I sometimes struggle with the word transformation. Not because I’m afraid of change. I’m one of these odd people who tends to be pretty routine in my day-to-day life, and yet I like to mix things up from time to time.
The word bothers me because my constant challenge in life has been to love and accept myself as I am. There’s always been this underlying fear that I’m not good enough. I need to improve, be better. For most of my life, I didn’t realize just how much I doubted myself. Self-doubt became an unrecognized driving force.
As a result, I launched into many self-improvement campaigns, all of which more or less fizzled into nothing. To this day, I struggle with a condition known as tension myositis syndrome (TMS). It’s a psychogenic condition that causes real physical symptoms, such as chronic pain, gastrointestinal issues, and fibromyalgia.
I believe TMS, as it manifests in my life, stems from an emotional program for happiness, as Father Thomas Keating would have put it. I have a habit of seeking acceptance and esteem through people pleasing and trying to be all things to everyone.
So, I drive myself to prove I’m worthy and good, and that driven part of me absolutely loves the idea of transformation.
Yes, transform me, change me into something instantly lovable and good. Please. Do it now!
The problem with this approach is it doesn’t take into account that I’m already good and lovable just the way I am.
In fact, when the desire to transform ourselves is based on an underlying belief we’re not good enough, that very belief necessarily thwarts our efforts to make positive changes.
I mean, how can someone who isn’t good enough possibly ever get it right?
See what I’m saying?
For me, learning to love and accept myself is the greater challenge. Yet, as Cynthia Bourgeault has pointed out, Christian spirituality is urgently and irrevocably set upon the total transformation of the human person. This intrigues me.
Following Jesus implies – no – it demands transformation.
You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” John 3:7
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24
If any of you want to be my followers, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. Matthew 16:24-25
Feeling resistant, I prayed about this. Lord, how am I to understand this call to transformation?
The response was immediate and clear.
Being transformed isn’t about being made better, my child. It’s about being made whole.
The next day God reminded me again.
I do not wish to change you, my child, only to complete you – to complete what I started in you.
For the last several days, I’ve been sitting with this idea of transformation as completion, being made whole in God. My sense is that God doesn’t want to change who I am, but rather make me more perfectly who I am. I think I can live with that.
I thank God for always meeting us where we’re at. Gently, kindly, lifting us up. Bringing us into the Divine embrace. One day, one prayer at a time.
I wonder. What does transformation mean to you? Scroll down and leave a comment if you have any thoughts about this.
Consider this from Father Thomas Keating:
Interior silence is one of the most strengthening and affirming of human experiences. There is nothing more affirming, in fact, than the experience of God’s presence. That revelation says as nothing else can, “You are a good person. I created you and I love you.” Divine love brings us into being in the fullest sense of the word. It heals the negative feelings we have about ourselves. (Open Mind, Open Heart p. 66)
Take a listen to this song:
Read Cynthia Bourgeault’s excellent book on Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening.