Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.
The joys of being actively involved in ministry in any form are countless. I’ve literally lost count, but none surpass the joy I experience in seeing the life of another believer transformed by the presence and power of God.
A career criminal set free.
An addict finds real release.
A liar finds Truth.
A cynic learns to care.
A suicidal teenager finds life.
Marriages on the road to divorce find healing.
Battered and broken hearts become whole again.
I could spend the rest of my days serving in any aspect of ministry and would never grow tired of seeing real life-change like that.
Every story of redemption is a miraculous and magnificent tale and there are some that are so dramatic in nature an so unexpected that they seem to prove God’s divine power in fresh and unusual ways.
In my mere twenty-eight year existence, I’ve seen such transformation in the lives of those around me. One of my dear friends, Ben, for instance, isn’t the man he could have been had it not been for the saving grace of Jesus Christ and a night at Oasis (which God used) six years ago. Because of the inner transformation he’s gone through since, he is a man of passion; a man of ever-growing wisdom and love and he loves Jesus with all that he is (hear/watch his testimony here).
I used to think that my story didn’t matter; that it paled in comparison. I was raised in a Christian home. I was practically born saved, or so I thought. I’ve discovered that is not how faith and following Christ work. It’s a personal choice. I met Him when I was four, on my mother’s lap during a bedtime story and have encountered Him numerous times since. But lately… I’ll get to that in a moment.
I’d like to take a moment to look at what happens when we conform to the world. Think about nuts – walnuts, pecans, etc. When you crack open the shell of any nut, the nut inside will always be conformed to the shape of its shell. The pressure of the shell on the outside shapes the nut on the inside into its image. The same happens to us when we allow the pressures we face each day to define how we live and how they influence the decisions we make in a world fallen so far from what it was supposed to be.
Temptation is everywhere. The world beckons us to live for ourselves instead of living for Jesus Christ. It lures us towards sensuality, greed, idolatry, complacency and selfishness. If we are not careful, our lives begin to mirror everyone else’s. It’s a slippery slope, this slow fade. into the life of those who don’t know Him.
In the verse from Romans I shared at the start of this entry, God commands believers not to allow the world to form us according to its patterns. Instead, we are to surrender to Him so He can transform us from the inside out.
Transformation comes from the word metamorphosis (the inner English geek in me is smiling with glee at the moment…you have no idea). Have you ever witnessed a beautiful new butterfly emerge from its cocoon? Did you, like me, wonder where on earth they came from?
It wasn’t until a fourth grade science class project that this metamorphosis became clear to me. Our teacher had brought in a couple of caterpillars – ugly ones – and we monitored their lives with each passing day. Suddenly, towards the end of autumn, they “disappeared” into what she called cocoons. Weeks went by. The poor things were trapped and to my compassionate heart, I couldn’t bear it. Then again, they were ugly critters and yet, I could sympathize. Those weeks were the hardest for me. Waiting.
“What a caterpillar calls the end of the world the Master calls a butterfly.”
– Richard Bach
When it finally broke out from the comfort of that dark place, it didn’t emerge the ugly, slow creature it had been before. It was now a beautiful Monarch butterfly. It did not look like the casing it had been wrapped in for weeks. Instead, it had been transformed; gorgeous in its orange, black and white hues. The blue ones were even more beautiful. The cocoon served as a temporary dwelling place while the real change happened from the inside.
I’ve spent the better part of my life waiting. It’s easy to find yourself feeling like life will never get better or change when things seem dark, still or just not moving forward. There were times when I thought I’d stay wandering through that desert forever. Then there came the faintest stirring of hope, the smallest increase of strength and the urge to break free.
I’ve discovered that I’m currently at that stage. I feel it in every fiber of my being.
It’s happening. I’ve always known it would. And I knew it would be a matter of time before I started seeing the fruits of this internal transformation on the outside, actively affecting every portion of my life.
This summer has been a huge season of growth for me (and it’s not over yet!). I went from not being sure when it came to certain segments of my life (i.e. relating to the opposite sex, being vulnerable with new people, stepping outside the box I’d built for myself, letting some walls crumble, searching for ways to grow and move, seeking more of God, expecting more of Him, etc…This list could literally go on) to being certain of so many things. I’m certain of God’s goodness in my life and in the lives of those I cross on a daily basis. I’m certain of His love for me, although I’m sure I’ll need to be reminded again and again (oh, when will it ever sink in!). I’m becoming more and more certain of what it is He has for me in this life…my dreams are changing.
God has been transforming my heart and my mind. He has been shining His glorious light into the dark, cob-webbed covered corners of my life and giving me the ability to see those areas with eyes of mercy and grace. He’s been teaching me to be kind to myself; to love myself the way He does so that I can love others the same way. He’s been bringing up memories, good ones that I’d forgotten. I’m learning to remember honestly and remember well. So much…it seems my mind is overflowing with the knowledge and realization of it all. I’ll be honest. This has all been a tad bit overwhelming at times and I am so grateful for the body of Christ that surrounds me. They’re supportive, encouraging and, most of all, loving.
I’ve also discovered that I definitely have a heart for the lost and that doesn’t mean I necessarily have to go overseas to serve (although I do have the desire to experience that at some point in the near future); I can do so right here. My desire for serving the women in my church and community has been reawakened (that originally started when I was a sophomore in college, but had lessened greatly shortly after due more to fear than anything else) and I find myself connecting to the beautiful, young, vibrant women in my church. He’s been inviting me to dream and dream big. I want to travel and do so with or for a purpose. I don’t simply want to see the world; I want to serve while doing so. I want to write a book…many, actually. What I desire to do in my free time is changing. Gone are the endless days of watching movies out of the need to selfishly entertain myself and escape for a few hours. It’s literally been months since I’ve had the need to watch a movie. Months. And yes, marriage and children are still dreams I have, they’re just not the most important ones any longer. Even though I currently can’t see the path that will get me there, I know He’ll provide a way.
God has been growing my love for Him in ways I would never have imagined and I’ve found that I can’t keep quiet about it. I desire for others to know Him as I do. People ask the reason for my smile, the reason behind the joy illuminating my face. Conversations I have with complete strangers have gone from surface level conversations about the weather to under the surface discussions about faith and the reason we were created. Amazing. I can’t stop talking about my love for Jesus. I fell for Him when I was four, but this newfound love I have for my Savior…there are no words. It’s ever-deepening, ever-widening, ongoing and it never changes…no matter what my circumstances are in this life.
Does the caterpillar decide to become a butterfly? Does it do all the work to turn itself into one? No. I love the imagery God has given through His creation in this in that caterpillars merely allow God to do His work.
Transformation is not something we can do ourselves. Even among the pressures of this fallen world, we must choose to be still and allow God to do what only He can do. We allow Him to renew our minds daily through His Word. It doesn’t happen overnight and there will be periods of waiting. The struggle is necessary for the development and strength of what God has called me to do in His story. I’m a supporting member…He is the main character. And the cool thing about transformation from the inside out is that it never really ends. It happens again and again until we become what He ultimately created us to be.
What about you? Are you conforming or are you being transformed? Nut or caterpillar/butterfly? Rest in God’s presence today and allow Him to transform you from the inside out.