There is only one way to climb even the tallest mountain: one step at a time. There is only one way to swim across even the English Channel or a Great Lake: one stroke at a time. It is a basic part of our nature that we do everything we do by repeating one action over and over. I think one thought at a time. I type one letter at a time. And then I string them together. And then I edit them for coherence by going over them again, one word, one sentence at a time.
Repetition becomes habit and habit becomes nature. It’s not just that these repeated actions add up to what we do, they become who we are. They are what forms our nature. It’s also true that these repeated actions don’t just happen to us. We decide to do them. We choose to write or climb or swim or paint or strum. I’m sure you get the idea. If you want to become a guitar player, you know what to do: get a guitar and play it every day. You’ll play badly at first but you’ll get better and better as you play daily and then you’ll be a guitar player.
This process is as obvious as it sounds and yet there is one area of life where we tend to forget that this is how everything works for us humans. When it comes to character development (or moral development if you like), we all have things about ourselves we would like to improve. Too angry, too fearful, too stingy, too sarcastic, too lazy, too workaholic, etc. And most of the time we cycle between ignoring, trying to change all at once (we call these ‘resolutions’), failing, and stressing out over our badness/failure to change.
But we can only climb these inner mountains the same way we would climb Kilimanjaro: one step at a time. What’s more, we don’t have to climb alone. The Holy Spirit is our guide up our mountains. Take a little quiet time today and reflect on what part of your character you would most like to change right now. Think of one small step you could take in that direction. I’m confident the Spirit will help you think through this. Then do that one thing. Take that small step. Then do it again. And again. Eventually that will become part of who you are. It takes time and there are no shortcuts. But you can do it. The Spirit will help you. And you’ll love the view.