Transformation: the Real Deal

butterfly emerge from chrysalis

Transformation is awesome, but getting there is tough.  Human, you are a wet, wrinkle-winged creature, a work in progress.  In need of encouragement, protection, wise guidance.

Who doesn’t want to be fully transformed from a potential self to a wonder-ful, actual self doing good in the world and enjoying the fruits of a well-lived, satisfying life?

Takes effort, intentionality, grit, transformation.  Otherwise, when life storms come, we go down, some to never rise again.  Yet we can rise and continually be transformed, but how?  It seems like Life is always wrecking our noble and beautiful plans—troubles, trials, various prods and pokes, mar, mark, or otherwise distort our best intentions.

But through it all, that is where transformation best happens, in conflict, disorder, confusion, disappointment, illness.  Caterpillars sit around in the dark a while, but when they emerge new, wet, and vulnerable, then they have to do some hard work of pumping new equipment, their wings.  They have to do this despite birds looking for an easy meal in the moment.

So how does it happen for humans?  Western mindset has always been a philosophy of the logical, left hemisphere of the brain—right thinking, right behavior interacting with truth and a source of power such as God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and many other ideas of that.  But there is the Hebrew mindset—right hemisphere of the brain, of the heart, relational and that better fits what humans need.

What I see is that people who get the farthest, go the distance to fulfill their potential, never do it alone.  They have mentors, spiritual parents, parents, coaches, teachers, people who believe in them, people who encourage, inspire, set examples, etc.  That’s how they make it to success in their endeavors, whether a career, ministry, a healthy marriage or family, etc.

By contrast, we see individuals, married couples, families often flounder in the overwhelming flood of normal life obstacles and trying to go it alone.  I do honestly admire the independent souls out there living in wildernesses and learning to survive.  But it could be better.  They could have community, people working and struggling and laughing and crying alongside of each other.  Not alone.

So it’s not just a mental work, a podcast, or sermon to bring transformation.  We need people.  In my case, I need people who have Jesus inside them to bring out the best in them as well as in me.  Mutual help as we seek together to become our best selves in every situation, hard times and good.

In Eden Community we intentionally affirm the good in each other, drawing out the gifts, not just critiquing each other’s behavior to ‘help’ people change.  No doubt we all need to grow and change.  But criticism kills.  Affirmation heals.  Example inspires.

Such is the story of James.  We will call him James.  He was raised in a Christian family by parents deeply  dedicated to helping others.  In college with noble aspirations for social justice and being salt and light in his neighborhood, he was ready to make his mark.

But his world fell apart when his parents called to announce that they were getting a divorce.  If such strong people could be bombed and abandon each other, what about him and his wife?  Where was God?

Cynicism and bitterness began to creep in.  He came to our home for a graduate class that my husband Kent taught.  He was the dissenting voice in every discussion.  Kent received him with undisturbed peace and joy, welcoming his thoughts whatever direction that they turned.

Faith had failed for him.  He was angry and depressed, but he noticed that, hated that.  He determined to get ‘well.’

He admired a coffee table in our living room.  Finding out that Kent made it, he asked Kent to help him make a table for his wife for their anniversary.

Over a period of weeks and months they spent time together, building the table, and great conversations and friendship set sail into the deeps. His heart softened.  He let go of judgment of his parents.  His bitterness seasoned into wisdom, gentleness, and joy returned.  He was ornery- bitter but became his ornery-charming self again with a lot of love, relationship, and time spent with Kent and others, always seeing and drawing out the best of who he was.

Kent and James took some plain boards, used a marvelous machine to turn sturdy legs, and built an enduring beauty of a table, delightful to him and his wife every time they used it.

They also built a relationship that blessed and mattered to both of them.  Transformation—that’s how it happens:  loving relationships, truth, example, consistent time together.

We weren’t created to carve out a life, a career, ministry, marriage, family by ourselves.  We flourish with a meaningful community of God and people—where transformation happens, the real deal.

It’s not as simple as mental assent and behavior changes.  It takes time, the time of relationships and bonding.

But what rich profit comes from the investment.

Who or what is influencing you, helping you grow into all you are meant to be?  If you are at stalemate, what can you do differently to get from chrysalis to soaring?

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