I am fascinated by the ways I use to think—it’s like studying a totally foreign object, something outside of yourself. When I reflect on my choices and ideas in the past, they can seem so illogical, almost incoherent, and other times they can be strangely perceptive. It is upon these reflections that I understand how much I, like everyone else, have changed over time.
Despite the inevitability of change, I still feel responsible for the ideas I once held. There is, naturally, some shame when looking back on our old convictions—on immature selves. The beliefs that defined us are shrouded in a perceived naïveté and can make us cringe. However, these are the changes, the developed ideas and personal growth that we must confront and acknowledge. We admit what we once held to be true and now forsake so that we can learn from it and continue in the never-ending task of changing our mind until we die.
In this series, I’ve discussed my changing perspectives on a small range of topics, including politics and movies, but where I’ve seen myself change the most, with the most serious consequences for the rest of my life, has undoubtedly been in my understanding of the faith. This change has molded my identity in this last quarter of my life, who I’ve become friends with, professional choices I’ve made, what I watch and listen to, and even how I interact with family. This change has been intrusive and penetrating. It has fully embodied in my life what it means to grow.
Moreover, unlike most personal changes, I have the unique ability to look back on this one; I can see measurable differences in my faith and understanding of Christianity by two papers I wrote for school. As a part of my undergraduate work, I was assigned to write my own credo, a summary of what I believe. Later in my graduate studies, I was given a similar assignment, a statement of faith. These two documents capture individual snapshots in time, glimpses into my soul and my mind in those seasons.
It’s strange to compare them. Beyond the superficial—the different people I chose to site or the maturing writing style—these two statements depict two authors with radically different conceptions of the one God, with different understandings of the work of the Cross, and with a thousand more subtle adjustments in their theology that make for the infinitely unique fractal of a mind in a moment. Even in my more recent writing, I find ideas that I’ve already grown estranged from, and in both statements, I see a thread of consistency, themes that made both cuts.
In reading these, I am confronted with the reality of personal change. I am forced to recognize that just as earlier version of myself held these foreign beliefs, so anyone I encounter can hold them in sincerity. It is an exercise in empathy.
These reflections also force me to continue pushing forward. As much I recognize my earlier ideas and choices as naïve, I know that I will soon think the same of my current convictions. That encourages me to keep exploring and keep searching for greater truth and understanding, even if I’ll change my mind the next day.