Change and Transformation
“If you move this bookcase into the living room and then pull the couch away from the wall to angle into the room, I think you’ll like the change.”
My good friend has an eye for making a room look wonderful. She knows I don’t spend a lot of money on furnishings, and she’s quick to work her magic with what’s in front of her. She’d been to my house on many occasions, and I knew she’d been rearranging my furniture in her head for some time.
All it took to set her ideas into motion was a comment from me about needing a change. Years later I haven’t changed anything back to where it was. Why should I? I love it!
I’m a sucker for “makeovers” involving rooms, houses, or hairstyles and makeup. I scan the before and after pictures to see if I can glean any helpful ideas for my own use.
I’m obviously not the only one hooked on this concept. Entire industries are based on change. Extreme makeovers are all the rage. Plastic surgery on the aging face of a person resisting the inevitable. Remodeling of a house that sags with years of neglected repairs. One of my favorite television commercials showed a scruffy looking fellow as the “before” and his well groomed and impecably dressed self as the “after” with the song “What a Difference a Day Makes” playing in the background. Ah, apparently clothes DO make the man!
It seems that our lives revolve around accepting change… and also accepting what can’t change. Either we’re in a storm of upheaval or stuck in the mire of monotony of discontent with the sameness of life. And with all of the world’s promises of transformation we are reminded of our limits: We can’t add one inch to our height or one hour to our life (Matthew 6:27).
Some changes don’t have any effect or even make things worse. Pioneers who traveled in groups across the plains to the West were quick to vote out leaders they grew tired of or felt weren’t leading them wisely or in the right direction. History has shown these weren’t always wise decisions. A change in leadership didn’t always produce a clear path and actually resulted in more obstacles and perils. The Donner Party could testify to that!
Things can change for the better… or the worse. “There’s no change” can be a good or disappointing doctor’s report. A change of plans usually is foreboding, but not necessarily. And there are some things that are truly written in stone, completely unchangeable, those things we ask for courage to deal with.
We are warned to change our ways, change our attitudes. As children, that seemed to be an easier task. We didn’t have much of a track record at that stage of our lives.
But as we get older and actually have made changes in our behavior and attitude, some people assume we are still the person we’d been showing the world in the past. They don’t believe we’ve changed. They can’t accept the change.
Facing this disbelief from others is a real struggle. It can prevent someone from going to a class reunion for fear that the changes they’ve made won’t be accepted or acknowledged. Instead they are worried they will be caught in some inescapable time warp. Even worse is the plight of the person who has paid the penalty for his or her crime and is determined to change. Resistance from others can be a barrier to the start of a whole new life.
God did a lot of changing in the Bible. He empowered Moses to change his staff into a snake and water into blood (Exodus 7:10, 20). Jesus, God’s Son, changed plain water into an acclaimed wine (John 2:6-10).
God changed names too. When He transformed people and their mission he changed their names: Abraham and Sarah got new names (Genesis 17:5, 15), and Saul, the changed former tormentor of Christians, became Paul.
That same Paul talks about the miraculous, fantastic change that we will experience as God’s children. “In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye… the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). How this will happen and what I will look like isn’t something I spend a lot of time imagining. I doubt the caterpillar had a clue what it would look like when it emerged from its cocoon, so how could I even begin to dream of my new appearance?
There are many philosophers and writers who talk about changing the world. Most say that change begins with a personal change. A change of heart. I truly believe that. Oh, not because it’s the wise thing to say, but because God said it first.
Of course we can’t force someone else to change. Not really. And we might be fooled by a change in their behavior when they’re around us. But it may be just a cosmetic change. Deep inside they are the same.
But what if I’m the one who needs to change? Either as a leader or as someone who is being led? Perhaps it’s an attitude. An attitude toward my work, my position, my coworkers, my employees, my family?
Now we’re talking about a real transformation, not just a short-lived change. Making an effort to not change back. Rather than just making a temporary change we embrace true lifestyle changes. A whole new approach to life.
This isn’t something I can do on my own. No one can. Only Our Lord Jesus can make that kind of transformation. Only He can change that heart of stone into a new one. Only He can give that new spirit of love (Ezekiel 36:26). Only He can change my stubbornness into the childlike faith that gives me hope and salvation (Matthew 18:3).
How can we recognize this transformation is actually taking place? Paul talks about this so much in the sixth chapter of Romans. We are no longer slaves to sin; we have been transformed into children of the Almighty God!
Yet he understood that all too often we don’t resist the things we should, we choose wrong things and wrong ways (Romans 7:18-19). Though we know Jesus rules our hearts and He has transformed us, the reality is we still live here on the earth, waiting for that final transformation where there is no turning back. No worries about reverting to old ways, old habits.
But thankfully, while I’m still living this part of my life, I have the strength of my God, my Lord and Savior Jesus who doesn’t change. He doesn’t need a makeover. After all, how can you improve on perfection?
The best part is He doesn’t change His mind. He fulfills all He promises (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 55:19). Nor will He ever lose His mission focus: saving us from the power of death!
My favorite assurance is the one I could sing forever. The promise that even when everything around me changes and threatens to fall apart… even when I wish I could change my world, my personal circumstances, my life… I can look to the One proclaimed in that children’s hymn of old: “He’s the same today, as yesterday, my great, unchanging Friend… By His mighty power He holds me, In His arms of love enfolds me; He’s the same today as yesterday, my great, unchanging Friend.”
I’ll never ask my heart to change the One who leads me. Because my Lord Jesus is the one thing I can depend on who will never change… and who will always fill my life with joy!
Leaving my guilt at the cross,