WORDS FROM W.W. April 20, 2012
“Do not conform 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.” (Romans 12:2)
When I was in first grade I pulled a chair out from the boy who was sitting in front of me in Reading. It was hilarious to me…for a moment! Then my teacher grabbed me off of my chair, stood me up, and shook me! Not something teachers, who want to stay employed, do today, but effective. Never again did I think about pulling the chair our from under an unsuspecting student, although I wanted to on numerous occasions.
My behavior was modified. The laughter of a student sprawled on the classroom floor was soon erased by a bespectacled instructor peering down at my puny little body. I learned to not do things that upset my teacher…when she was around.
It was not a transformation experience. It was a modification moment. The first of many in my first grade year. (Another was throwing wet paper towels in the restroom at boys who were using the urinals! In case you’ve never done that…don’t! It resulted in my first opportunity to see the inside of the principal’s office!)
In our faith journey with Jesus we talk about having a transformation experience, coming to that point when we realize that we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ. We talk about asking him to be our Lord and Savior. It is a Damascus Road experience, a kairos moment> At that moment we know things will never be as they were again. It’s a new way.
Yesterday I was riding with my sister to Ironton, Ohio, where she teaches a Thursday afternoon class at the college. As we traveled along the usual route traffic was backed-up because of some work that the road construction crew was doing on the hillside removing some huge boulders that were putting vehicles in peril. My sister turned around, headed back the other direction, and suddenly turned left. We headed down a narrow road that had more curves in it than a Sandy Koufax Dodgers’ game in the Sixties. We actually went through a place called Possum Holler. It was like riding a roller coaster on asphalt.
But somehow we came out on a road that led into Coal Grove, Ohio, that then led to Ironton. The usual way led to danger. We had to change our way. It was the Ohio version of someone saying “We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy!”
Spiritual transformation is God grabbing hold of our hearts and then we realize we must change our way. It’s taking us through “Possum Holler”, because, otherwise, there is no reason why we would want to go there.
Behavior modification is changing my ways. Spiritual transformation is changing my way. Modification is realizing that the principal’s office is not where I want to visit very often, so I’m going to be a good boy, or maybe a better boy. Transformation is realizing that my life has purpose and the principal’s office is a dangling boulder that does not need to be a part of it.
In our faith walk there is a subtle difference between conforming to a church’s culture and being transformed by the Spirit. The first can mask itself as the second. The first changes the exterior, the second is an internal working that changes me externally. The first is my pulling the chair out from under my classmate, realizing that will get me into hot water, so I never do it again…but I’d still like to!
Conforming or being transformed…changing my ways or finding the Way.