him the tools to renew his own heart, he’s making a request to the only person that can create something new. In Psalm 103, we’re called to praise the Lord “who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” I’m not in charge of building a ladder out of the pit or renewing my own youth. (Big fan of the eagle reference by the way.)
But sometimes new takes longer than we expect. When the process of new appears to slow, we get tempted to help God out. To add our bit of “better” to what He’s doing and we end up in a thrift store with a mind wracked with shame trying to remember some pearls of self help wisdom. The cool thing is that God’s ability to perform the miraculous is not limited to our ability to see it. We don’t have to understand His process of “new” for it to become true in our lives.
In Isaiah 43: 18-19 it says:
“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.”
I love that. It feels like God is saying. “You should see this new thing I’m doing. You are going to love it! What’s that, you can’t? Doesn’t matter, I’m still going to make a way in the desert. Just because you can’t perceive it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop making streams in the desert.”
That’s more Bible verses than I’ve ever put in a post, but I’m really tired of trying to live an improved life. It’s exhausting. I’m done with better. I want what God wants. I want new.
Death to better, long live new.