Wrestling with Transformation

 

 
 
 
Inevitably in my travels as I talk about the Gospel, the Church and the Kingdom of God, the topic of “transformation” comes up. Usually, I always get two responses from people. Either I get a passionate response as we talk about transformation or I get a cynical and jaded look from people.

For the people in the latter group, I am coming to the realization that they have been hurt, whether it is from other people or even the disappointment of not seeing genuine transformation in their lives. If I am honest with myself, I find myself fluctuating from one end to another with my own journey of transformation.

The more I engage in this fight for transformation, the more I am coming to the realization that transformation is really a process. It is a process where God’s character and His commitment to us are more at work then all our striving. God, in His Faithfulness gives us the grace needed in order to become more like Jesus Christ.

Margaret Manning, who speaks and writes for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries gives a similar insight in regards to the process of transformation. She writes,

Over coffee at the ubiquitous Starbucks, my friend shared the story of his departure from his Christian faith. He did not leave his faith over a whim or because of some intellectual crisis he couldn’t resolve with his dearly held beliefs. He left because his work as a journalist led him into Christian circles where he met some of the most influential Christian leaders and teachers. He left his Christian faith because as he traversed these circles, he saw very little evidence of true, Christian transformation of character, values, and lifestyle. What he witnessed was a group of men and women who resembled the world more than they did Jesus. The dissonance between what was espoused in word and what was clearly missing in deed caused him to doubt the transformative power of the gospel. If Christianity made little difference in the lives of these Christian leaders – to whom so many look for guidance and example – what difference could it make in his life?

Many of us, at one time or another, have wrestled with a similar conflict. We may not walk away from belief or religion as my friend did, but we have been stung by disillusionment when our favorite leader, mentor, or friend turns out to have feet made of clay. Moreover, when we hold a mirror up to our own lives, we often see very spotty reflections of transformation. If we aren’t already discouraged at the lack of transformation in others, we certainly will be discouraged when we take a good, hard look at our own lives.

Why is transformation so hard? And why do we seemingly see so little of it in our lives, no matter conviction or creed? We still lose our tempers, we get irritated at co-workers, we covet, we lust, and we are faithful idolaters. For Christians, this is especially problematic because transformation is so clearly written into the good news of the gospel. Yet, an honest comparison of Christians and non-Christians leads us to wonder exactly what this transformation really looks like.

The writers of the Bible anchor hope for transformation in a God who employs less than stellar characters in the work of redemption. Transformation in biblical narratives enjoins God’s faithfulness to imperfect human beings. Noah got drunk; Abraham lied twice about Sarah being his sister; Gideon became an idolater; Samson failed to honor his vows; David committed adultery; Paul and Barnabus argued over John Mark and went their separate ways; the disciples of Jesus all left him in his moment of need and fled. The psalmist alerts us to the fact that God is not ignorant about humanity’s humble condition: God knows what we are made of; God is mindful that we are but dust. Yet in spite of this dusty substance, God is at work in and through flawed individuals. God can, and does, use us despite our fits and starts in following.

Perhaps, our own journeys of transformation reflect a similar experience. For those who follow the God of reconciliation, the hope of the living gospel, God indeed changes our names and gives us new identities in the hope of becoming all that God intends for us. But God undertakes this work in a way that leaves our humanity intact. The hope of transformation doesn’t undo our human limp. Instead, transformation is a gift of grace – a recognition of how far one must still journey to become more than we are, while we entrust our limp to the faithfulness of God to walk alongside all the way.

The bottom line: As God puts you in the rink of transformation, keep on wrestling even though it is hard; and God, by His grace will finish the job.