"It just feels like every time I try to get my act together, something comes along and gets in the way." —me, a few days ago
My life often feels like a cycle alternating between complacency and struggle to change. I find an area of my life that I want to work on, and I work on it intensely for a short while. When I get to a place where my attempts at improving have become habitual and I'm happy with the progress, I back off and allow myself to cruise for a bit. But inevitably, I either revert back to my previous habits or find a new area where I want to improve, and the cycle starts all over again.
This is probably healthy. It's better to try to improve and have some success than to simply never try at all. The long-term result of this cycle is a slow but steady self-improvement, and for that I am very thankful. But sometimes, this cycle really bothers me. You see, starting the process of positive change takes a lot of energy because it is always met with resistance. Inertia—the law of physics that says objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless enacted upon by a strong outward —can be easily applied to people's habits as well. And mustering the energy to overcome that resistance is hard, especially when you think you've finally overcome it only to find that there's more resistance ahead of you.
I'm in the early stages of a period of self-improvement right now. I'm trying to do better in a few different areas, and one of them is money. I've never been particularly good at saving, budgeting, and managing my finances, so I decided to take steps towards improving that area of my life. I started building my credit. I changed to a bank that would better serve me and help me manage my funds. I even implemented a (very basic) budget that has done wonders for me. I started to feel really good about this decision, like I was making real progress. And then the resistance showed up.
Unexpected costs, the temptation to spend what little I had saved on some shiny new piece of tech, and frustration with the resources I was working with began to sneak in. And along with them came the question that I always have to face when I'm trying to improve: Does this even really matter? Is there any way I can possibly do better in this area, and even if I could, would it be worth it? Why even try?
I'm not going to lie; this resistance has been very discouraging to me lately. And I imagine that you've faced similar resistance when trying to improve an area of your life. Whether it's health, finances, education, your faith, relationships, or something else, there is always initial resistance we try to make a positive change. It makes us want to give up. Sometimes it feels like our only option is to stop trying to improve. But we can't. Because fortunately, there is more to the story than just the resistance.
Because in the midst of resistance, there is grace. There are people and situations in our lives that enable us to continue along the path to improvement. There are cheerleaders who are willing to support us. There are saviors who are willing to help us. There are listeners who are willing to put up with our rants about how unfair the world is. There are strangers who have no idea what we're struggling with but give us the encouragement we need simply by smiling at us on the street. There are Plan Bs to back us up when our Plan As inevitably fail. And there is a God who is willing to love us and guide us into being the people he has called us to be.
Make no mistake: If you try to get better, there will be resistance. But there will also be grace. And for that grace, I am thankful. I am thankful for the grace that God shows me by forgiving me when I fail. I'm thankful for the grace that other people show me through their support. And I'm thankful for the grace that I'm able to show myself when I look back on the small victories and say, "Good job, you'll do even better tomorrow." Because getting better doesn't happen overnight. And sometimes you take a couple of steps back before you can take a few more forward. But with grace, I truly believe that things can and will get better, and I'm trusting in that as I press on through the resistance.