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Transformation: The Power of Taking Ourselves Less Seriously

Transformation Blog: Readings from Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus



Transformation: The Power of Taking Ourselves Less Seriously

Brandon Cook

Since discipleship is an on-going process of transformation, we have to ask, How does transformation happen?  And, more specifically, in regards to the topic at hand, how does confession and repentance lead to transformation? 

Remember that transformation happens, simply, by seeing Who God is.  When you see the God of all grace and love, and allow Him to embrace you, you cannot help but be transformed.[1]  This requires a re-orientation, because up until this seeing we are often in fantasy, about both who God is and who we are.

Repentance and confession, simply put, allow us to see who we are: namely, that we are not God.  This seems obvious, but it is a reality which, in practice, we often miss.  Every time we try to wrest acceptance from others based or validation for ourselves based on how smart or talented we are, or how good looking or successful, or how much we own, we are attempting to gain on our own terms what only can be received fully in God.  Thus, in a very real sense, we believe we are God.  Confession and repentance is an acknowledging of our weakness, that we can’t get everything right, which is why Christianity is all about needing a Savior.  "We cannot save ourselves," is the core cry at the heart of confession and repentance.  

This frees us to take a different posture towards ourselves.  We become free to step out of the insistence that we can get everything right on our own, which keeps us from the reality that we only come to God in weakness.  We live into this posture, quite simply, by learning to laugh at ourselves.  As Martin Luther purportedly said: “You have as much laughter as you have faith.”[2]  I am not talking about doing wrong and then laughing, I am talking about doing your very best to do right and then, when finding that your humanity and selfishness is still with you, learning to say, “Oh…there I am again!”  At some point we must cease to be surprised or scandalized by our humanity.  Rather than being outraged or ashamed at our selfish thoughts or impulses, you have to simply learn to say, “Yup…that part of my humanity is still alive and kicking!” 

Indeed, our humanity is never going away, and the more time you try wrestling that bear to the ground, the less time and energy you will have for becoming open to God, which is the important thing and the thing that actually transforms you.  Part of transformation, then, is learning to take your sin less seriously.  That probably sounds like heresy since we all know we are supposed to take our sin very seriously.  But it’s taking ourselves less seriously and Jesus more seriously that allows Paul to write, about himself, “I don’t even judge myself!”[3]  He knows that judgment is a waste of time.  Instead, in a quite tangible sense, we have to treat Jesus as more real, and certainly more powerful, than our sin or any weakness that lies within us.

I wake up most mornings focused on myself and often, on some failure in my life or my personality.  If I stay there, I’m kept in a posture of self-focus that makes it quite impossible to be fully open to God, not to mention focused on loving others, which is the heart of following Jesus.  When we learn to laugh at ourselves and refrain from judging ourselves, we are free to focus on God.  We are free to ask, “How can You be so good, to accept me when I’m so unsorted?”  We become postured to live in gratitude.  This is ultimately what pushes us towards a life of meaning, as we become open to all of the possibilities for life and love and beauty which exist outside of ourselves, just beyond our ego’s self-focus. 

[1] Cf. 1 John 3:2

[2] For as often as I can find this quote attributed to the Reformer, I cannot find the attribution!

[3] I Corinthians 4:3