Paging through my Greely High School yearbook I can find three or four places where friends wrote that I was “sweet.” I remember reading those passages in 1999 and thinking to myself, “Friend, how right you are.”
Today I read those lines and feel something quite different. I was always a sensitive boy, but for many years I wore my sensitivity around a rotten core of bigoted self-righteousness that judged my neighbor and threw him under the bus in order to prop up my own deflated ego. Today I feel less “sweet” than at any time in my life. But I also feel more real, more resilient, more open, and less brittle. If I could choose to spend a night around a campfire with my 18-year-old self or the bald guy in today’s mirror, there is no comparison.
But the road to significant change runs long and broken.
To get there requires something I dislike. When I look at my personal history, the times I changed the most were the times at the end of a period of suffering. One of those periods lasted twenty-five years. The moment I was freed from that trial, my worldview shifted so radically I still feel myself reeling, six years later. In some respects, this new life seems too good to be true.
Times of testing come to sift my heart and to show me what I’m made of. The point is never to make me feel secure in my own ability to overcome a trial, but to make me depend more upon God. And the closer I walk with him, the more I can become like him.
I love comfort as much as anyone–please Jesus, bring seasons of abundance!–but I also want to change. And while God is too kind to leave me unhelped in my suffering, he is too good to leave me unchanged in my comfort. So I welcome the trials that come.