The Road to Transformation

By Linda Tancs

In the movie Eat Pray Love Julia Roberts’ character remarks that ruin is the road to transformation. The remark was sparked by a tour of an ancient Roman ruin, but its deeper meaning is related to failures in life as the film’s story line indicates. It’s a compelling statement, and oftentimes we do think of transformation in the context of some failure that preceded it. But why focus on failure? I prefer Thomas Edison’s famous positioning statement: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Those “10,000 ways” are success stories, don’t you think? Every time we discover a way that doesn’t work, we’re that much closer to finding a way that does work—and learning a whole lot about ourselves in the process. The point is that transformation isn’t an event, it’s a process.

That process occurs by the grace of God, one baby step at a time. By testing the waters, we discern His will (Romans 12:2). Regardless of how long the road is, He that began a work in you will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). The Bible is packed with examples of people who were utterly transformed, Jesus’s death of course being the ultimate illustration of transformative, redemptive meaning. Think, too, of the apostles, ordinary men who became great leaders and kingdom builders. And Paul, the persecutor-turned-evangelist. David evolved from shepherd boy to a king. Remember Moses, Gideon, Ruth, Habakkuk. Their minds and hearts were all renewed in God’s Word in countless ways, bringing peace, joy and strength in times of triumph and adversity.

Think about what God has taught you from your “10,000 ways.” Would you have learned as much without Him?

From Nothing to Something

By Linda Tancs

How much faith would it take to move a mountain? According to Matthew 17:20, that which amounts to the size of a mustard seed will do. Given that a mustard seed ranges from approximately 0.039 to 0.079 inches in diameter, God asks very little of us in the faith department.

Our faith journey is a lot like the life cycle in the production of a mustard plant: germination, leaf development, stem elongation, inflorescence emergence, flowering, fruit development, ripening and senescence. Of course, we often get stuck at the planting stage. We doubt that germination will ever occur or, if it does, it might not be to our liking. We plant thought or word seeds that undermine our progress and impair the trust relationship we seek to have with God. Seeds need fertile soil to grow, the right conditions to manifest. It’s no accident that Jesus used a seed to make His point. And it’s more than just the concept of growth happening in a dark place. Arguably, the seed is the most powerful symbol on earth. What could be stronger than a seed? It pushes through the toughest elements—rocks, stones, piles of mulch—and yet is unthwarted in its mission to germinate.

Are you determined to nurture seeds of faith? Faith is strengthened by understanding God’s Word. Consider the parable of the sower that Matthew recounts in chapter 13. A seed sown along the path is akin to the Word of God that is not understood by the listener; it’s easily manipulated by the devil. A seed falling on rocky ground is the Word left unpracticed by the listener. It takes no root and is easily forsaken when trouble comes. A seed falling among thorns is the Word choked by worldly concerns and thus unable to bear fruit. The Word that is heard and understood is like a seed sown in fertile soil that yields a good harvest. So using our plant analogy, you’re more likely to flower and ripen if you don’t get choked by thorns. What are the thorns in your life? Do you trust God to bring you to victory?

Now back to that mustard plant. Which stage of the life cycle are you in? How did you get there? Where do you need to go next? Make it to the harvest (senescence) by renewing your mind daily with His Word.

The Only Way Out is Through

By Linda Tancs

British swallows spend their winter in South Africa after having traveled south through western France, across the Pyrenees, down eastern Spain into Morocco and then across the Sahara.

As often happens with life, we can learn many things by taking a look at the natural world. So what does the swallows’ journey show? In a nutshell, it’s that the only way out is through. The birds’ seasonal migration illustrates perseverance. They don’t avoid the route; they accept it—or risk their lot by staying put under conditions that foster the migration in the first place.

Humans, on the other hand, are hard-wired for shortcuts. It takes many forms. We call it the path of least resistance, the easy way out. It affects mental reasoning and even physical performance (think of all those keyboard shortcuts). What route in life are you avoiding, or attempting to short circuit? Maybe it’s a new business plan to replace the failing one. Or a new career trajectory to make better use of your skills and interests. Perhaps it’s a relocation or improved parent/child relationships.

Did Moses find a “workaround” to avoid leading the Israelites through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-22)? Did Joshua abandon the conquest of Canaan, which took years to complete (Joshua 11:18)?

Timing is everything. Getting through, rather than just getting by, takes patience. Even the swallows don’t fly non-stop. They pause to rest. It’s a matter of patient endurance, summed up nicely by John Greenleaf Whittier, a 19th century American poet, in his poem Don’t Quit:

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is strange with its twists and turns

As every one of us sometimes learns

And many a failure comes about

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—

You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out—

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell just how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far;

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Now get through it. What’s waiting for you on the other side?