Yesterday morning as I spoke on the phone with our dear friends, Jenny and Jeff Gunter, I looked through the window at our garden area. I noticed a butterfly hanging upside down on a papaya leaf, motionless, to the point of seeming to be dead. After my wife got on the phone, I went to check it out. What I saw was this beautiful butterfly hanging on to the clear chrysalis that had held it while it transformed from a caterpillar to the lovely insect in front of me. It was motionless while it recovered from coming out of that little place and while its wings dried.
I was witnessing some of it’s first moments as a flying creature. I wonder what it thought of me and my camera, constantly moving and drawing ever closer. I must confess that my thoughts around this event drew my attention during the video sermon that morning at church. There are many ways that I could view this but my thoughts focused around the opportunity offered by transformation and the option we have each new day to be different than we were before. God moves in and around our lives to give us that opportunity EVERY day. As many of you know, I spent 10-12 years as a drunk. God called me out of that place and I am a much better child of God because I answered that call. I had left church and God behind when I married and went to college. Re-“turning to God” enabled God to transform my old and miserable life into something much better. My journey and my growth as a human is far from over but truly trying to live as a Christian in my new life helps to guide and ground me, buoying me up during the darker times and putting those mountaintop “God” moments into perspective when I am fortunate enough to have them.
As a child, I was taught and accepted a very literal translation of the Bible. This second time around of living as a Christian is a different experience for me, my world views and opinions are significantly different. My views of “sinners” are different, I am one, along with virtually everyone else, but I am, along with everyone else, clearly also a beloved child of a benevolent God. I now know that I am capable of doing terrible hurtful things, often with words. I did it quite often in the bad old days, especially when I was angry. Those words and the hurt they caused can never be changed.
I am now able to forgive myself for my inhuman words and actions due to God’s extraordinary gifts of never-ending love and grace. The only thing that we have to do to get these gifts is to recognize and accept them. This was Christ’s message to us over and over again. A person’s experience, faith and spiritual maturity change over time and I, personally, find my views on many things are quite different than they were before I developed and overcame my drinking problem with God’s help. These days I understand that the Bible is an God inspired document, translated into many different languages. We all bring our accumulated wisdom, understanding and biases with us each time we read the Bible. That’s one of the reasons that we can read a passage multiple times and get a much different understanding of a chapter or verse with each reading, even though the translation/version of the Bible we use may be exactly the same one it always was. If you want to learn more about the basis for much of my theology, look up the Wesleyan Quadrilateral which teaches that we use and need to use four sources as the basis of theological and doctrinal development: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience while acknowledging that Scripture is always primary.
As I mentioned earlier, I wrote the first part of this piece up to the words ” My journey and my growth as a human is far from over ” while listening to the sermon Sunday. The sermon was based on James 3 and addresses “Taming the Tongue”.
At the end of that service, one of the regular attendees, confessed in no uncertain terms that she struggles with this problem. After she said this, she asked God to provide her with a transformation. Her words fit in so well with what I had been writing that I shared with her what I had written up to that point. In addition, I would like to say to her “We all struggle with something. In my drunken days, I said terrible things to so many people. God will provide the transformation you seek. You are a beloved child of a loving, grace-full God. Forgive yourself and work to be better tomorrow than you were yesterday. That’s what new life in Christ is all about! God loves you and always will!
Please include the following people in your prayers:
- This woman, who was courageous enough to tell others of the challenge she faces.
- A two and a half year old Guatemalan girl named Genesis. She has cancer and started chemotherapy last week.
- All those serving in mission in Guatemala and around the world.
May you feel and recognize God moving in your life today and always!