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.
Kim, my limited experience of you is as an amazing, competent person, with a huge gift for writing and sharing your heart, which is a great help to others. However, I also recognize that this may be a very superficial response to deep pain and the scars of life you have probably been carrying for many years. Your autoimmune illnesses are the mark of someone who has strived and won through. I say this because I know. I also have fibro and rheumatoid arthritis. My biggest weapon in fighting this is exercise, exercise, exercise – riding our tandem with my husband. It is amazing how raising the heart rate and increasing circulation can benefit you far more than just on a physiological level. Anway that is my story and it might not be yours. You are God’s magnificent creation and the only thing that can change your divine essence is to allow the intrusion of worldly thoughts. Thomas Keating is right in the quote above. Keep going, I think you are amazing!
I’m wondering if you’ve ever read the book Healing Backpain by Dr. John Sarno. He is the doctor who pioneered the term TMS (tension myositis syndrome). He believed that the underlying cause of it all is psychological, especially among people pleasers and what he called goodists – people who excel at being modest and self-effacing and taking care of others needs before their own. Anyway, that’s the underlying cause.
However, he also believed that the tension created by the syndrome reduces blood flow to certain areas of the body and this manifests as chronic pain. Point being that, yes, you’re right, exercise is key in restoring blood flow and pulling oxygen back into these areas of the body. I am also a bike rider. I have a mountain bike, two electric bikes, and a stationary bike. It helps me so much.
But getting at the root of it all, those learned people pleasing, perfectionistic behaviors, is key to everything. I’ve literally had moments when I suddenly realized what issue was creating a holding pattern in my body and felt areas that were chronically tight and even spasming completely let go as a result. The mindbody connection is amazing!
Thanks so much for your feedback and love,
Thanks so much for this article Kim! I always love reading your contributions… 🙂 To me, I have come to realize, through trial and tribulation of course, that transfiguration can’t take place without God. We think that we can change ourselves when the truth is, there’s no such thing as “self-improvement.” The whole purpose of our life is to sacrifice the inculcated, borrowed, hand-me-down beliefs that are held deep within each of us. So not “better the self”, but “lose the self in favor of the Divine”. (He who loses his life shall find it). When we agree to suffer the death of those parts of ourselves consciously in any given moment when they arise, God takes them from us and then in that space is revealed a little more of our true wholeness. But that can’t and will not happen without a sacrifice. So we either remain the same or more crystallized in our false persona, or we agree to be made less, through sacrifice, which is really made more….whole…
Thanks, Terri! I think that in the end we’re not really sacrificing that much at all, even though it sure does feel like it at the time. I love the way Pizzuto describes the false self. It’s not false in the sense of being wrong, but more in the sense of not existing at all. It’s a false idea about who we are. Letting go of that false idea is like letting go of air. There was nothing to hold on to anyway. At least that’s how I’m kind of starting to understand it. Kim
Love this Kim. You are a good gift.
Thank you, Roger. You are a good gift and a wonderful friend. Kim