While reading a friend’s Facebook post I once again ran across the phrase, “the person I’ve become” and found it thought-provoking, even a bit unsettling. The phrase turns up more often than you might expect. It usually comes up in the context of explaining a personal decision. Sometimes it helps explain a break with the past, the end of a friendship, or even the death of a marriage. People say they can’t go home again because it no longer suits “the person I’ve become.” Or they abandon their marriage because the person they once loved no longer suits “the person I’ve become.”
Conventional wisdom holds that the transition into a New Year marks a time to look back and a time to look ahead. So, in that spirit of self-examination, how does a person arrive at “the person I’ve become?” Do they drift into it, much as a boat might drift down river until it hits something? Does it happen by accident? Or is it a series of decisions that eventually lead somewhere, but at the price of relationships or even personal integrity? Or perhaps one of those self-help books really did help, but with an unanticipated personal cost. Regardless, too much emphasis on “the person I’ve become” can become corrosive if left unchecked. Abundant life is too rich for such a narrow focus.
Keeping “the person I’ve become” in check requires focusing on something besides self-interest. I think this is part of what Jesus had in mind when He said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26a). But how do we stop self, or self-interest, from ruling our life? We can’t make such a change on our own. Self-interest is part of our DNA from birth, and we do not have the power to overcome it. We need a new heart, to frame the problem in spiritual terms, but we cannot bootstrap ourselves into that kind of change. Fortunately, God promises to save us from “the person I’ve become” and replace our heart of stony self-interest with a heart and spirit of life (see Ezekiel 36:25-26 for starters). As that change occurs, as God brings us out of “the person I’ve become,” we can step forward into the New Year with a spirit of joy and anticipation!