If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:34
One of the best parts of my job at the Calgary Public Library is delivering story times to children. I so enjoy their eager little faces and uncensored responses to life. One of my favourite stories is a flannel graph version of the Eric Carle classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Fans of children’s literature will know the story of a little caterpillar who eats his way through the week, devouring many foods until he is ready to spin a cocoon and disappear. When he emerges he is, of course, a beautiful butterfly. Perhaps one of the reasons this book is so popular is that it’s not only the children who enjoy the story of transformation. I wonder if many of the parents secretly harbour a desire to be beautifully and wondrously transformed.
Of course, we can be wondrously transformed. But in our case, it is unlikely to be as quick, or as easy, as it is for a caterpillar to become a butterfly. Oh, I know the butterfly must struggle to release itself from the confines of the cocoon. But seriously, that takes a few hours at most. The human transformation process takes a lifetime, and is still unfinished. The butterfly has no choice in its transformation process–it simply follows the path nature has set for it. We humans have a choice, and often we choose stagnation over transformation. I think the big reason for this is fear.
We fear the work involved. Paul Spilsbury recently observed, while preaching at Foothills, “The resurrection is waiting, but the road is blocked by the cross”. The cross. It is a place of both death and life. Jesus died there so we might have eternal life. We die there so we might experience the life-changing power of Jesus in our lives. We die to old habits, petty grudges, grievances and prejudices. We die to the life-draining attitudes of “I” and “me”. We die to selfishness and egocentricity. The eternal price is paid, and the transformation comes from God, yet we must participate by giving way to Him and letting go of self. This process is painful and it is very, very hard work.
We also fear who we might become. We do not trust God enough to fully engage and let go of the self we know. On one level, we recognize that His way is best, and the person we will become through Him is infinitely better than the one we know on our own. Yet, our sinful nature so often chooses our own way. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:14) We will be the best “us” we can possibly be with Jesus, yet we often fight the process because we are comfortable with what we know, and afraid of who we might become.
The glories of Easter morning could not have occurred without the agonies of Good Friday. Resurrection does not precede death. In order to become the people God wants us to be, we must allow Him to strip away all that is not like Him. We must die to self in order to be transformed to His likeness. It is work, and we might be afraid, but He is faithful.
I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Jeremiah 29:11
Prayer: Kind Father, thank you so much that you love us. You loved us so much that you sent your only Son to die for us and give us eternal life. Yet, you want us to not only have eternity with you, but to live well on earth. The best way for us to live well is to become more like you. Give us the courage to allow you to work in our lives, to die to self, so we may become the people you have created us to be. Praise your glorious name. Amen.
Contributed by Karen Vine