You hear it all the time. “He/she isn’t the person I married–he/she changed.” When couples spend their lives together, the events they experience do change them–physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This can be scary and frustrating. However, change is inevitable, and it’s the way we were designed.
We see it foremost in our physical transformations from infant to toddler to school age children to teenagers to adult. During this time, the body changes exponentially. The baby doubles its birth weight in the first few months. We become mobile and verbal. We develop the ability to read and write and play sports. Then, when we become adults, and it seems the changes have stopped, we find we are still in a flux of transition as we reap the effects of the care (or lack of care) we showed our bodies.
In addition, our response to the events of our lives and the information we are exposed to often change formerly steadfast opinions and ideas. We travel and we read and we have discussions with others, and we find our minds being changed. While this seems duplicitous, it is the way we grow. We should change our thoughts on things as we gain more information and life experience.
We Are Changing Spiritually Too
While it is easy to see how this works physically and ideologically, we are often afraid of this same type of growth spiritually. We idealize the faith we had when we first became believers when things felt passionate and seemed clear. While it is tempting to desire to go back to these early days, it is actually not helpful.
If we look at the lives of the disciples, we will see this idea fleshed out for us. We see men who were transformed by Jesus, not once, but multiple times. We are first given a glimpse of these wayward men as they were called from their normal lives into discipleship. Matthew was a hated tax collector. Simon was a zealot (a member of a fiery political group). James and John were fishermen. They were uneducated men, not high in the echelons of society. Their first transformation came as a response to the call of Jesus where they left all and followed him.
The three years they lived with Jesus reveals them as pupils who don’t seem to get it. Over and over again they misunderstand Jesus and his purposes. Though they sit under His teaching, His truths seem out of reach. As a result, when Jesus dies on the Cross, their world is destroyed.
They had interacted with Jesus under a false idea that he would become a strong, political leader. When he did not do what they anticipated, their previous faith no longer fit. The three days that the disciples mourned, they mourned without hope. I imagine they looked back to the earlier days before Jesus’s death when their world made more sense, and they could see how Jesus was working.
An Easter of Transformation
Then on Sunday, their faith would change again and in a way they could never have predicted. Two disciples traveling on a road to Emmaus encounter Jesus though they do not recognize him. When they recount the events of Jesus’s death and possible resurrection, this stranger proceeds to teach them saying “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 13:25-27). When he later reveals himself to them, “They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 13:32). All of a sudden, their understanding of Jesus is transformed. For forty days more days, Jesus lived amongst the disciples teaching them anew.
Though they had walked with Jesus for several years, their understanding of him changed tremendously. The faith they initially had in Him was not the same as the faith they came to have in him later. It didn’t stop with Easter either. They experienced Jesus anew as He worked through them to establish His church.
This is true for us also. While it is tempting to look back on the early stages of our faith and wish for that time again, that faith won’t fit us anymore. Instead, we must walk with Jesus through our lives, even through times when things don’t make sense or are painful. We will find that though He has never changed, our understanding of Him has, and this is His plan all along.
We Can’t Go Back to the Beginning
Just as it would be preposterous for us to try to put on the clothes we wore as a newborn, we cannot relive the beginnings of our spiritual walk. Do not be discouraged by this though. While the change was painful, the disciples’ faith after Jesus’s resurrection was infinitely more real and more satisfying than the juvenile hopes and understanding they had previously held. Our life experiences can hurt, but they can also bring us closer to God, revealing Him in a way that would have been impossible if we hadn’t been on this journey.
When we understand this, it also helps us to be more gracious to those around us who are also on their own journeys. If this is our spouse, we must release them from the person they used to be and allow them the freedom to change, just as God allows and encourages us to do. This is often messy and uncomfortable, but this is the way of our lives. The grace we receive from God to be in transition is the same grace we can offer to our loved ones. Paul tells us, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) We have hope that the changes occurring in us are crafting a glory that we can’t always see.
As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ this year, let’s celebrate with a fresh understanding of who Jesus is and the glory that He is working in us and those we love. In this way, we will all have a faith that truly fits.