I used to really hate change. I hated change to the point that I wrote an angry letter and petition in my gel pens when my parents wanted to cut down a large tree in our garden. I hated change to the point I sat on my own in church when my family decided to move seats. And I hated change to the point that I wrote a letter to Nick Knowles when we had to move house, spelling out my trauma. But, whether we like it or not, we are always changing. Not only that but it’s (usually) a really good thing.
I’m so glad I’m not the person I was ten years ago, four years ago, even this time last year. I’ll be the first to say that it can be scary to see how quickly our world is always changing; even today I went to buy someone a DVD and realised they would have no way of watching it. It’s amazing sometimes how fast things can move on. When my home town first got a Costa Coffee, I adamantly boycotted suddenly taking a much greater interest in the local coffee shops I had never before been invested in and yet now, in my job, it’s hard to think back to a time in my first year of university before our campus Costa Coffee arrived wondering where on earth we spent our time and how we survived. Obviously, not all change is for the better and it can often feel like with everything changing around us, we want to just stay the same but in many senses, we were made for change.
The beautiful thing in God’s family is that while Jesus accepts us just as we are, he doesn’t leave us that way. He is continually creating in us an ever changing work of art. This year we’ve got to learn about a lot of big theological words like Justification, Propitiation and Sanctification and we recently had a whole day looking at sanctification. A constant pursuit of holiness as we come to know Jesus more, and wonderfully become more like him. We looked at various definitions and examples and asked questions like why is it necessary? and why isn’t it happening quicker? But I was reading a book just a couple of days later and came across my favourite definition of sanctification yet. And here it is:
So at last we came to the top of a mountain I’d never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden – trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well….
…The water was clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he had said any words out loud or not.
I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it there lying beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.
But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s alright, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.
Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – “You will have to let me undress you.” I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away…
…Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.*
Change can be painful, and sometimes has been this year. At times I’ve been faced with things that have cut right into my heart; words of scripture, conversations with friends, challenging circumstances. So many times I have gone into things, and even the year, thinking I just need to bathe my leg when all the while I have multiple whole dragon skins to shed first. Thoughts, words, habits that I thought were harmless. And far too often have I tried to scratch them off myself. But this year I can say I have grown exponentially in my love for Jesus and am glad for every change he has made. I’m glad I’m not the same person I was when I started Relay and I’m glad he’s still not finished.
If anything was to describe my growth on Relay, it would be this story. At times it has been hard as I’m faced with my own sin and idols, but at the end of it I can say I’m a child again. A beautiful and loved child of God. Because the more I see of my own sin, the further I fall into his grace. I know that there is still a lot more to change and I pray that while it will inevitably be hard, I will enjoy the process and that each and every time I fail, I will be able to come back and say I am a child again. 🙂
*The Voyage of the Dawntreader C. S. Lewis