Is transformation Truly Possible? The short answer is Yes. I fully believe that true, authentic transformation is possible in a person’s life. In fact, I would not be a pastor if I did not believe that. I see my whole purpose, as a pastor, as inviting people into the new life that is possible for them through the transforming power of God. I KNOW this is possible. I have seen it, over and over again.
But, in truth, I need to add that true transformation is also rare. In my thirty-one years of ordained ministry, and four years of youth ministry prior to that, I have seen that it is only a small number of people who are truly brave enough to LET God transform their lives. In fact, my experience would lead me to say that maybe only about ten percent of people invited to this new and transformed life, truly say “Yes.” As Jesus said, ““Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
Sadly, way more often, I encounter people who complain a lot about the state of their lives, but who, deep down, want to stay exactly as they are. Why? Mostly I would say because of fear, fear of truly changing their way of life. Fear of the unfamiliar. We prefer to stay in the familiar ruts we are in. Frequently when I preach or speak I use a quotation from a huge banner that adorned the Chapel at Harvard Divinity School many years ago when I was a student there. The banner read, “Jesus Christ came to comfort the disturbed, and to disturb the comfortable.” That quotation has become a central part of my daily life, and of my ministry. But the reality is that most people do not like feeling uncomfortable. Yet if we can have the courage to look more deeply at the very thing that is making us feel uncomfortable, that is usually precisely where we most need to change.
All the religions of the world teach us to study ourselves, to know ourselves, to engage in self-reflection. The next time someone says something or does something that really ticks you off, rather than lash out at that person, or take your sandbox toys and go home, I suggest that you instead look more deeply at the very thing that most upset you, that made you feel most uncomfortable, that really ticked you off. When I have the courage to do this, to really look at that, to ponder it, meditate with it, pray with it, I discover that what most disturbs me is that there is some TRUTH in it. That really sharp critique, that jabbing insult or comment, contained some kernel of truth that I need to look at if I truly want to say “Yes” more fully to God, who just may be using that jab, that sharp, cutting sword of truth, to invite me to make some change I have been resistant to making in my life, change that will help me to become more fully the person God created me to be.
In invite you to TRY it. In the beginning, just try it in secret in your own heart and mind. No one even needs to know that you are doing this spiritual practice. In other words, “if the shoe fits, wear it.” As Jesus said, “Let the one who has ears to hear, HEAR.” Be brave enough to ask yourself, “Why did that one comment really piss me off?” I will bet it is because THAT is where you most need to make a change in your life.
All the religions of the world also teach about being stuck in our own delusions. Most of us complain a lot, but prefer to stay stuck. We circle around and around and around, repeating the same problems in different contexts, repeating the same mistakes in different relationships, suffering the same wounds from different people. We wallow. “So-and-so” circles around and around in his addiction, or leaves one addiction for another. “You-know-who” wallows in her bad relationships, jumping from one to another. Ms. or Mr. Negative complains over and over, but never thinks to break the pattern that is keeping her/him trapped.
Thankfully, all of the world religions also speak of the possibility of transformation, but there is always that frightening leap of faith we must take : repentance, confession, admittance, owning our part in our life fiasco, looking that uncomfortable or disturbing thing in the face, and for once, having the courage to say “Yes, I want to change this, but I need your help, O God.” Only then will real transformation begin. True transformation IS possible. But true transformation is rare.
I pray that you have the courage to look at that very place within yourself that you most want to avoid, and to admit the truth. As Jesus said, “The TRUTH will make you free.”
Linda Forsberg, Copyright October 10, 2017