Change what?

“Do you really want to be converted? Are you willing to be transformed? – Henri Nouwen

With these lines I completed my daily reading of Nouwen for today. I began the day with the introduction/biographical section of the Modern Spiritual Masters Series book on Nouwen, and then concluded with a couple of reflections from Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love.

It was the two questions above that finally caught me up into serious reflection of my own.

Do I want to be converted?  Am I willing to be transformed?

This takes me back to my own conversion experience, around the end of my sophomore year in high school.  At the time, and for the next several years, I understood this as a once-in-a-lifetime event; a move from the category “lost” to the category “found” or “saved.”

Soon thereafter, on a spiritual retreat weekend, I heard several different preachers each focus on Romans 12:1-2:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (NRSV)

I memorized and loved this passage. (I memorized it in the King James Version; which i hardly use at all now)  I interpreted my conversion experience, my re-birth (thank you John 3) as having become “transformed by the renewing of [my] mind.”

Nouwen’s questions today, though, have me thinking that perhaps I have lost some focus on this transformation thing.  I too easily focus now on transforming the world rather than my mind or attitude.  I work in a setting where it is easy to focus on transforming others.

But the first thing the Gospel calls us to, I believe, is a place where we invite, allow, plead with God to transform us. Do I really want to be converted?  Am I willing to be transformed?

As we teach the young people in our care, there is much about the world, our past, our peers, that we cannot control.  But there is also much within our grasp within ourselves that we can control.  We can learn to change the way we react to others, to our world, our past, our peers.

Even more powerful than “we can choose” is “we can be transformed.”  God is, I believe now even more than that summer more than 30 years ago, in the transformation business.

Are you willing to be transformed?

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