Growth in the character of Christ can be slow and frustrating. While we can’t control the process, we do have a contribution to make to it. By attending to our character in God-dependent, focused, and intentional ways, we can make genuine progress in leading a more virtuous life. This will enable us to better reflect Christ to others.
This is why I’m so passionate about cultivating Christian character, and offering resources to others who also long to be deeply transformed by Christ:
To thine own self be true?
In many ways, I’m skeptical about our culture’s celebration of authenticity. However, there is something significant about this idea for followers of Christ, if we understand and apply it in the right way.
One of the things I will occasionally do on this blog is offer up important ideas from Christian thinkers, past and present, and show their relevance for us today. So let’s take a look at the thought of the Danish Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard on authentic Christianity.
Kierkegaard believed that philosophy should focus on life’s deep questions about God, humanity, ethics, and meaning. However, he approaches these questions in a way that is practical and prophetic. He discusses a process by which we can acquire deep satisfaction and become authentic followers of Christ, a process that is often referred to as “The Stages on Life’s Way.”
I just turned 46 years old. I’m confident this means that I’m well into the second half of my existence on this planet. I’m certain it means I’m closer to 50 than 40…
Here are some fairly random but hopefully helpful thoughts at this point of my life.
Over the past several years, both personally and professionally, my interest in character and its connections to the Christian life has intensified. This has led to the renovation and refocusing of this blog, as well as several publications and speaking opportunities. One result of this is that I’ve reflected more upon my own character as it plays out in my everyday life. Sometimes this is encouraging. Sometimes it is painful.
Last night, I was printing out a form on our home computer, and ran into problems. I was attempting to change the print quality, but the menu was unresponsive. I did what any impatient tech user does. I started pressing and clicking on all kinds of buttons and commands on the screen to regain control over my computer and its functions, but to no avail.
Then, predictably, the computer caught up with all of my commands and the document ended up closing. I had to start all over. It felt like I’d been wrestling with the computer and printer for at least 10 minutes. I looked at the clock, and it read 7:04. I checked when I first tried to print out the document. 7:01.
3 minutes seem like 10.
And I was getting frustrated.
I love technology. It makes my job and personal life easier, and I even use some of it to support my efforts at moral and spiritual growth. But it is having an easily foreseeable effect on me. I’m coming to expect it to do what I want, when I want, how I want, without any problems whatsoever. But reality has a way of pushing back on such unrealistic expectations. Perhaps the problem is not just the technology. The deeper problem is me, and a need for growth in the virtue of patience.
What must it have been like for Jesus Christ to become incarnate and experience the limitations of life as an embodied human being? I imagine that the differences are, well, unimaginable. But not only was he patient, he was loving, kind, merciful, humble, and courageous. So hopefully the next time I’m frustrated with the limitations imposed on my little world by imperfect technology, I’ll recall the voluntary and much more extreme limitations Jesus underwent out of a deep love for God, humanity, and all of creation.
Picture by Quentin Meulepas, CCL.