I’ve been pondering this word today because well, I personally use it a lot, and we use it a lot at New Life Fellowship, and also because it’s a loaded word. In our American culture, the word “transformation” gets used for outer appearance a lot, which is fine and dandy since it’s a great word to describe a significant visual change. If someone loses a lot of weight, gets a totally different haircut, or changes their entire wardrobe, we generally refer to those instances as dramatic transformations.
Today, however, I’m thinking more about inner transformation. As in, what causes inner transformation? And before you jump to answer that question, let’s pause for a moment.
I wrote about Richard Rohr’s impact on my spiritual formation in my last post. If you’re interested at all about transformation, I highly recommend you read his scapegoating series of blogs starting here. Here’s a highlight (oh but I wish I could basically repost the whole thing!):
We are generally inclined to either create victims of others or play the victim ourselves, both of which are no solution but only perpetuate the problem. Jesus instead holds the pain—even becomes the pain—until it transforms him into a higher state, which we rightly call the risen life.
The crucified and resurrected Jesus shows us how to do this without denying, blaming, or projecting pain elsewhere. In fact, there is no “elsewhere.” Jesus is the victim in an entirely new way because he receives our hatred and does not return it, nor does he play the victim for his own empowerment. We find no self-pity or resentment in Jesus. He never asks his followers to avenge his murder. He suffers and does not make others suffer because of it. He does not use his suffering and death as power over others to punish them, but as power for others to transform them.
Jesus is the forgiving victim, which really is the only hope of our world, because most of us sooner or later will be victimized on some level. It is the familiar story line of an unjust and often cruel humanity. The cross is a healing message about the violence of humanity, and we tragically turned it into the violence of God, who we thought needed “a sacrifice” to love us.
An utterly new attitude (Spirit) has been released in history; it’s a spirit of love, compassion, and forgiveness. As Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
I’m not even going to begin trying to explain any of this. I confess I don’t fully understand this concept of transformation through pain and suffering but when I get a glimpse of it once in awhile, I know it’s the kind of life I want to live. I usually get stuck in the pain of knowing that pain is required for transformation. But I guess it’s a start.