“In the economy of God, however, there is no short cut to maturity,”
As a child, one of the highlights of primary school was the Easter term, when art classes turned their attention to spring. That inevitably meant creating slightly wonky and surreal ‘trees’, full of pink ‘blossom’, to be displayed on the classroom wall. We painted sturdy brown trunks on what was then called ‘sugar paper’, before indulging in a mad glue and tissue-paper fest, scrunching up the delicate sheets into pleasing blobs and sticking them all over the page with merry abandon and copious amounts of gloopy school glue. While catkins stood drunkenly on the nature table and shattered birds eggs were admired by saucer-eyed children, we moved on to other spring stalwarts. The life cycle from tadpole to frog was laboriously illustrated on many a blackboard, and we were captivated by slimy, wobbly frogspawn in jam jars, watching it develop over a few short weeks into wriggling tadpoles that sprouted legs and subsequently became adult frogs. How magical it seemed, to press our noses against the cool glass of an old aquarium and observe hungry caterpillars munch through a mini forest before weaving a silken chrysalis and disappearing from view, only to emerge sometime later from their cosy cocoons as glorious butterflies. We’d watch them as their damp wings dried out and they patiently flexed their remodelled bodies before being released to fly away into the English countryside.
Metamorphosis: the transformation in form or nature of one living organism into a mature adult through two or more distinct changes. What a wonder!
I’ve been reflecting on the attractive idea of metamorphosis, for those of us who are daughters of the King. There’s a real appeal in the idea of becoming like Jesus overnight isn’t there? How brilliant would it be if, once we’ve surrendered our life to God, accepted His amazing gift of salvation and become part of his Kingdom family, we were instantly little Jesuses in our homes and communities? Wouldn’t it be amazing if our old habits fell away as naturally as the butterfly’s withered chrysalis? The quick temper, the poor self- esteem, the simmering resentment when we feel hard done by, the destructive habits and painful comparison traps. Who wouldn’t want to shed their less presentable character traits with the ease of taking off a coat? No more thoughtless words, an end to harbouring grievances, falling prey to enemy lies, sliding into gossip, nursing bitterness, stingy attitudes and ingratitude. Surely metamorphosis would be a short cut to freedom and contentment.
No short cut to maturity
In the economy of God, however, there is no short cut to maturity, no instant transformation in character. Just as the butterfly needs to strengthen its wings during the process of breaking out of that cocoon, or the tadpole/froglet needs to learn how to use its legs, we learn to walk the Kingdom path, to grow spiritual muscle and become warriors.
In the economy of God, however, there is no short cut to maturity, no instant transformation in character.Jenny Sanders
New Christians and toddlers have some things in common: they fall over a lot, regularly make a mess and take time to develop skills and gain the expertise required to feed, clean and clothe themselves, to handle disappointment, to stand up again having tumbled and to keep going in the face of obstacles, challenges and loss. We learn how to forgive, how to resist temptation, how to press on, how to respond to the voice of our loving parent. There is a natural curve in our progress as we discard the old ways of life and put on the new ones.1 We learn to ‘take captive every thought’2 so that we’re not bullied or ambushed by enemy schemes that seek to drag us away from the Father’s house.
I’ve been feasting at God’s good, lavish table for over 45 years but perfection still eludes me! I carry a living history of the mercy, grace and provision of God through good times and bad, abundance and lack, buoyancy and bereavement, which I treasure, champion and share; but I still know that my tongue is all too quick with a cutting reply. I find it easier to see the down-side of any situation than the good; I am wired for task and achievement more than relationship and, clearly, God hasn’t finished with me yet. I have come through a season of breast cancer with blooming health and a renewed conviction of the faithfulness of God to walk with me through any valley or any sunlit meadow, and I’m sure there will be more twists and turns before my journey is done.
Pace of change
While I am often frustrated with myself regarding the apparently glacial pace of change in some areas of my life, I am grateful beyond measure that the extraordinary love and grace of God continues to carry me onwards through every changing season. I know there is nothing I can do that will put me beyond His reach and that, as a good Father, He rejoices in me regardless of all this.
For those who also look wistfully at the process of metamorphosis and long for more godly characteristics to grow (preferably much more quickly) in their lives, then let me finish with two important words of encouragement:
- Progress, not perfection, is what every parent wants to see in their child. Are you moving on, growing and being shaped like the clay in the hands of the potter?3 Even if the clay didn’t respond immediately under the craftsman’s hands, Jeremiah noted that he didn’t just throw it away and pick another piece. The artisan can remould the most recalcitrant clay into something beautiful; that keeps God – the divine potter – busy in my life every day. I pray that the water of the Holy Spirit will keep me malleable, sensitive and available for His skilled hands.
- While growing in character and Christlikeness is an ongoing journey, salvation is actually described in the Bible in terms of metamorphosis; a dramatic change of ownership and direction. Paul says that those who are ‘in Christ’4 have moved from darkness to light,5 from death to life5; you can’t get much more transformed than that!
‘Change is the only constant in life‘
The old Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: ‘Change is the only constant in life’. Whether you love or loathe it, change is an inevitable part of life as we pass through our allotted time here. Physically, the ageing process starts at birth, and we’re forcefully reminded of that every day when we look in the mirror. Spiritually, change is to be welcomed as evidence of God at work in us and through us as we embrace His abundant life and become the people we were designed and called to be.
The spring blossom still reminds me of both the tissue paper artworks and the annual delight of observing metamorphosis in frogs and butterflies, which I enjoyed as a child. As an adult with a living relationship with their designer and creator, who shows His hand so powerfully in nature, I am content to trust Him to change me by increments as I choose to walk with Him, submit my will to Him, and keep my eyes fixed on Him each day.
One of the advantages of getting older is that I enjoy a longer history of intimacy with Him; I have more stories to tell as I reflect on the path behind me. Sometimes it’s only by looking back that we can see how far we’ve come; try it.
1 Ephesians 4:22-24
2 2 Corinthians 10:5
4Romans 8:1 amongst others; it’s well worth doing a Bible study on this phrase in the New Testament.
Jenny Sanders is an international speaker, prophetic teacher and writer who has been involved in discipling and training Jesus-lovers across streams and denominations for over thirty years. Her passion is ‘to see the lights come on’ for people when they grasp the magnificence of God’s grace and the excitement of living life with Him at the helm. She is the author of Spiritual Feasting (Instant Apostle, May 2020). Jenny is married to Bernard with whom she adventures around the world. They have four fantastic grown & flown children.
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