What gets you up in the morning? Maybe you need to get to work or to school. Maybe you have an appointment. Maybe you have responsibilities to other people. Maybe you just want to keep with a routine that you have.
While all of those are good and appropriate reasons to get your day going, I hope you also have—deep beneath all of those practicalities—the desire to be a better person.
Naming that desire can go a long way to a more fulfilling life. From a religious perspective, every major religious tradition describes self-improvement as a goal of life. What motivates us to evolve in who we are, however, is often where differences surface.
For many people, even in the Christian tradition, we are to become better people in order to avoid punishment. The motivation to help others, become faithful in reading scripture, and devoting one’s self to Christ is a bid to outrun the consequences of original sin. There’s no real hope of doing that, mind you, but it is worth a shot.
I don’t share that view. I don’t believe we are sinners in the hands of an angry God. I don’t believe we move through this life, trying to be better people under the threat of divine wrath. Fear of punishment is never a helpful motivator!
No, I believe that it is important that you improve yourself not because you are inadequate, but because you are so completely loved. Evolving who you are is a response to the gift you have been given; the gift of life itself.
And lest this religious orientation feels selfish, remember that our faith always takes the personal to the universal. The incarnation of God (the universal) in Jesus Christ (the personal) is foundational to who we are. The personal finds expression in the universal and vice versa.
In other words, improving yourself improves the world. You and the world are intertwined. The things that happen to you and the way you respond shapes the unfolding of creation. A better you is a more globally involved you, a more conscientious you, a more consequential you.
So when you wake up tomorrow morning, instead of just reviewing your tasks for the day and falling into your routine, ask yourself how you would like to improve who you are as a joyful response to the day you have just been given.
See you in church,