Life is a journey - this is mine.

Monday, June 16, 2008

On Change, Transformation, and Death.

Mike made a quick post about Change vs. Transformation a few months back, and Bruce posted some additional thoughts yesterday. Go read those posts first to get the context of this post. Got me to thinking about my own life.

I commented on Bruce's post with this question: "what motivation do we have to accept, let alone initiate, transformation?" The answer I had in mind is along the lines of: "is there being a real or perceived value to self, either indirectly or directly by choosing this new path." In those terms, it would seem making choices is easy, or at least ought to be.

But is it really?

The smoker usually knows he's ruining his health by smoking. He knows there's a value in quitting, yet he lights up the next one, the one after that, and continues on the destructive path even though he KNOWS there's value in the transformation of smoker to non-smoker.

Why doesn't he just quit?

You could put many situations in the same story. The alcoholic, the meth addict, the abused wife the pre-christian. And me.

Why do I continue to hold on to unhealthy habits and ways of living when I *know* that changing them will add to my life, and to the lives of those around me? If I'm healthier, I likely will live longer and be here for my wife and son. If I were more organized, I'd be more efficient and successful at my job, and have a better life in my home. If, if, if... So what prevents me from choosing healthier, more productive ways of living?

At some point in my life, I made a choice to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I'm glad that I did. My motivation for that was learning about man's separation from God and that by choosing Jesus, I'd be reunited with Him when my earthly body died. A perceived value, even a selfish choice.

A few years ago, after many, many times of lighting a cigarette and telling myself that I needed to quit, I did. I lit the last cigarette in the pack that I had, threw it away, tossed my lighter in a drawer, and haven't smoked a cigarette since. I just looked, that lighter is still in the drawer here, I use it to light the occasional candle.

Yet, I feel I'm in my own way of scratch that, of trusting God's work in me to transform me. Or is it not really letting God work in me, it's making better choices because He gave me free will and trusts me to make choices. Or is it God's in control and I need to let go and let Him. (I suspect the answer to all of the above is "yes").

WHY then, if I see value in doing things differntly, do I continue on the wrong path?

So, if you've read the links and have kept up:
Mike's point:
Change, and the desire to change, is doomed because it is incremental which allows us to retain control - which we'll likely never give up.

Transformation is successful because we let go completely of the old way and trust in God that the new way is good.

Bruce's addition:
Something must die for transformation to occur. The old way has to die for the new way o flourish.

Steve's struggle:
How do I choose to initiate transformation - or get the hell out of the way and let it happen?


Michael J Mahoney said...

Wow, Steve, that's deep. Kind of goes along with the idea of a "leap of faith" or more correctly, a leap TO faith. That the leap is moving from one state to another with no middle ground. You either have it or you don't.

When God transforms people in Scripture, it is as often as not just that - from one thing to another. God is great!

Bruce Milne said...

How does this all not come back to your freedom to choose?

Why does the smoker smoke? I think because he chooses too: likes the buzz, enjoys the ritual, likes blowing smoke rings, a social activity. Not smoking gives up a lot. But that is what has to die. Everything the smoker values about smoking is what has to die for him to choose to not smoke.

You chose to not smoke. You valued other things more. You chose your health and family over a potentially harmful activity. And now, you can have what you chose.

Why is it hard? Because we really, really, really, really, want our cake and eat it too.

Mike said...

Great post Steve. I used to read the transition from Romans 7 to Romans 8 over and over, looking for some clue. How could Paul in Romans 7:21-24 say:

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

And then in Romans 8 he says:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

I think the key is in Romans 7:25 --

Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

First - Paul had to trust Jesus. Second Jesus had to die. (Not necessarily in that order).

While I think our desires and control need to die to allow transformation, the death that makes transformation possible is Jesus'.

Transformation always requires death -- God's grace made a way.

We need to create the environment where God has the freedom to work (trust, abide, live in the moment, whatever you want to call it), and then stay out of his way. Ironically, I think it is harder for us to abide (releasing control and living in the moment of trust) than it was for Jesus to die for us.

Unknown said...

I completely agree with the idea that transformation can only happen upon the death of something else. And while I agree that you can't transform yourself on demand (all the sudden, I'm now a non-smoker), you can WILL yourself to transform. You can accept Jesus as your savior, thus allowing God to work in you, through you, and with you to make significant transformations. You either accept that there is a higher power, or you don't. If you don't accept that, transformation is likely for the worse... if at all. Put simply, your choice is not "to reform or not to reform" but rather it's to accept or to deny.