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Trust the Process Part 4: Transformation


[Rev. Dr. Chuck DeGroat is our blogger for the month of April. Chuck is Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Western Theological Seminary (Holland MI) and a Senior Fellow at Newbigin House of Studies (San Francisco). He is the author of Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places (Square Inch), Toughest People to Love (Eerdmans) and the upcoming Wholeheartedness (Eerdmans).]

One of the questions I get most often is this: How does transformation really happen? I get this question from every kind of person from every demographic. I hear the spiritually arid middle-aged man who has attended church his entire life ask it. I hear “I want Jesus but not the church” skeptics I know in San Francisco ask it. I hear it on the lips of teenagers who want to know Jesus is more than an answer to a catechism question. I heard it recently from an angry older gentleman who has become more bitter with age, and wonders if the God of his Dutch Reformed heritage really changes hearts.

We all want transformation. We look for it in a new hair style, in a weight loss program, through a relationship, at a U2 concert, and in the pastor’s sermon. We want transformation, but more often than not we want it on our terms and in our time. We want a “how to” rather than the “follow me” of Jesus. Bottle me up some transformation to go, please…because I’m in a hurry.

I think the biggest single reason why we don’t experience deep transformation is because we think it’s something to be bought, gained, or attained rather than discovered as ours already. Mired in guilt and covered in shame, we pick ourselves up and begin climbing up Holiness Hill, determined to get there sooner or later. We imagine God with crossed arms and a sour look, quite disappointed that we haven’t made more progress. We make the cosmetic changes we think we need to make. We do the Bible study. Wake up earlier to pray. Join the worship team. But we still find ourselves asking: How does transformation really happen?

I want to offer you a stunningly glorious reality:  It’s already yours. 

God doesn’t stand at the top of a ladder awaiting your ascent. God made his way to you. And even more stunning – God took up residence in you.

In you.

Dirty you. Unclean you. Failure you. Masturbating you. Self-harming you. Too busy for God you. Embezzling you. Angry you.

God is more intimate to me than I am to myself, St. Augustine once wrote. God is your deepest you.

And I’d venture to say that most of your spiritual “tinkerings” only serve to disconnect you from God further, because you assume that he’s to be found when he’s already found you, that he’s to be sought when he’s already sought you.

We settle for “how to’s” when we we’re so mired in guilt and shame that we need something tangible to – at the least – make us think we’re progressing.

What we come to recognize is that we’re pretty good at putting up obstacles to union with God. Many of these obstacles look very ‘spiritual’, in fact. We’re quite busy doing a lot for God. Like eager children, we say, “See Daddy…I’m doing it.” But when our efforts end up exhausting us rather than transforming us, we sigh deeply, wondering if God is even real.

God is more intimate to me than I am to myself. God is more real than you are!

What gets in the way is our ego, a “false self” which is still convinced that it can please God and attain transformation. It’s the very death of this ego that is the costly way of transformation, the way of the Cross. To die to self is to die to the ego’s narcissistic and imperial agenda. Union is available, right now. We need only remove the obstacles to it…which begins with our false self.

And so, when you think about transformation next time, consider that fact that God isn’t so far off. God hasn’t left. God isn’t waiting atop the ladder. In fact, it’s you and me that leave. It’s you and me that separate. It’s you and me that seek to attain. God is here. He is home, living in you.

And so, come home. The door is open. Transformation is available, right now. God came to you. You didn’t need to try so hard, after all…

Grace and peace.


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