Sunday, April 1, 2012


Okay, if we have spent any time in or around evangelical churches, we pretty much know Romans 12:1,2 by heart - you know, present your bodies as living sacrifices, be transformed by the renewing of your mind, like that. 

Sometimes - okay, MOST times - I get the feeling that the expectation of the ones preaching the sermons, whether by TV, radio, or over the local pulpit, is that they tell us to do something (or not to do something) and we're supposed to get it.  Zap. Right away.  Immediate results. I believe that a lot of pastors - pardon me for saying so - are extremely "results-oriented."  And I believe that part of the reason why they burn out so fast is because of that gap between expectations and reality.  Another part is (I know this because many have said so) that they feel a greater weight of responsibility for us, as "those who must give an account before God."  They take this very seriously and sometimes they get the mind-set that the way we turn out is their doing.  (It's not true, but that's the thing about feeling responsible.  It can very easily get taken to the next level: guilt... and frustration.)

Let me lay this out.  Folks in full-time ministry are on the front lines. They are bombarded with spiritual challenges every minute of every day.  They are "ON" twenty-four / seven.  Their whole lives revolve around relationship with God and with other people, their whole schedule is God-oriented and service-focused.  They have a church-centered job.  In spite of the pay and the thanklessness of most of their charges, they have what many people would consider to be an awesome career.  And in order to be 'on tap' for their parishoners, they need some pretty serious relationship with God on a continual basis; they never know what they'll be doing in the run of any given day and it takes a lot of spiritual energy.  The more passionate they are about this kind of living, the more they want to see others experiencing it - starting with the members of their congregation.  Because - face it - that kind of 24/7 spirituality is an amazing adventure.  

The rest of us ... aren't there ... or we're only partway there.  We are not ALL called into full-time ministry.  Some of us are bricklayers. Some of us are office workers. Some are nurses, teachers, retailers. Some work nights. Sundays.  Some commute; some of those carpool. And the one thing we all have in common is that our whole lives DON'T center on the church. We rub shoulders with the world up close and personal. The demands of our jobs take us places that - at times - no human spirit should have to endure.  In a sense, it's harder for us to make the time for spiritual things and in some cases, it's a miracle we have any time at all to devote to relationship with God.  

Yet the elephant in the room is still there ... there's that "Be transformed" thing.  And as responsible as pastors and teachers feel about us, in the final analysis, we can't hold them responsible.  Each of us has to be accountable for his or her own choices.  Including this one.  

Might I suggest a few thoughts about transformation?  I realize that I don't have the theological training of a Bible college or anything, but I've been living this Christian life since 1976 and studying the Word just as long.  And it seems to me that what is being touted as a weekend-retreat thing really is an every-day-for-the-rest-of-your-life thing. 

Transformation starts with a choice - followed by a whole bunch of other choices.  Each has a ripple effect.  The Bible says for us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We know how this is accomplished - or we are taught it: read the Bible, pray every day, like that.  I tend to think that it goes way deeper than just that.  

Having gone through a mental renewing the last three years in one major area of my life, which is still sending out ripples into other areas, I know that I don't have the strength to renew my mind.  I absolutely don't.  I tried for many years to do it on my own and I failed Every Single Time.  Any success I did have was temporary at best, followed inevitably by 'pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization'.  The cycle was so discouraging, so depressing.  

Finally - about three years ago - someone clued me in to something I probably should have known a long time ago; after all, when I was in University I had a taste of it because I was SO out of my element that I HAD to depend on God for Every Single Thing ... of course, that was a lifetime ago (to be specific, my kids' lifetime). I used to blame my kids for taking that away from me. Now I don't.  I can see that I was the one making those choices to live the Christian life my own way, little by little.

The message that finally came through to me?  "YOU CAN'T."  

That's one side of the coin.  The other side says, "GOD CAN."  So the majority of my own renewal, and from that, transformation, came from me ceasing from trying to be God in my life and control it all - and turning everything over, a moment at a time, a day at a time, to Him and let HIM own it.  

And that is where those verses in Romans 12 come in.  There's where the renewal takes place - and it is slow.  Painfully slow.  But ... He's way better at managing it than I ever was.  The only thing I can do is to give it to Him. That's it.  I can do absolutely NOTHING on my own.  I can't change anything about my life - can't change other people, can't change circumstances, can't even change myself.  There - I've said it.  I am totally Powerless.  

Any transformation that takes place is His doing.  And I'll admit it, sometimes I take the wheel and try to run things on my own - on "autopilot" - and He has been given my permission to allow things to crash and burn when I do.  And they do - big time!  I usually try to run things when I get impatient because things aren't happening fast enough.  I stew and complain to God.  And He reminds me - through something someone says or does, through a song, or just in one of those 'little Voice' moments I hear in my heart from time to time - that the human body takes seven years to completely replace its cells.  So the results of an inner transformation might take some time to show up in my life.  It's okay - God's in charge of this.  And that - after all the anguish I put myself through trying to be Him - is such a relief.

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