A young man, known for his prowess in drinking all of his friends under the table, was converted to Christianity. Desiring a change in lifestyle which included giving up wine, women and song, he joined a monastery known for its austere living conditions. He found the conditions sparse, including the meals. During Lent conditions became even more austere, as the monks fasted several times a week and many of the evening meals consisted of only bread and water. As Easter approached, many of the monks, especially the more senior ones, became ill from the effects of their limited diets. The young man, however, survived very well, relishing the fact that he, as a novice, was doing better than the other monks. But as he thought about this one day, he was horrified to realize that his attitude was much the same as it had been during his pre Christian drinking days. Just as he had taken pride in besting his buddies in drinking he now took pride in fasting his fellow monks under the table. He had changed from a secular to a Christian worldview. He had a totally new set of friends. His lifestyle had totally changed. But one thing was still the same; he continued to take pride in outperforming others. Though many things had changed, his heart was still the same; pride had remained in the center of his heart. In all of the changes that had occurred in his life, he had never dealt with his heart issue.
Like this young man, it is much easier for us to deal with the externals of our lives than to examine what is going on inside. We can change jobs, but maintain the same drive to always be number one. We can volunteer for activities at church, not because we have a servant’s heart, but because we want to be thought of highly. We can push our children into sports, not because it is good for them but because we seek to live vicariously through our children. The temptations and sins which we struggle with will not go away by merely changing the externals surrounding them. While changing the externals often helps new converts, such change will not tackle the root causes. If true change is to occur, it must begin inside and work its way out. This is why Jesus said that the problem is not what goes into a man, but what comes out.
True change requires transformation. St Paul says that we should stop being conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Andy Baker, a missionary to Bolivia with Word Made Flesh notes that transformation and submission go hand in hand. Reflecting on their relationship he states “transformation is the result of repeated submission over time”. He adds that Jesus invites us on a journey – a journey in which we will be changed as we turn over our lives to him, submitting to his leadership.
Submission requires letting go of oneself, willingly releasing control to another. Submitting ourselves daily to Jesus begins the process of inward transformation which leads to changed lives. Until the young man, dealing with the issue of pride, was willing to make that submission, his life would never be transformed. Until we are willing to do the same, we will never experience the release from frustration and guilt for our failures. It is only through submission that we discover the power of God evidenced in our lives, transforming us into new creatures. What change is occurring in your life? Is it due to submission to Jesus?