There’s a line from a Sister Hazel song that has haunted me since I first heard it. It goes:
“But the paint on me is beginning to dry and it’s not what I wanted to be.”
I’ve observed recently that as people grow older, we seem to become caricatures of our former selves. The paint on our inner lives, our character, dries and hardens almost to a point of exaggeration. Worriers worry. Complainers complain. Gossipers gossip. Ragers rage. Gluttons glut. Lusters lust. There’s almost no nuance left.
When I was a younger man, my life ambition was to be someone great for God. I wanted to do amazing things for God and change the world in his name. A couple more decades of life altered that goal. Ambition was replaced with a desire to become like Jesus, to have my inner world shaped into the likeness of Jesus’ inner being so good toward others would flow naturally.
I jokingly told a colleague that after my recent observation, I’ve lowered the bar to just not becoming a person that makes my wife and kids miserable when they’re around me.
I’m very aware of my character flaws. And the thought of those flaws permanently hardening to form “the real me” over the next few decades scares me to no end.
Reading Bishop Todd Hunter’s book, “Our Character At Work,” has reminded me again that who I’m becoming is far more important to God than anything I accomplish. Hunter writes regarding the context of leadership at work:
“What if my work is not the most important thing? What if I cannot be reduced to my work? Maybe from God’s view my work is not his work? Maybe I, the kind of person I become in carrying out my leadership, am his work.”
These words remind me that work, home, church, hobbies, relationships and all the other areas of life in which I find myself become the soil from which my character is formed for good or bad. In the midst of daily life I can choose to recognize Jesus’ brilliance into human nature and learn from him how to be like him. Or I can let my broken, hurt and corrupt nature continue to dry and harden into something I didn’t want to be.