“I guess I shall never change”

was having a chat last night with a friend from the writing group who, it turns out, is like me in the tendency to flit from one thing to another and leave a lot of stuff unfinished. it all started from the jumper I’d found when sorting through stuff that had been lying in the cupboard under the stairs for years, a jumper I had actually got as far as very nearly finishing, I’d actually knitted the whole thing and started putting it together but I think this was when I was leaving the place where I’d been living and going elsewhere, and then a couple of months later I moved elsewhere again, and about a month later went back home to Israel, leaving a whole load of stuff in the loft of nice friends (including said unfinished jumper) and…

I digress. which kind of demonstrates this tendency, doesn’t it? :)

the thing is, the unfinished jumper got us talking about how we are neither of us likely to ever finish a novel because we just don’t have that single-mindedness, the perseverance, the ability to pick one project and focus on it for a length of time whilst forsaking all others. and caro ended up sighing and saying “I guess I shall never change” and I think we all do this, don’t we, this sighing over the way we are and wishing we were different, sometimes beating ourselves over the head about it, as though we had a choice.

of course we do have choices in many areas, but we don’t have a choice about what our personality is like, what our innate tendencies are, our strengths and weaknesses. I think the jury’s out on how much of it is stuff we’re born with and how much is to do with the way we were brought up (my instinct is very much in the “born with” direction) but whichever it is, it isn’t anything we had a choice about – it’s what we’ve been given, it’s how we are.

not that we’re necessarily static. some tendencies can go through subtle changes over time, and of course God can and does sometimes do stuff that we see as miraculous because it’s outside of the normal way things work (though when I think about some of the plain ordinary stuff that goes on in God’s creation, it seems pretty miraculous too, like when I watched a film of a baby being formed in the womb over time, or when I think about babies growing up and becoming grown people… but I’m digressing again)

so what was I trying to say? part of my journey over the past few years has been about learning to accept myself as I am. not to beat myself over the head, not to sigh about it too much. ok, so I don’t have that single-mindedness that some people do, and those are the people more likely to churn out novels, whereas I have got as far as writing 14,000 words of a novel and then found something else to play with. but what if everyone was single-minded? to be quite honest, I don’t think I’d find it all that nice to be married to someone like that – and I don’t think my husband would either, so it’s probably a blessing for our marriage that I’m not like that! there are pros and cons to all these things, and the world is so much richer for the variety of personality types that inhabit it.

the Bible talks in terms of different parts of one body: ‘the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you”‘ – all different parts are necessary for the body to be whole and to function.

so if I’m a lower intestine there’s no point in me sighing and thinking I wish I was a nose. there already are people assigned to the role of nose. I’ve got to do the job of being a lower intestine. (or whatever it is that I happen to be)

this is not to say that there’s no room for change at all – of course there is, and part of my call as a Christian is to cooperate with God in his work of changing me more and more into the likeness of Jesus. (which, when looking at the starting point, is such a huge change that it seems unbelievable.) but I think the key is that it’s about cooperating with what God is doing, not about my own ideas of how I’d like to be, nor about the pressure from other people or from society in general as to how I should be.

people can come at you with all sorts of pressure, they might have all sorts of ideas like “it’s not good for you to spend too much time on your own” (which means they don’t understand introverts) or “it’s so much better to get up early in the morning” (which means they don’t accept night-owls) or “clutter is unhealthy” (which means they don’t understand my need, as a P, for things to not be too tidy), etc – so often people generalise from their own experience and assume that what works for them is going to work for everyone.

and we so easily internalise these messages, and accept that we should be different to how we are. but as long as God doesn’t say there’s something wrong with how I am, then all those people can go take a hike. and God doesn’t say there’s anything wrong with me being an INFP, or with someone else being an ESTJ, or whatever.

this reminds me of something I heard once, don’t remember where now, about a dictionary of Pidgin English that translated the term “justification” into something like: God say he okay.

basically, God says I’m ok. he loves me as I am. yes, he’s working on changing me into more like his son, more like how I was originally meant to be – human beings were originally made in God’s image, and through Jesus he is restoring that image. but it’s God who can see it all clearly and who knows exactly which bits need to be worked at, and he knows in what order things need to be done. and if anyone has the right to sigh over any aspect of my personality or behaviour, it’s him.

I’m reminded of something from decades ago, probably when I was about 16 or so, a few friends chatting together and someone saying something to my friend Andra about how chubby she was, but she remained unfazed. how come? she had a new boyfriend, and was full of confidence because, she said, he liked her as she was.

of course having a fellow human being who likes you as you are is great for your self-esteem, but knowing that God loves me and likes me as I am – well, that takes it to a whole different league!

13 thoughts on ““I guess I shall never change”

  1. I think I disagree with you on a lot of this. A dozen years ago if I had accepted myself as I was I probably would have killed myself by now (no joking) because that person was so incredibly miserable and depressed and hopeless that there wasn't much further down to go. I was the quintessential loser and felt as if I'd lost all I could bear to lose. It was only by sheer determination and bloody mindedness that I was able to take that pathetic person and turn him into someone I respected, someone who was capable and willing to do a complete 180. Needless to say, I did it with God's help for which I will always be eternally grateful. And I still have a way to go, in fact I expect that I will be continually working with God to improve until He calls me home. I think there is a distinct danger in relying too much on personality labels. It becomes so easy to read some profession al's description (opinion) that resonates with how we feel about ourselves and then use it as justification for not moving forward with our lives. We use it as an excuse to not work at rooting out those things that are holding us back even if God Himself is telling us they need rooting out. (Understand, I wouldn't be saying any of this if I couldn't speak from personal experience). The person I was and the person I am are completely different people, and thank God for it. I am living proof that a person can indeed change and I know others that have gone through even more startling changes than me. All it takes is making the choice to do so and following that choice with passionate determination. Of course, if you are happy with your personality as it is there is no need to work at change. But I think it is incorrect to say that change "can't" be effected. It can. No one is stuck with "the way I am" and "I'll never change" unless they themselves make the choice to be so.On a less deep note, it does not take a single-minded person to finish writing a novel. I've written four (not very publishable, but great practice) and I am far from being single minded. What I am is passionate. And I jumped into those novels with a passion for writing and storytelling. During the writing of them I veered off on other things here and there but my passion always brought me back.

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  2. Michael, my dear friend, I think you misunderstand me.We use it as an excuse to not work at rooting out those things that are holding us back even if God Himself is telling us they need rooting out. but I think I did say that I believe the key is to let God be the one who says what needs changing in us – if God came along and said he wants me to be more XYZ and less whatever, then that's cool – painful but cool. and I have been through plenty of that with him. he is, as I think I did say, in the business of changing me from how I was when he started into more and more like his son. I am far from the same person I was when he started working on me.what I'm talking about is accepting those parts of us that God has not challenged us about.here's a little example. years back, when I was living in London and doing the 9-5 rat race kind of life, I remember talking to a Christian friend and sighing about how I was never managing to get up early enough in the morning to pray before leaving for work, so I had started doing it on the bus on the way to the office. I was saying stuff like how bad it is that I can't get up earlier to do it, and she said: but has God asked you to? at which point I realised that actually God wasn't challenging me about this, it was me with some expectations resulting from stuff I'd heard in church, it wasn't God. so I accepted myself as "not a morning person" and learned to live with it. and carried on praying silently on the bus on the way to the office.

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  3. That is a very good example. It is so easy to say "I am doing this because God wants me to" when in fact we heard someone say it, it sounded good, ergo it must have been God speaking to me when in fact God was fine with the way you were doing it. I've just come through a bout of that myself. Do you God occasionally smacks His forehead and shakes His head at the things we do in His Name?

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  4. oh, I think he does it so often his forehead must hurt. I can imagine him watching us and sighing and wondering why we keep tying ourselves up in knots and making our lives so much more complicated and difficult than they need to be.

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  5. this actually makes me realise what a blessing it is to come into faith in Jesus from a secular background – I have a lot less baggage of that type to get rid of than people who come from any kind of religious background. I wasn't brought up believing that you have to pray whilst kneeling/with your eyes shut and your hands clasped or any of that kind of stuff.

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  6. Interestingly enuf Mierav, I lived in Papua New Guinea for a few years and and whenever my houseboi's people explained "It will be ok" they would say. "em i okai" for instance justifying the washing not drying because it was raining, anything!…."Em i okai". I loved these people, my houseboi was a Christian, wore his cross and was proud of his God. I loved Meremba. He was so loyal. We both shed tears when I left He, through tears said to me. "Behain me lukim yu missus" translated …"I will see you later Mrs" c

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  7. Pingback: some stuff changes, some stuff stays the same | Meirav's Blog Archive

  8. Pingback: some stuff changes, some stuff stays the same | Meirav's Blog

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