After I finished Part 1, I realized there was more material I would need to cover before reaching the latter thoughts and questions which ended Part 1. What I’d like to do in this article is challenge and explicate the difference between what it means to be inspired, and what it means to be transformed, by explaining how they are different and why the difference is important to understand moving forward to Part 3.
To begin, think about this: When we are inspired, we consider and appreciate alternatives to what we already think and know; when we are transformed, our way of thinking changes the way we live.
THE FACETS OF TRANSFORMATION
Coming to understand what transformation is, also considers understanding what transformation is not. Basically, transformation (with regards to Christianity) is the recognition of our faults (selfishness, pride, etc.), and the recognizable changes made by surrendering these to God. Transformation is not losing our identity, but finding it through a more fulfilling source. How do we surrender? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we can’t surrender to air; we need a relationship. We can’t have a meaningful conversation with someone who doesn’t exist. Likewise, we need to invite Jesus into our heart so we can speak to Him directly and hear from Him intimately. Letting go of selfishness also requires us to seek the opposite of selfishness—so, selflessness—and in so doing, we make room in our hearts where there was previously the clutter of selfish choices that put ourselves ahead of the rest of the world, and God. When Jesus comes into our hearts, and we share a discussion with Him, the feeling is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. And why is that? Jesus doesn’t judge, criticize, blame, or belittle—He loves. That’s it.
Now, loving doesn’t exclude being honest and authentic, and Jesus certainly inhabits these traits as well. Honesty many times means bringing the truth to the surface, and the truth sometimes hurts because we don’t want to look at it. In this way, Jesus is more real than a human being because He brings what is most important about us to the surface of our heart, and asks us to take a good look at it so that we recognize the problem without any confusion. He doesn’t do this to shove it in our face, but to be unmistaken; He wants to be absolutely sure we don’t stay the same after our encounter with Him. How can we be our best self if we stay the same? How can we be our best self if we hold back what shames us the most and never deal with it, process it, or move away from it? Jesus knows this far better than we do, and when He brings it to the surface and asks us to look at it head-on, He’s holding our hand, patiently waiting for us to ask, “What do I need to do?” He’s already got the answer, but He loves us enough to allow us to want to change on our own accord. In other words, He loves us enough to let us choose what He already knows we need. Our God truly is a loving God.
HOW INSPIRATION COMPARES
We are inspired by people who do things we cannot do, or things we will not do, but which impress us nonetheless. Now, what inspires us may or may not influence us to do anything different, and this is the key difference between inspiration and transformation. Inspiration says “Isn’t this great? Don’t you want to try it?” Transformation on the other hand will say, “If you want this, you’re going to have to do this.” In other words, inspiration allows room for us to sit still with our mouthes hanging open in awe. It motivates us to want to do more than sit still, to move beyond ourselves and into something more; but transformation on the other hand, occurs behind that motivation. That is, transformation occurs below the surface of inspiration, as the substance that invigorates us with the passion to be motivated. For example, I feel inspired to cook when I see my friend cooking in his kitchen like it’s no big deal, despite how I hate cooking and have never enjoyed doing so. Now, that inspiration occurs each time I watch someone cook who enjoys cooking; I’m inspired by their passion to cook, but I am not transformed by watching them cook. In other words, I do not feel called to cook, no matter how inspired I am. I do try to be a little more healthy for my own sake afterwards—especially after watching my friend bake a succulent chicken breast with lemon juice. But I rarely cook, even after watching him at work with his madly impressive culinary skills.
On the other hand, I have been transformed from the inside out, and how I can tell the difference is that, for one instance, for 15 years I had been writing song lyrics and poetry dedicated to my anger, frustration, and bitterness about life. Writing had become an outlet for my negative emotions beginning a couple of years after my parents divorced. I wrote for me in order to express myself. Where, you ask, is the transformation in that if I’ve been writing all along? The transformation is in that ever since I started writing my blog almost 14 months ago, I rarely ever write songs anymore because I feel an absolutely irresistible urge to share the way Jesus has impacted my life, how that impact is worth living for, sharing, and evangelizing about. I’m not on here to preach, I am on here to share my testimony and how if Jesus works in my life so dramatically and transformationally, I want the whole world to experience this—this inner joy that never came from any other source throughout my almost 30 years of existence.
HOW TRANSFORMATION AFFECTS US POSITIVELY
My relationship with Jesus transformed my view of family as well. I used to believe family was only blood; now I fully believe sometimes family isn’t blood at all, that family is where the heart is, and my heart belongs to Jesus, first and foremost. My writing belongs to Him as well, not to me. And I rarely write my songs anymore, not because I feel obligated to write here instead, but because I have so little negative to write about. Every several months, I have something significant that knocks me off my axis point and writing about it helps me process my feelings. But I remember Jesus’s goodness and blessings in my life, and how my life has changed for the better since my faith began, and suddenly writing about my feelings leads me back to wanting to tell all of you how Jesus is real, and that His love is transformational!
I was inspired to hear how Jesus had worked in my friend’s life when I met him in college, and how others had been transformed as I went to church in Florida and then moved to live in California, and soon enough, I began realizing what I was learning about wasn’t about inspiration, but that it ran far deeper than that. I learned that in order to experience what my friends had experienced, a personal experience was needed, and that required a surrender on my part I had never given space or time to before. This was the seed to transformation for me. This is how I learned transformation begins in the heart, and inspiration originates in the brain. With inspiration, our minds recognize the way something we learn is better than our current knowledge base (like the example of my friend’s cooking), but nothing inside of us feels the need to do anything different. When I read about Jesus and listened to my friends describe how He not only inspired them but changed their hearts entirely and re-shifted their deepest desires in the direction of loving others in His name, that went beyond my mind—that went straight to my heart. God doesn’t just inspire through the selfless life of Christ in the Bible, He transforms with Jesus’s resurrection and allows us to ask how we can live differently when we understand the adventure He calls us into through receiving Jesus as the Lord of our lives.
See, inspiration can regard just about anything: Cooking healthier, exercising more, visiting church more often, wearing more stylish clothes, listening to cooler music, reading more sophisticated books, finding more interpersonal friends, studying more effectively, driving more safely, planning more efficiently, writing more eloquently, believing in ourselves more whole-heartedly, and on and on and on. Inspiration says, “Isn’t this amazing?!”, but it doesn’t require anything. Inspiration is like a prerequisite, the antecedent to what happens next. But when we fill ourselves up with antecedents, we never reach the goal, which is the change that the antecedent points towards. If we remain stagnant in receiving hints, we never reach the glory of discovering the treasure, and if we stay stagnant for too long, eventually our stagnancy takes residence by forgetting it was only a temporary visit. Consequently, selfishness continues to be the hot, stinging candle wax perpetually dripping on our skin.
How does this article speak to you? Does understanding transformation and inspiration from a different angle help you see how one affects you in ways the other doesn’t? If you have any questions, please feel free to leave questions in the comments below. If you have anything you’d like to add or mention, please mention that in the comments as well! This will lead into Part 3, where I will continue to talk about secular proverbs, and how our understanding of transformation and inspiration plays into the way we perceive what we read and intake from outside wisdom.
May God bless you as you come to understand how transformation works, and how important it is for us to comprehend the way transformation does not allow us to sit still and think about what we know forever, instead, it calls us to action. How do you respond to this? What does this mean for you? I’d love to hear from you!
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Have a blessed day!