transformation: smiling in the gym

what are you passionate about? what drives you? what makes your heart race with excitement? what makes you feel like a little kid in a candy shop? what are you talking about when you find your speech speeding to a rapid pace? what makes you smile for no apparent reason?

the funny thing about passions is that my passion probably looks a lot different than yours. and yours are likely just as different from your neighbor’s. it can be rare to find another who is just as interested in what gets us going as we are. but when you’ve found it, that’s the good stuff.

so, if you find that you get to the end of reading this particular entry and you have very little interest in what has been discussed, i feel we might be able to chalk that up as simply one example of interests that differ. however, i feel this particular passion of mine is one with incredible implications, so i will do my best to illustrate why this topic drives me so very much.

my passion

i was in the gym a while back listening to a podcast when i had one of those moments. those moments when you’re confronted with something you’re passionate about, and you can’t help but smile.

i was running on the treadmill listening to a podcast about how the cross of Christ and his resurrection changes us (that’s right, i’m one of those guys who listens to pastors’ podcasts). and it was when he began talking about the process of us being made into a new creation, about our transformation through Christ, about His life being poured into us, that i just started beaming.

and i knew, at that moment, that i was the creepy guy in the gym. i was the guy who other people are looking at out of the corner of their eyes, thinking to themselves, “why’s that guy smiling? is he looking at me? i hope he’s not looking at me. don’t make eye contact.”

but it was cool, because it left me thinking the rest of the morning about why this transformation resonated so much with me, and what it has looked like in my own life.

from a very young age

i got to thinking about how, from a very young age, i’ve been completely intrigued by the idea of transformation. just look at the toys i loved playing with. take transformers, for example.

the whole intrigue about transformers was (is?) that you start with something ordinary (say a jet, or a truck) and you move its parts, you transform it, into something else. something robotic that looks human (at least in terms of having a body, a head and appendages). something that can punch or kick (which is what action figures are all about, right?). man, i loved transformers.

but even more, i loved teenage mutant ninja turtles. i was crazy about them. (actually, it wasn’t that long ago that i bought a tmnt t-shirt online that read, “say no to drugs, say yes to pizza.” my wife let me. she’s awesome.) what i loved about teenage mutant ninja turtles is that these turtles had been transformed, or mutated, from ordinary turtles, into pizza-eating, bad-guy beating ninja turtles. they were transformed by this green ooze. and, even though i had no idea how, i thought it was rad. in fact, i had some of that ooze. it came in a plastic tub. i took some to a relative’s house one time because she had some pet turtles. i wanted to see what would happen if i put the ooze on her turtles, but she wouldn’t let me. she said she didn’t want them to get sick if they ate it. i just figured she wouldn’t know what to do with mutant ninja turtles.

and i was completely intrigued by this thought: that something ordinary could be turned into something completely different. something extraordinary. i still am, i guess.

not alone

and i don’t think i’m alone. i think we’re all fascinated by the idea of transformation, particularly when it applies to our own life. i think we all would like to be something other than who we are. i think we all crave change in our lives, and we know that it can’t come through just ourselves.

some people look to books. some people look to new clothes. some people look to a new car.

one of my favorite authors, don miller, once talked about how he drove down to the local hardware store and, after walking around for a while, bought an extension cord (if i remember correctly…). not because he needed it, but just because he wanted something new.

and we all look to these things thinking if we buy them, then some of their newness will rub off on us. that somehow some of their newness or what they represent will be reflected onto us. producing the kind of change in our lives we so desperately seek.

and, after a while, we realize the change we’re looking for is still missing. and so, almost hopelessly, we turn to something else. something newer.

complete overhaul

one of the things i get most excited about in my faith is the fact that He promises change. not the kind of temporal, let me sell you a new, better vacuum cleaner kind of change, but the kind of change that i truly believe we all seek after.

“as roger garaudy, the famous communist philosopher once remarked about The nazarene: ‘i do not know much about this man, but i do know that His whole life conveys this one message: anyone at any moment can start a new future.'” (brennan manning, abba’s child, p.104)

i get excited thinking about the change that has taken place in my own life. not because i am where i need to be, but because, looking back, i can tell that a process of change has begun. change that has come from my relationship with Him. change that i couldn’t have achieved on my own. nor would i have wanted to. but change that He accomplished, and is accomplishing. and i get excited about seeing that in others.

i love this passage from Scripture that talks about this kind of change. life-changing change. and how it comes from our relationship with Christ.

therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

but it doesn’t usually start that way. at least it didn’t for me. i didn’t come to Christ thinking, “i want to be something different entirely.”

like most construction projects, it starts with something small. it starts with a little project (“we need to change out this faucet”), but it ends up being much, much bigger (“turns out, we need to overhaul this entire kitchen…”).

the same is often true with our relationship with Christ. we come to Him thinking, “if i can just get this one area under control, i’d be a much better person to be around,” but after we’re a few miles down the road in our walk with Him, we realize He’s not content on stopping with that one area. in fact, He’s not satisfied with even one additional area. He’s dead-set on a complete transformation of who you were. He’s set on making you a new creation. and He is determined to see it through. His aim is to make you a little version of Himself. a little Christ, in fact (thus the title, “Christian”).

but He’s set out do so in love. He’s doing this because He desires better for you. because He loves you. and He loves those around you, and He knows the impact you have on them. and the impact you could have on them. He sees that, even if you don’t. and He’s looking forward to getting His hands dirty.

remedy

i was at a concert recently. it was a Christian concert, so there were some pretty blatant scriptural topics being sung about. during one song in particular, the artist sang about God and redemption. and it was amazing. but then he used this word, remedy, and i was completely sold on it. he used it in reference to Christ, and it was so perfect.

He is our remedy. He is what we need for the transformation (that we all need, that we all desire) to take place. it’s Him, and nothing else. no programs. no books (well, maybe one Book). no new year’s resolutions. no 10-point lists. it’s all Him. He is the remedy.

i pray you would see that. i pray you would see the brokenness of your machine, and i pray that you would put down everything else you’ve been looking toward to fix it so that you can receive Him. like i said, He’s ready to get His hands dirty. it’s not going to be a simple job, it’s going to take some time. but He has the time. and He’s ready to get to work.

i pray that you would hear His voice when He whispers to you, as He recently did to me:

you will never be the same. I am tearing from you your self and replacing it with My Self. I am making you a new creation. that you may live life, and that you may live it to the fullest. that My life may be in you, and that you may help spread this Life to others. you will see, I will make you a new creation. and in you, this Life will live. but It will come gradually. It will grow and increase. I in you, forever. but, you must remember, you will never be the same. not ever. no matter how much it appears the old has returned. for I am with you now. and I make all things new.

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