If you were to look through all of my journal entries from the time I was seven years old until now, you would read quite a few lists. The theme was almost always self-improvement, even from a very young age. I barely remember a time when I wasn’t haunted by a better, more disciplined version of myself–always unattainable no matter how many good intentions and resolutions I set.
This person woke up early every morning to read her bible, pray, and exercise–all before breakfast. This person read intelligent books and wrote stories and poems all the time. This person donated money and saved money. This person cooked meals. This person danced ballet perfectly. This person was nice and compliant. This person attained near perfection in nearly every aspect of living all at the same time.
This person didn’t and doesn’t exist. And none of my lists could coax her into being.
I hit the snooze button every morning. I read my bible and pray regularly, but not every day, and certainly NOT before breakfast. I don’t read intelligent books very often, and most of the time I get stuck in the middle. It’s been a while since I’ve written a complete short story, and I’ve never generated any kind of chapter book. I write poems infrequently. My charitable donations and savings are both much lower than I would like them to be. I avoid cooking. I don’t dance ballet anymore, and I was never very good at it. I don’t consider myself nice and compliant.
I’m not perfect.
But I’m also not a failure. I look back at all of those fruitless lists with acceptance and not frustration.
The way I see it, my desire for self-improvement outstripped my desire for self-knowledge. I would venture to say that truly improving oneself from the inside out originates in knowing oneself.
No pain of self-knowledge, no gain of self-improvement.
These days, I am intent on knowing myself. Then I can continue to build on what is already there, to become the most functional and beautiful version of myself that I can be.
As a caveat, self knowledge and self love is empty without knowing and loving God. It caves into narcissism without the balance of a Creator who intimately knows and loves us. His grace enables righteousness and loveliness in the innermost parts of our being.
After all, his divine spark resides within us as the imago dei–the image of God. His presence is closer to us than we realize, for in him we live and move and find our being.
In this life, the completion of paradise will always be beyond. No list can force it back into existence. That is why we wait for the Savior to return and bring us back to Eden, the garden of God.
“For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” (Isaiah 51:3)
What joy for those who seek the Lord and hope in his coming again!