Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Thoughts on Transformation

Ezekiel 36:26.  A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

During Children's Time a couple weeks ago, the children were asked to think about two words: transformation and transfiguration.  The leader asked them to consider how these words are similar, and how they might be different; the sermon that day further challenged us "older kids" :) to think about the links between these two words.  Our pastor shared some of her own personal experience of transformation.  Transfiguration is typically viewed as a specific experience Jesus had with Peter, James, and John (although my last post  suggested a much broader interpretation of the word is possible--and maybe even preferable).  Transformation, on the other hand, suggests an ongoing process of change.  

We might say that Jesus was transfigured so that the world could be transformed.  

Let's think a bit more about this word transformation...

A rule of nature is: give anything in creation long enough and it will transform--physically.

In the natural world, transformation is always happening.
Plants transform, changing throughout their life cycle: from seed, to seedling, to full grown, to blooms, to decay.  Animals transform too;  they "grow up" and change throughout their lives.  

Even the rocks beneath our feet that seem "unchanging" to our perception are actually undergoing a slow and gradual transformation.  Human beings are animals, and just like our fellow creatures, we too transform physically.  We "grow up" and our body changes over time.

What sets human beings apart from the rest of creation, however, is that, in addition to changing on the outside, we have the capacity to change on the inside.  To say this another way, our hearts can be changed; we can experience spiritual transformation. 

The human heart is something of a paradox.  Sometimes a heart is soft as talc, vulnerable and easily shaped and even scarred by circumstances, but other times it seems stronger than a diamond--only transforming under intense pressure, usually when the stress of staying the same becomes worse than the stress of not changing.  

Unfortunately, when it comes to spiritual transformation,  our hearts tend to be more like diamonds than talc.

Unlike physical transformation, which will "just happen" if you give an object or creature enough time, time alone does not tend to change a human heart.  

Spiritual transformation usually only happens when we intentionally choose to pursue it.

It doesn't take long to see the reality of these words.  If spiritual transformation "just happened" because we followed Jesus long enough, I suspect this world would be a far better place than what we actually see.  The truth is, because human hearts are so resistant to change, left to our own devices, we tend to drift away from the very life with God that we are created to enjoy.  In order to redirect toward God, we have to make a conscious decision to engage in activities that will--given enough time and repetition--redirect our hearts toward God and create space for the Holy Spirit to work within us.  As we engage in those spiritual practices, we begin to train our body, mind, and soul to more instinctively respond to circumstances we encounter in our lives "as Jesus would if he were us".  There's no getting around the fact that this requires longterm commitment on our part:  lots of time, lots of practice--and, above all, lots of patience. 

The Scriptures, and other Christian witness throughout the centuries tell us, that such transformation is possible and that when it happens, it has a powerful impact.  Sometimes, the actions of an individual or a small group of transformed disciples have literally changed the course of human history.

Imagine the impact that this kind of spiritual transformation could have on your home, your church, your community--and even the world.  I invite you to run with those thoughts during the season of Lent, and see where you feel led take action (or perhaps to spend time in contemplation).  Most of all, I urge us all to continue to chase after Jesus with all our heart, mind, and strength.  

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