I have been thinking about transformation this past week. How does transformation happen? Is it really the result of one major, life-changing event? Like winning the lottery? Or getting struck by a bright light on the road to Damascus? Is it a proactive event where I must work hard to get results? Or do I merely surrender to a higher power and let him do all the work?
Last night I had a dream, a dream that I seemed to remember having several times before. In it, there was some impending catastrophe and I knew we had to get out of the situation and do it fast! There were two ways to make it to safety: one was by climbing a set of very narrow ladders through inclining, tightly enclosed passageways leading ever upwards and the other was by following a group of people through a series of complicated twists and turns in a building and then being propelled through a long tunnel of water.
When I awoke, it was clear to me that this dream was about transformation. The only way I could avoid things ending badly was to move from where I was and go through some very uncomfortable situations. I noted that I had to face my fear of heights, of tight spaces, of getting lost, of having to rely on others, of being underwater and not being able to breathe. Very uncomfortable. But transformation usually is.
I don't believe that change or transformation is instant. Yes, there are sometimes great reversals in our lives (like a healing or a sickness or a loss of job or an influx of money or a change of location/status), but that doesn't change who we are, really. It usually only reveals what is at our core: what we really believe in or what we are afraid of. When a reversal happens in our lives, we are faced with a decision: will we change as well, or will we continue as usual? I can be healed from a terrible disease but never change my mentality about being a victim. I can be diagnosed with some horrible cancer yet continually display a grateful and generous countenance. I can win the lottery but squander away every penny because I never learned how to be a wise investor. The many small decisions I have been making every day after day and year after year are the ones that determine who I am and where I am going, not some big, life-changing event.
But what about God's intervention? I have been reading through the book of Job. It is a great example of what gets revealed when a reversal happens. Fortunes came and went, but Job would not let go of God: he questioned and demanded justice and got angry, but he would not walk away from his maker. The conversion of Saul is another interesting example. Yes, there was a dramatic encounter during which all his beliefs and assumptions were challenged. But then Saul had to decide whether to embrace this Jesus or not. And then he had to walk out what that decision meant. Reversals are opportunities for transformation, but they are no guarantee of them.
There are also two facets of transformation that I see: there is the quick leap and the long, arduous path of daily, diligent decisions. One can never really be transformed through leaps or shortcuts alone; the change won't stick. Most often, the long and arduous path leads to a leap (which can look like instant change but there was a lengthy process involved) or there might be a long and arduous path to walk after a jump start. I have experienced both in my life. And will no doubt continue to do so.
Today, I get the sense that I am again being invited into renewed and deliberate transformation by God. The decisions I make today matter. The attitude I have today matters. My responses to situations today matter. They are all part of my daily transformation. And who knows when a quick leap of grace might unexpectedly appear along my long and arduous journey.
the photo: a lovely glass mosaic at a local store - many small parts make up the whole.