Butterfly Sparks Designs

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Religion vs. Relationship.


“What would Jesus do?”
“Put on the mind of Christ.”
“Be Christ-like.”

Common phrases if you’re a Christian. The types of phrases that we can become numb to because we hear them so often. I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately, and what it means to be transformed to the mind of Christ.

In the thirty-something years that I’ve been a Christian, my perspective on what these phrases mean has been consistent. Do what Christ did. Simple, right? Paul is pretty clear about this, or at least I thought so. I have always thought about the mind of Christ being my response to what is happening around me. That my mind should be Christlike in my response – whether my response is by “doing” or by “saying” something. Respond with kindness, compassion, love, and peace. The action has been the key for me…the doing. I have always read Paul’s instructions to us from that mindset. After all, it makes sense, right? Jesus responded in these ways, so shouldn’t I?

I was talking with someone recently about this, and this person asked me what I thought was an odd and irrelevant question at the time. But this person is quite skilled at digging underneath the surface of what is presented, so I indulged this person’s little “question and answer” exercise. I was asked, “What was the last moment you [I] can remember that you consciously, tangibly, knowingly experienced radical transformation by the power of God?” Wow. Now, that’s quite a question. Over the past few years, I could point to a number of areas where I can now see, looking back, that God was transforming me, and I know that transformation has occurred in my heart in several ways (I still have a very long way to go). But this person’s question was not about those experiences – it was about a physical manifestation of the supernatural healing and transforming power of God…when last had it been so powerful that my body was aware of it as it happened? My answer to the question was a time about 8 years ago. On a late Saturday night/early morning in August, 2001, I drove home from a bar, barely dressed and reeking of smoke and alcohol. On the way home, I finally gave in to the longings I had been carrying for quite some time – to return to God and to reclaim my faith. Instead of driving home, though, I drove my car directly to the front parking space of a church near my home. I sat there for hours, just staring up at the steeple and praying, not knowing what to do next. Cars started to arrive. I realized that it was Sunday morning. I knew if I drove away then that I would not return. So I went in. Just as I was, half dressed in very immodest clothing, and dirty. The moment of transformation didn’t occur as I walked out after the service, but as I walked to the door to go in. I felt the old melt away and pour off of me as the front door opened for me. And I’ve never been the same since. Thank you, Jesus.

After I answered this question, I went on about my days but carried a little bit of frustration. Why is my last recall of a tangible, physical experience of transformation so long ago? I started to become very frustrated that I wasn’t able to point to other definitive moments since then. Have I not opened myself up to what is possible when I surrender to Him, so fully that my body is aware of it as the old melts away? How does this fit in to what it means to have the mind of Christ? Why has it been so long since I have heard/felt a true word from God to me? These have been burning questions for me. God, what is the barrier in me, in my heart, that keeps me from experiencing the fullness of your work and blessings in my life?

I got my answer. Just a few nights ago, in my old flannel PJ’s, standing over my bathroom sink, washing my face before bed. I wasn’t in some high and holy place, I wasn’t at church, I wasn’t in my prayer closet. I was doing my thing, a routine I follow every night. I lifted my face and in the mirror, and what I saw was my answer. My eyes were weary, red, and swollen from a day of grieving a recent and significant loss. And in the red streaks of my own eyes I saw my own heart. In that moment, God spoke to me that the true meaning of “putting on the mind of Christ” is not about what Christ did but why He did it. The mind of Christ is the heart of Christ. And the heart of Christ is about absolute surrender to the Father. It isn’t about the doing. The mind of Christ…the true character of Christ…is about full and ultimate obedience to and trust of His Father. He was not suspicious of His Father’s intentions for Him. He never went anywhere His Father did not lead Him. He never said anything His Father did not speak. He received God’s love. He received God’s grace. He trusted God. My body went hot and I felt the old melt away and the new take residence. I think I might have done my happy dance. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I did.

I can’t give love that I cannot receive. I can’t freely give grace that I don’t freely receive. I can’t give what I have shut out. I can’t trust from a place of distrust. And I have left a wake of destruction by trying to do just that.

I went straight to my Bible and started reading Paul’s writings again. They are leaping off the page with new life. Everything looks different. Everything is different. I guess this is where the “constant renewing of the mind” can finally start, huh?

So, I have a new answer for the question asked of me. I can’t wait to report back to the one who asked it. December 13, 2009, at 10:05 p.m. In my old flannel PJs at my bathroom sink. The night religion became a relationship.

1 comment:

Natalie Ann Schmeichel said...

MELISSA! This happened to me a few months ago and you played a part in it. Loved reading this. Isn't it just so refreshing and amazing and virtually impossible to put into words? (Cue my own happy dance.)

Love you so so so much and I can't wait to spend eternity with you in Heaven!