There is a moving box sitting on the floor of our dining room. This box has been taunting me since the day we moved. Emblazoned on the side of the box is a simple corporate slogan that constantly cuts me to the core:

Never stop improving.

This is where we find ourselves in 2018. Our culture is so beholden to the god of progress that we must improve every area of our lives, all the time. There is always a project around the house that needs to be done. There is always a personal habit that could be optimized or hacked.

Every headline and magazine cover reminds us that we are not quite enough but that we could be if we just worked harder or bought the new device or read the new book.

I have been waiting my whole life to be a different person, to be better. The disappointing truth is that I will always be the same person that I am right now. This is hard news to hear.

When I was in the discernment process to become an Episcopal priest, I assumed that the seminary would make me a different person. I thought that I would graduate seminary and magically be more holy. I imagined it like an automatic car wash: I would drive in a sin-sick and immature soul and drive out a clean and wise minister of the Gospel. It turns out that if you go to seminary as a schmuck, you will graduate as that same schmuck with a little more knowledge and many more books.

My focus then shifted to ordination. My seminary classmates and I spent a lot of time discussing what would happen at the moment that the bishop laid her hands on our heads making us deacons and priests.

Some classmates subscribed to belief in an ontological change: that the very nature of your being is changed at ordination and you are forever a deacon or priest.

I longed for this to be true. I wanted so badly for the man who stood up after being ordained to be a totally different Connor. I was tired of dealing with the same sins and habits over and over again. I was growing weary of dealing with the deeply ingrained patterns of behavior that led me away from the good I wanted to do and towards the evil I did not want to do.

Fast forward to my two ordinations. I stood up from my knees as the same guy. Sure, I was different and set apart for the new ministry that God called me into, but I still struggled in all the same old ways.

I was ordained and it still felt like a chore to pray. I was a priest in Christ’s Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and I still had very ungracious thoughts about my siblings in Christ. All of the patterns of sin that followed me from my early life were still present.

My wife gave birth to our first child two weeks ago. I spent much of the pregnancy preparing for the moment when I would become a father. I read books and poems about fatherhood and built an image in my head of the moment when I would finally change. In the bright lights of the hospital delivery room, as I heard the cries of my daughter for the first time, I imagined that I would leave behind the besetting sins of my past and move into the new phase of my life.

As it turns out, I am the same schmuck that I have always been. Sure, my priorities have changed dramatically; I carry within me a love for my daughter that I did not think possible. At the same time, I am the same guy with the same sins and the same bad habits that I have always had.

The Law-bearing box tells me that I should ‘never stop improving.’ My ego tells me that one day I will magically be different.

All the while, Jesus tells me that I will never change, and that is okay because he has imputed a righteousness to me that I could never earn on my own. The deepest ontological change took place on a hill outside of Jerusalem two thousand years ago. In Christ, I am made a new creation, and whenever I fall into sin, I am welcomed home as I amnot as I should be.

As I sit here on the couch, watching my wife play with our daughter, I have given up the idea that I will ever be different. I accept that I am not the perfect priest. I accept that my little girl does not have a perfect father. I accept that the lie of perpetual progress will always leave me exhausted and resentful.

In Jesus, we have “a great high priest” who perfectly intercedes on our behalf. In God, we have the perfect Father. Through the Spirit, we are convicted and converted so that we can finally rest in that truth.

The accusatory box is now in storage. I have stopped improving. I will not change.

Thanks be to God.