Where are you challenged and encouraged
to become the best version of yourself?
If you’re like me, you sometimes imagine yourself living into a different version of you. In that alternate reality, your “more” – more loving, more effective in your work, more talented, more faithful in your relationships, more compassionate to the suffering of others, more impactful in helping create a better world. Maybe I’m unusual in these daydreams, but I doubt it. I know I’m not alone, because I’ve had this conversation with enough folks to know that people are longing to become a bigger, better, healthier version of themselves. And not according to someone else’s criteria, but based upon some deep internal measures, some deep knowing.
Where do you experience acceptance for who and what you are, warts and all? Is it in your family of origin? Your family of choice? Among your friends?
Where do you get the image of your best self? Who tells you what you could be or become? Who then encourages you on the journey toward fulfillment of yourself.
What about your faith community? Do the place where and the people among whom you gather offer a space of healing and hope and unconditional love? Do they challenge you to be and become the best version of yourself?
This “better world” is often described by Jesus through parables and named “the kingdom of God/heaven”. Jesus even taught his followers to pray, “Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-11 & Luke 11:1-4) Jesus called his followers to focus their lives upon the Great Commandments – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40; Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18) We also often join to this the call heard from the prophet Micah “What does God require of you? Simply this: Do justice (with God), pursue mercy (with God), and walk humbly (with God).” (Micah 6:8)
The question I keep asking is where do we learn to live this way, and where are we supported as we struggle to be transformed into these kind of people? If it can’t happen within the church, where can it happen? And yet how often has the church been a place and source of painful relationships and experiences?
This also isn’t something that we accomplish through force of will and personality. There are things about you that you can’t fix, no matter how hard you try. The world’s spiritual wisdom traditions all seem to agree on this point, though they articulate it in different ways. Ultimately our healing, our restoration, our salvation, our rebirth, are things that we allow to come, rather than things we work to achieve. In the same way you didn’t accomplish your first birth, neither do you accomplish rebirth. You are certainly a participant, and your posture can make the process more or less difficult, but ultimately it is a passage through which you travel with the help of others.
Participating in the life of the kingdom is like walking in a waking dream. Things are slightly surreal. You are present, but don't quite fit in with what's going on around you. The world doesn't quite make sense. And strange things keep happening. Walls and barriers fall away. Chasms and gulfs that once separated are bridged. Failures are transformed so that they might birth blessings. The limitations of the natural world don't have quite the power over us that they used to. Even in the midst of difficulty there is deep hope and peace and joy.
Jesus came so that you might have this full life, this truest life. It’s not for your own enjoyment alone. Rather, as you make progress in this path, you are more able (and therefore responsible) to help others along their path. Spiritual maturity means you do have more at your disposal – more grace, more mercy, more forgiveness, more freedom, more power for transformation of your life, your community, the world. Jesus came both to proclaim and to accomplish the kingdom of God here among us, and has commissioned his followers to continue that work. How do you think you’re doing?