This morning I happened to pick up a personal notebook that I had kept about 14 years ago. In it I had written some resolutions and ways I could grow spiritually, along with behaviors I wanted to avoid.
Not much has changed in 14 years! I had to laugh at myself because I realized that despite all my plans and good intentions, I still have to work on a lot of the same areas that I was working on back then. I'm pretty much the same person.
I suppose I could get discouraged at that. But in reality it's probably the same for most people. We do grow, change and mature, and I believe I have in many ways. But we also have our same personality, genetic makeup and personal background that greatly influence us throughout our lives. I'll probably have the same faults until the day I die. If I live that long, I'll probably be writing the same resolutions for Lent when I'm in my 80's or beyond.
And that's OK. God doesn't expect us to be perfect in the sense of not having any faults. He just expects us to keep on trying, to never give up the fight and to keep on plodding along in our spiritual life. The line in the Gospel that says we "must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect" is not meant in the sense of flawlessness. The Greek word used there for "perfect" (teleios) really means tending to grow to maturity. God wants us not to BE perfect as if it's some static state, to be arrived at once and for all, but to strive for growth. That can happen for our whole lives. The best way to strive for it is to be loving.