It happens to the best of us. At some point, we recognize the need for self-improvement. We make a plan, buy the clothes or equipment needed, and gin up as much passion and enthusiasm as we can muster.
At first, everything is fine. And the results, though small, are churning out baby endorphins for our brain’s enjoyment. But then one day when the alarm goes off, we take a deep breath, stretch, and sigh heavily.
“How much longer do I have to do this,” we wonder.
The thought is a quick, brown flash across the hard morning tile of our brain, and although we don’t want to admit it to ourselves at first, we know this little rodent of an idea has lurked along the baseboards our heart since the beginning.
“I can’t quit now,” we think. “I’ve made such progress.”
But the bed. The bed feels so comfortable.
Five more minutes won’t hurt anyone.
And with a slow closing of our eyes, we begin the gradual process of seeing that machine as a place to hang our laundry and those shoes as something we only wear for gardening.
But it’s not just the quitting that gets to us. It’s the shame. The feeling of being a loser. The head-hanging, don’t-look-at-me validation that rips away the mask of good intentions and exposes the naked disappointment that I am.
And even if we hide our true self from the rest of the world, we know that failing at our goal to be a champion can never be sated with the participation trophy we received.
The good news?
It can change. You just have to stop assuming you have to do it all under your own power. You have to submit to the guidance of a God who never forsakes you, and step out in His strength, not your own.
Oh! And you have to, in God’s power, get rid of every -ed in your mind.
Come one. Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean.
These two little letters have been the bane of every goal you have ever set. Sometimes they’re hidden (I read. I ran. I’m done.) and sometimes they’re obvious (I prayed. I listened. I hoped.). Either way, the -ed’s in our life kill our goals every time.
Why? Because they automatically assign a time limit for what we are doing. They assume there will eventually be a point in time when we stop doing the new behavior and return to the old.
But this is not the life, nor the lifestyle, that Christ has called us to.
“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:18)
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)
“Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 10:21-22)
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1 Cor. 9:24)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1)
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:16-23)
As you can see, the Christian life is not an -ed life. It is an -ing existence. We are a people who are to be praying, running, enduring, abounding, and living. There is no stopping. The only thing we are told that has passed away is our old nature. Indeed, we are told, “all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
This -ing living does not have a start and a finish to it, like your 45-minute workout. It is the warm up for an eternity of worship. It is a continual expression of how the Holy Spirit has infused you and is transforming your life.
Did you catch that last part?
Let’s read it again. “It is a continual expression of how the Holy Spirit has infused you and is transforming your life.”
Embracing this core concept should help you understand that the Christian life is not another list or goal that your willpower must overcome. It is not reliant on how much passion you possess, for emotions come and go. It is not even about mindfulness or focus. It is about how an “I can’t” identity finds its way out of the darkness. How it can stand with confidence, shed the -ed’s in its life, and proclaim to the laughing, mocking memories of the past, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Php. 4:13)