Rumi, an ancient Muslim mystic, once wrote these words “Yesterday, I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise and so I want to change myself.” The beauty of all of our lives and the possibilities that we can all imagine for the future begins with one person - you. The one person who can dream and, having been transformed by their dreams, commit themselves to making the impossible possible. This is possible because they first changed themselves.
The changing of the self is the heart of human transformation, but thankfully, it is not a one-day event. It is a process that even can take a lifetime. In many ways, it is like a cycle; not only do we have to come back to where we once were, but we have to keep coming back because that’s the very place where we are renewed.
To change the self is to take advantage of the one thing over which you have absolute control. Indeed, there may be times when in the case of addiction or other serious mental issues, a loved one may not command the full capacity to change the self. In that case, we offer the best we can to support the loved one so he or she may be able to make the changes that we all desire for him or her. But even in that case, we are resigned to the cliché that “You can take a horse to the riverbank, but you cannot force it to drink.” The wisdom here is that you and I would have to make some changes to ourselves before we can talk about changing the world.
I’d like to believe that there’s a cascading effect in changing ourselves, for it is only then can our communities and societies change. Think about how our world would look if each of us was wise enough to change ourselves. Think about what our common life would look like if each was motivated enough to change the self. Think about how different our world would be if we were bold enough to change ourselves.
Here’s a story for you:
A sage, after traveling half of his life and being an advisor of the king, has retired and prayed, preparing to stand before God. But still, he communicated with students who were allowed to ask him the trickiest questions.
So, he was asked:
— Why the Creator does not let people make a paradise on earth during their lifetime?
— If they could, they would do it, — was his answer.
But his student continued asking:
— It comes so that people cannot be better? But it’s all in God's hands, isn't it? And he wishes his children to joy him. How it can be?
The sage looked at him, smiled, and asked:
— Do you want to say that God can do nothing with us and ask to give him advice?
The student bowed his head silently.
The sage said:
— Isn’t it better to start from your own? Do not think about people too much, remember about yourself. Everyone will have to answer for his own.
If you didn’t know, I’d like for you to know that Lent is about you. Lent is a period where we spend more than enough time looking at ourselves and asking whether we are focused on changing ourselves. Lent is a period where we ask ourselves whether we are in tune with ourselves enough to work on our answers for whatever question that we might be asked. Lent is a season of surrendering to the gracious will of God. Lent is a journey of self-maturation - more than that, it is a journey of spiritual maturation.
The good news is that no one can do the work for you, nor does the work begin anywhere else, it begins with you.
I’d be more than happy to change the world. I’d be happy to experience a world where there’s no war, famine, homelessness, poverty, racism, bigotry, corruption, and greed.
I’d be more than grateful to experience a world where there’s more than enough joy, gratitude, graciousness, compassion, and love to go around. But I must first change myself.
I am ready for that change.