We have made some transformations to our house over the last few years. We choose a room every summer to renovate. Our first transformation was the kitchen. I told my husband I just want to take down some cupboards, paint the cupboards that stay, put in some open shelving and paint the walls. It should be a two-week project. So, we were shocked when we took down the first set of upper cupboards and part of the wall came with it. We also learned that the walls they put in 115 years ago don’t use the same measurements for studs we use today which added some interesting challenges to the shelving we put in. Our two-week project lasted five weeks. It was a messy, time consuming transformation, but it was so worth it in the end.
Our second project was our dining room. I figured we could get it done in a weekend. All I wanted was a fresh coat of paint and to take up the carpet and spruce up the hardwood. The hardwood wasn’t in as good of shape as I expected, completely changing the dynamics of this project. We stripped the wood, then sanded it, by hand – because it turns out the wood planks used for the dining room were only 1/8 inch thick - and then we stripped it some more. It was messy, and smelly and completely worth it in the end.
None of the renovations went as expected. They were messy, more time consuming then projected and often painful with frustration. But the end result was well worth all the challenges that came with it.
I joined my family’s church when I turned 13. It’s what you did in the Presbyterian Church at that time. That allowed me to take communion and vote in church elections. I got to wear a pretty dress and my whole family came to church and a party after the service. My grandmother gave me a beautiful, antique cross embellished with turquoise that had been in her family for years. I still have it today. I’m sad to say I remember the party and cross far better than my first communion.
I knew the stories of the Old Testament and the stories of Jesus, but I didn’t know Jesus personally. For years I claimed the promises of God without really understanding them. I accepted Jesus as my savior without a real consideration of what that meant. I knew that I received the gift of grace that protected me from eternal judgement and thought I was done. Go to church, try not to sin and live my life.
The idea of taking up my cross to follow Jesus didn’t occur to me until I was in my 40’s. It started with an invitation to a Beth Moore bible study on Esther. Beth talked about her relationship with Jesus like they got together for coffee every morning. That was fascinating to me. Her extraordinary knowledge of scripture combined with her personal relationship with Jesus prompted me to dig into my own bible in new ways. Was that available to everyone or just certain people God picked to hear Him? Like the prophets of the Old Testament.
“Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:10 CSB
I prayed for a heart that would delight in reading His word and He blessed me with an affirmative answer. The more I read, the more I wanted to know. While I am not always diligent about this on a daily basis, that thirst for His word continues in me today.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 ESV
Deny myself. Obedience. Transformation. Is this the secret to hearing God’s voice? Would this be what it takes to be friends with Jesus and share coffee with Him every morning?
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” John 14:23 HCSB
Can it be that simple? Could it be that all that we need to do is learn scripture and be obedient? Then will we have that special friendship with Jesus, hearing His voice when we so desperately need it.
Is transformation ever simple? For years I thought that when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly the squirmy, hairy worm simply goes to sleep in a nice warm cocoon and wakes up a beautiful butterfly. A simple transformation that is stunning in its result. It turns out this isn’t even close to what happens. There is plenty of activity needed for that transformation. It requires the old caterpillar be completely broken down and turned into something new.
Inside that cocoon the caterpillars body digests itself from the inside out. (yew) That fluid breaks down those cells and makes the new ones that become the butterfly. Once that butterfly is released from the cocoon it flutters from place to place showing off it’s beautiful colors and bringing joy to those who see it, well worth the messy transformation.
It’s not simple for that caterpillar to become the best version of itself. Likewise, it isn’t simple for us to transform our lives when we take up our cross for Jesus. The old ways must be broken down and turned into something new. It can be messy, painful and difficult. It is a process we will continue our entire lives. But with the transformation through the Holy Spirit, we go from living for ourselves to living for Jesus. That is where we find an incredible freedom, an abundance of blessings and an intimate relationship with Jesus. And oh, it is so worth the challenges!
“Obedience is not a no; it is actually His best yes. It swims in oceans of grace and leads us to freedom, wholeness and health. It opens us to His unbridled blessing and abundance.” Priscilla Shirer, Discerning the Voice of God
Next week we will dive deeper into what it means to take up the cross of Jesus and the beauty that comes from that transformation.