2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)
18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
What does it look like to be transformed by God? A reader emailed this question, wanting specifics on how transformation applied to his life. I could only offer some of my personal experiences pertaining to the topic. He responded that my email to him “helped a lot”, so I am sharing it in hopes it might benefit others as well.
Not knowing you, I’m unable to personalize the transformative work of God to your life. But if you’re wondering about general things, maybe my experiences will be helpful to you.
I had to understand that God wants me to be the core person He made me to be, not who I’d unknowingly become over my lifetime. I realized that some of “me” has been constant my whole life; some of “me” didn’t really bother me, but it didn’t feel fully comfortable to me either; and some of” me” I thought was wrong, so I trumped her with being intentionally different than I was.
For example, I thought I was required to be nice to everybody, especially the most difficult people to please. Somehow that niceness ended up with a hefty dose of passivity included. It allowed selfish manipulators to capitalize on it. I didn’t know when or how it started, and it never occurred to me that it needed to change. I’d expected God to address my irritability as a problem, not “niceness”!
In the process of transforming that habitual behavior, God challenged me to NOT automatically default to “nice”. Instead, I should trust in my instincts and attend to the Holy Spirit, facing situations as those two things led me. I did that, and found myself handling difficult people with increasing wisdom, confidence, and firmness. Some people didn’t like the change and said so. It took loads of faith to follow Him in this area of transformation. But after a few years of practice, I realized I was able to better interact with all people, even aggressors and manipulators. I’m not often treated like a doormat anymore. I learned my old idea of nice was a complication, not a solution.
Here’s another example: I used to measure myself by others’ reactions to me. Now I know they have to answer for themselves, just as I have to answer for myself. I am who I am, not who people determine me to be. They’re often wrong in their judgment, anyway.
Another example is my adoption of Christian teachings. I picked up the unspoken expectations and spoken rules of churches. I wanted to be pliable and open-minded, so I trusted and complied. I assumed they knew best. Often, they didn’t. I should have let God transform me instead of letting people do that.
Over ten years ago, God started “cleansing my palate” of the flavors I took on from two churches, in particular, that I’d attended. He expressed his disapproval of many of the beliefs and rules that had been imposed on me, including much self-righteousness integrated into their practices. Once God revealed His opinions, I developed a strong aversion to what He disliked. Eventually, I saw how a few assertive people within those churches had changed who I was. They had made me timid and scared of breaking their rules. My compliance with their self-righteousness forced me into a self-righteous plane, inconsistent with my own heart. Complying with people’s rules instead of God’s leading, resulted in isolating me from people with different beliefs.
I also was living superficially, morphing to the external factors of rules and expectations of others. God taught me to value internal factors also, including my own thoughts and characteristics. I learned to listen to others’ beliefs, actively process the ideas before agreeing, and to always await God’s thoughts about it. With God’s guidance over a few years, I slowly learned to be driven from within: by the Holy Spirit and my own thoughts, beliefs, and intuition.
Once I had God’s point of view, and I realized He had never demanded my conformity to peoples’ beliefs and rules, I felt such relief. I was myself for the first time I could remember. It was like “me” being introduced to “me”! And the best thing? — God approved of me, which made self-acceptance much easier.
Like a potter, God had restructured the shape of what people had made me. He kept the clay I was created to be, and reshaped me as He wanted.
Jeremiah 18 (NIV)
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down tothe potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
This amazed me about God, my potter: He was never forceful; he did not smash my old clay pot to gain the new. He simply brought my attention to His opinions, and to overlooked qualities within me. I saw what I hadn’t before, only because He showed me. I changed the shape of my clay pot, not because he forced me to, but because he asked me to — I agreed with Him.
I hope those examples help. I don’t know your story. You may not have experienced much of your true, God-given identity yet. There may be talents, wisdom, or qualities within you that have yet to surface. Or maybe they have, but remained unnoticed — instead you mirrored what people expected of you. Maybe you have already expressed your transformed self, and it was met with disapproval by people.
Trust in what you hear from God about you. Look past those disapproving people at odds with truth, and don’t stop being you. If it is God directing your transformation, an abundance of people will ultimately approve you, too. Don’t forget you have the Holy Spirit’s help — you are not doing this alone.
Philippians 2: (NIV)
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Also, thank you for your kind words. I don’t always think with optimism and belief in people. But when God reveals His thoughts, I do love to share His attitude of restoration, possibilities and mercy. What a privilege to believe in a person and watch them become all that and more.