Friday, March 7, 2014

Transform

All in one swift, heart-pounding millisecond, my life was transformed.  I had glanced at the results of my test.  The fear that ensued was suffocating, the dreams I once had haunted every waking second, the questions battered the inside of my skull abusively.  Pregnant.  18 years old and pregnant.  A self-proclaimed Christian girl, unwed and pregnant.  I was showered in shame, clothed in consternation, and subjected to highest level of self-doubt I had ever experienced.

Pregnant.  What now?  God, what do I do now?  Am I even worthy of talking to You?  I have disobeyed you, and now look at me.  My family will be so disappointed.  My church ... how can I go there?  I can't even face myself.  Are you upset with me, Lord?  Can I call on You to help me, even after all that I've done?

Finding out I was pregnant less than a month after graduating high school was one of the most devastating moments for me (at the time).  I was bound for my freshman year at University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I had high hopes and dreams for myself, and for all the hopes I had for my life, my parents had even more.  How could I tell them I was pregnant?  How could I make it more real by telling people out loud?

Fast forward a couple of months, after all the agony and surprise of telling people the news, and I began to realize something grand was happening in my heart.  My thoughts stopped focusing so much on myself, and I started to pray more, giving my situation over to Jesus.  I started loving this little being that was developing inside of my young womb instead of fearing him or resenting him.  Love took on a new meaning.  It was everything I could have never imagined at 18 years old; it was selfless and pure and something that I can only explain as God's Love.  For the first time, I fantasized about cuddling a sweet little person that I would love with abandon.  During my sleepless nights in the dorm at UW-Madison, I started writing this baby notes in my journal, notes about the kind of mommy I promised to be and the kind of relationship I wanted him to have with Jesus.  I transformed dramatically, even before I met my sweet son.

Once my son was born, nothing was ever the same again.  My soul grew wiser, truer, and deeper.  All I needed was one glance at him, and my purpose was redefined.  I no longer cared about all of my old dreams; Julien was my new dream, all wrapped up and tiny in my arms.  And I knew that I would never walk a day without Jesus again, because it was only with Him that I could do anything right in this fragile situation.

Julien is now eight years old, and I look back over those eight years with hot, gushing, joyful tears.  I think of all the times he has called me "Mom." There is no greater joy in my heart than what is packed behind that word: Mom.  I love saying prayers with him each night at bedtime.  Once he's asleep, I sneak watchful minutes that are billowy with love; I trace the curve of his eyelids once more, pondering the miracle of his eyelashes that have joined hands while he slumbers. And after these moments, while I drift off to my own dreamland each night, I often see his green eyes glinting in the sunlight and mischievous grin as he takes off on his bike with his blond hair peeking from beneath his helmet.  I hear his giggle, and the charismatic way he tells his stories, leaving out not-a-single-detail!  I pray for his life, that it will be long and full of many more great stories to tell.  Most importantly, I pray that my son will be a Warrior for God's kingdom.

I can't believe the thought of my son used to evoke fear and anxiety because of the change that motherhood would bring.  What I know now is that the greatest blessing has come from something unexpected, something that would require more than what I had within myself.  This blessing resulted in a grand transformation.

Faith transforms us, just like parenthood transforms us.  If we are living "faith" correctly, just like if we are being good parents, we are allowing ourselves to be transformed so that we carry out the greatest Love to those around us.

We must daily ask ourselves: Is my faith in Jesus transforming my life?  

If it isn't, we must reevaluate everything.  Everything.

People love the side of Jesus that commands humility, love, and acceptance.  Even my non-Christian friends will say they love Jesus' principles.  But Jesus wasn't about principles; he was about radical change.  Radical.  Change.  If we aren't living differently from the world, loving our enemies (I know this one is difficult...oh-so-difficult), praying in earnest each day for more revelation, helping those less fortunate, and overall treating every deed as if it is for Jesus, then...well...we're missing out, and we are not being disciples.  Jesus didn't die for me so that I could freely forsake everything He taught.  Heaven reached earth when Jesus walked here, and I believe that when that crazy-awesome miracle happened, we should pay attention not only to believe, but to follow.

Believing in Jesus is easy; the Bible tells us that even the demons believe (and they shudder).  My pastor often says, "Jesus didn't go up to the disciples and say, 'Believe in me.'  He said, 'Follow me.'"  We all know what following means, so I will skip the vain illustration of follow-the-leader or fashion trends in pop culture.  Following involves action, and to do it well, it requires heart and deliberate concentration.

In Matthew 16:24, Jesus said we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow Him.  The very first part of this - denying ourselves - is so counterculture and counterintuitive that we may just have to check and re-check our pride at the door on a minute-to-minute basis!  Jesus said we will be blessed for our humility (Matthew 5:5), and I trust in His word that we will be someday.

But it's not just denying ourselves, it's about our willingness to suffer and endure trials and hardships.  It's about laying down our lives so not to forfeit our souls (Matthew 16:25).  It's about saying "no" to the world, and delighting in our service to the King.  It's about treating others with Great Love, whether or not you think they deserve it.

A good measure of your transformational faith is how you treat other people, both to their faces and behind their backs.  I see too many Christians (and I have been "that" Christian myself) who say they love Jesus, and then they treat others with grave disrespect, either to their faces or behind their backs.  They take joy and pride in the slander of their co-workers, friends, or acquaintances.  No matter how difficult it is, we must love one another.  We must love one another enough to stay out of the gossip, believe in their beauty (even if it's latent), forgive them in our hearts when we're wronged, and treat them with respect.  James points out this hypocrisy: "With the  tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  Brothers and sisters, this should not be."

Jesus also says, "...love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you..."  So, yes, we have to love our enemies, too.

Trust me.  We will need to ask the Holy Spirit for help in this.  It's okay to humble yourself and ask for help.  Love is His deal.  It's what God does.  We love because He first loved us.  :)

Jesus is a rebel of sorts; He takes everything the world says we should do and tells us to do the opposite.  He loves whom the world deems unlovable, shushes the self-righteous, and breaks all of the "rules" of our day and age.  When the world tells us, "Every man for himself," Jesus tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself."  When the world tells us we are allowed to hold grudges, Jesus tells us to be merciful.  When television, radio, advertisements, and movies tell us to use our bodies for pleasure, to gossip about our neighbor, to gain the most wealth and things we can, Jesus tells us to be pure in heart.  He tells us these things out of wisdom and out of love.

I challenge you to open up to the New Testament and read the words of Jesus.  Hang on His every word, for He imparts only heavenly wisdom.  Think about these things every day.  "Write them on the tablet of your heart."

Just like I want to be a better mommy every single second of every single day, I also want to become a true FOLLOWER of Jesus.  I don't want to live this life only believing; being lukewarm is not an option.  I want to live this life following Him and transforming.  I want to be passionate and on fire with Love for others.  I want to see God's miracles worked out in front of me, and through me, as I walk out my faith in obedience.  I want the Lord to look at my life and see a willing heart, a person who carries her cross daily, a person who does not forfeit her soul.  And on the day I cross over from earth to heaven, I want to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Will you join me?  He's calling us.  Be transformed.