I wept my entire drive to church on Sunday.
We had to wake up early and get our kids before church and so I had a couple of hours to get excited about Easter. So on the way to church I plugged in my iTunes and prepared to sing my heart out in celebration.
The songs that came on took me off guard. All in a row were songs that carried my wife and I through some very difficult moments. They were the songs that expressed our hurt and loneliness in those times and assured us God had not given up on us, even when it felt like he had. They were the songs that expressed hope and trust when we couldn’t.
There is something about hearing the songs that held us together in our low moments on Easter. Easter is when we celebrate the defeat of darkness and death and the redemption of all things. Easter morning those old songs took on a whole new life. On the other side of those difficult moments, I see them with new eyes. With Resurrection eyes.
The tears Sunday morning were not of sorrow but of an amazing realization of Gods faithfulness. It is a reminder I am not the same person I was when those songs were holding me together.
I have been transformed.
And God remaining faithful and working redemption in those areas are a huge source of that transformation.
Christians talk a lot about transformation. Every time a new Transformers movie comes out, 90% of youth group retreats will have that logo and Romans 12:1 on their flyer. We spend a lot of words on being a new creation and how Christ makes us into something different from we were before.
Yet we often don’t engage in much transformation. It is way too hard. We tweak, we rearrange, we add on, we incorporate. But we don’t transform.
It is much easier to know more things. It is much easier to tweak certain things we do. It is much easier to go through life with the same old paradigms, even when they do not fit with our actual experience. Transformation requires loss and re-evaluating and trying out new things which we have never done or experienced before.
One Sunday the disciples assume the Messiah is going to lead a violent revolution liberating Israel from Roman rule. This is slowly broken down throughout the week, ultimately ending in the crucifixion. Their way of understanding the world had died.
Yet the next Sunday, Jesus is risen from the dead, and they realize this kind of Messiah is greater than anything they had ever imagined!
I can imagine Jesus making a lot more sense to them after the Resurrection. As they reflected back on his ministry and teachings I’m sure they often had the sentiment: “Oh, that’s what he meant!!” But they could only have these insights because they were looking with new eyes. With Resurrection eyes.
This is why you can come back to Bible stories you have heard your whole life and gain an entirely new understanding. When we allow Jesus to transform us, we come back and see those same old stories with new eyes.
If we don’t have new eyes, then we are just spinning our wheels. We are just saying the same things in different ways. We are tweaking and adding.
Jesus is not concerned with how much you know, or repeating the same tired old things over and over. Jesus is concerned with transformation.
Easter weekend is about transformation.
But you can’t have Sunday without Friday and Saturday.
One of my favorite education books, speaks about this process as “Shipwreck.” Shipwreck can occur in lots of ways. We can suffer or hurt or despair. Or we can simply encounter ideas or people outside of our box. Anytime our way of viewing the world doesn’t work, we experience shipwreck.
As she says, “Easter is what happens when we look back and say: I survived that?!?”
And when we survive and come out the other side, we usually find ourselves transformed. We are more aware of the reality of God and the world. We have a greater capacity for empathy and love. We better understand the suffering of others. We are more aware of how God is faithful and what redemption is really about.
There is a new reality on the other side, yet something is always lost in the process.
Yet something is always lost.
Transformation is difficult. Because for transformation to occur, certain things have to die. Transformation only occurs when an old way of doing things or seeing things or living is broken down and replaced with something new.
Saying that difficulties help you grow and become good things is about redemption. It is not that God sends bad things our way, it’s that God is in the business of redeeming bad things. Shipwreck is how we transform, but not in the sense that we are arbitrarily smitten for character building. The promise of Easter is that when we work through our shipwrecks and give them to God, God redeems and transforms.
Transformation helps us better respond to the complex and difficult realities of the world. Transformation frees us from the patterns of living and thinking which do not align with the life of Christ. Transformation increases our capacity to listen and to love. Transformation is moving towards the true identity we have in Christ.
But transformation is difficult. We tend to gravitate towards what is comfortable, safe, and easy. But we need shipwreck if we want to truly be transformed. We need encounters with others and with difficulty and with suffering because they are the only way we begin to break down the ways we have not been transformed into the image of Christ.
Easter weekend is a package deal.
It gives us hope on Friday, perseverance on Saturday and tears of joy on Sunday as we look back over all we have survived and the new life we experience with Jesus.