Lent has always been understood as a season of reflection. I grew up around the Catholic church, and we always had to give up something for Lent: chocolate, soda, etc. The act of giving up something we enjoyed was supposed to help us reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross and what that meant for our salvation.
However, Lent can also be a season of Transformation. As Christians, we hear and use this word often when discussing being born again, when the light and spirit of Jesus sweeps into the darkness and lives in us. And while a transformation does take place when we invite Jesus in, that’s not the end. It’s only the beginning.
During Holy Week last year, I attended the Good Friday service at Black Rock Church hosted by Sanctuary, the young adults ministry at the church. It was all about reflection: reflection on the crucifixion and what it meant for us, reflection about ourselves – how we see ourselves versus how God sees us. As part of the reflection, everyone was given a small mirror with this verse on the other side: 2 Corinthians 3: 18: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
When we invite Jesus in, that is not the end. It is only the beginning.
I’ve had this mirror sitting on the keyboard of my work computer in my home office since last Easter. It’s something that I look at every day. Sometimes I fidget with it while I’m on the phone. A few weeks ago, I was fidgeting with it during a difficult phone call, and when I hung up, I took a moment to read the verse out loud. Something struck me that hadn’t before. The tense used – “are being transformed” – is called present progressive – it connotes an action that is an ongoing activity.
I think we view transformation as something that should be dramatic in its abruptness, but we don’t think about transformation as a long-term, ongoing activity. We certainly feel the transformation when we accept Jesus as our savior – there is a shift within us, a burden lifted and a desire to live for God in a way we have never felt. If we view that as the end of our transformation, it’s easy to become cynical because we often face struggle after that initial euphoria. We must understand that moment is just the beginning of our transformation.
Jesus’ transformation didn’t come without struggle.
Jesus’ transformation from man to risen savior didn’t come without struggle. He survived temptation in the desert. He survived the Pharisees’ and other religious leaders’ ridicule during His ministry. He was beaten to within an inch of His life and His head adorned with a crown of thorns made to mock Him as the King of the Jews. He was nailed to a cross and left to die. And then, as if all of that weren’t enough, He battled death itself in a grave for THREE days.
Why? Because it was God’s will for His life. He obeyed God at every turn, during every moment of grief in the garden of Gethsemane the night He knew He would be arrested, in every blow that was landed during His beating, in every heavy step toward crucifixion. “Not my will but yours, God.”
Obedience and surrender – those were the keys to Jesus’ transformation from man to risen savior. Philippians 2: 8 – “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
If we’re not living in obedience and total surrender to God and His will for our lives, we will not experience the total, holy transformation God wants for us. It’s only through that transformation that we begin to truly live within God’s purpose for our lives.
This last year has been a year of transformation for me as I’ve tried to live in obedience to God and all He has been asking of me. It hasn’t always been easy. At times, it has been terrifying and pushed me beyond my comfort zone, but God has rewarded my obedience in ways I never could have imagined. And His impacts will always far outweigh anything I can do on my own.
Are you holding back or holding on to something that doesn’t match up with God’s plan? Let go. Surrender. Obey. And watch God work.
Jen is a Connecticut transplant by way of Williamsport, PA and Washington, DC. She has spent the majority of her career in the arts and volunteers in various capacities at Black Rock Church, in Fairfield, CT. Although writing has been more of personal outlet for Jen, God has given her opportunities in the past year to publish some of her writing, including a series of internal posts for Black Rock’s Read It, Live It initiative and now, on The Path I Follow.