Everyone has high expectations for self-improvement. There is a pressure that haunts us. A voice in our heads says, “Shouldn’t you be getting better? Come on, you are slacking off, look at yourself!”
All by itself, most Christians say, that isn’t a bad thing. It even sounds like something an upstanding person of faith would say, but it can get bad. Really bad. We can lose Jesus in the search for self-improvement. Consider that the curse from Eden onward is that we abandon faith in pursuit of our own glory. This happens when that compulsive voice isn’t subjected to the Word of God that promises: In Christ, you already have redemption.
We get stuck clawing for self-affirmation in our improvement. We strive to improve because we need to feel affirmed. We can’t feel affirmed until we improve. We can’t accept love until we buck up and make ourselves deserving of that love. We are working out of a massive deficit, as opposed to living as if everything we need we already have in Christ. Some are still thinking, “Well is that so bad?”
If we don’t expressly believe that we are undeserving yet loved, we will subconsciously believe that we should be deserving and won’t be loved until we change.
The thing is, you can trust Jesus to help you change. I find that the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me how to swim, and I am standing in the shallow end of the pool thrashing around in the water. “Look how good I’m doing, God? Pretty good, right? Impressive, right? Did you see that one, God?”
I’m splashing so much, everyone around me is evacuating the pool, annoyed. God waits patiently for me to calm down. His hope is that eventually I learn how not to drown in the deep end. And maybe one day, should things go terribly south, I could learn to depend on him when I’m totally shipwrecked.