I could say life is full of transitions and it is, but perhaps it is more accurate to say that life is transition. By definition living things are perpetually growing and changing. As human beings, we participate in this continuous cycle of change and growth, whether we like it or not. Sometimes I am eager to move on, to transition to something new. At other times I would like to hold on to where and who I am at the moment, if it is particularly pleasant or pleasing or peaceful or purposeful. But I don’t get to choose. None of us do.
Time continues to push forward, forcing me to face each transition she brings to me. I find that I am transformed in the process of transitioning – which is that growth and change that all living things experience. The natural world that surrounds us is full of transitions and transformations. The seasons are continually cycling one after the other, so reassuring as I face the changes life brings.
Every time a season changes, the earth is transformed right before my eyes. Of course it is gradual, but the contrast is stunning nonetheless. When the humid, lush green of summer turns into the vibrant colors and cool air of fall, the transformation is complete. For a moment. Then fall’s full of color branches give way to winter’s barren beauty amid a frozen, still, silence. Everything sleeps under a blanket of white, until spring sun should summon flowers and foliage from the ground, covering everything in delicate hues that will later deepen into summer’s deepest greenery.
Every season is beautiful in its own way and time. And yet the seasons are never still, never satisfied I guess, with the perfection they have already achieved. Instead, they continue gradually transitioning, transforming imperceptibly until they yield a result that is nothing short of stunning.
At this point, the caterpillar comes to mind when considering dramatic transitions and transformations. Who would ever suspect what the caterpillar is up to when it creates a cocoon for itself and disappears into its darkness? Something so miraculous takes place during that time in the dark, that the next time we see the caterpillar, it is now a colorful, winged creature gracing our garden with the beauty of its flight. That is one total transformation!
Tadpoles transform into frogs. Frogs transform into handsome princes if kissed by the right fair maiden. Ok, that last one is a myth of fairy tale variety, but the real transformations we see in nature are no less dramatic. Seeds planted in the ground turn into food bearing plants, beautiful flowers, trees etc. From an acorn buried beneath the soil, springs a tall, imposing oak tree. I’d say that acorn was totally transformed.
I want to be totally transformed, too. In our culture we call that a “makeover.” What woman doesn’t want at times that magical makeover that changes hair, makeup, clothes and so forth to achieve a new look? But do I really believe that the right new pair of fabulous shoes will totally change my life? Judging by all the shoes in my closet, I must have believed the allure of this promise numerous times, only to discover each time that it is a myth. Which is another way of saying, I believed the lie. I should have known better. After all, Romans 12:2 tells me clearly,
“Do not conform any longer 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.”
My wish is not to conform but to be transformed – not to conform to some arbitrary external standard, (which is why the “makeover” has no power to transform – it is external only) but to be transformed from the inside out. This is necessary because for true transformation to take place, it must originate on the inside and work its way out. What has taken place in secret, out of sight, eventually reveals itself as the transformation continues to completion, like the butterfly emerging at long last from its cocoon. But there’s something else.
I can conform myself. I can imitate, adapt, take on the look of and the customs of the culture in which I find myself, much like a chameleon changes color as it moves from place to place in order to blend in with its surroundings. But I can’t transform myself – I have to be transformed by something or someone greater than myself. This must be why King David said in Psalm 51:10,
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
David knew he couldn’t clean up his own heart. He was powerless to do so. He needed God, the Maker of his heart, to do that for him. Likewise, I can’t transform myself. I need my Heavenly Father to do that transforming work in me. Philippians 2:13 assures me that this is exactly what God is doing in me –
“for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
God is at work in me, transforming me on the inside, working in secret, as He does with the seeds under the soil until their transformation is complete and they spring up ready to blossom and bear fruit in their season. I don’t have to worry when the transformation process seems to be taking longer than I would like. God is still working on me. In fact, the apostle Paul said in his letter to the Philippians this –
“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
I’m reassured that my transformation is still going on, because God is the one doing the work and He is going to complete it! I read in 2 Corinthians 5:17 –
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
This inner transformation has some outward results. One of those I read about in 2 Corinthians 5:15 –
“that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”
This process of transition and transformation seems to me to happen slowly, so slow that at times it is almost imperceptible. I remember when I first began serving as a person people could pray with after the church service. I was so nervous that I found myself relieved when no one came requesting prayer those first few Sundays I was on duty. Several Sundays later, when no one came requesting prayer, I realized to my own surprise, that I was quite disappointed at not having the opportunity to pray for and with someone else. Transformation had occurred. God had taken away my fear and replaced it with joy at being given the opportunity and the privilege to pray for and with other people. God had done this work of transformation in me in spite of my fear and anxiety. All I had to do, was to be obedient, to keep showing up week after week.
God is doing this secret, silent work of inner transformation in you and in me, slowly, steadily until – well until this happens –
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Yes, dear readers, you and I are going to emerge as beautiful butterflies when our Heavenly Father finishes His transforming work inside of us. We may have to spend time in a dark cocoon or walk through some fiery trials, (like pottery in the kiln) but God is faithful to finish His transforming work in each one of us. Job believed this, despite his overwhelming trials and suffering, Job had this to say –
“But He (God) knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)
Job knew God’s transforming work in him, would leave him like gold, a very valuable, precious metal both then and now. This is what our transformations are achieving for us – that new life in Christ.
“We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)
new life – that’s total transformation!
sincerely, Grace Day