Last Spring, I went to a transformation experience called the Revenant Process. I highly recommend it to anyone who is feeling stuck and wants to grow in self-awareness and in their leadership. In the room were a dozen or so banners with provocative ideas. One has stuck with me over the past few months:
"Transformation constantly has the character of doing violence,
whether to the claims of the everyday interpretation or to its complacency and its tranquilized obliviousness."
In other words, change is painful. Resurrection can't take place without a death of some sorts. In order for something new to happen, something old has to give. Jesus would often use violent metaphors to describe the type of work he was doing in people's lives.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
"First, take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly." (Matthew 7:5)
"Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)
New wine is moving, bubbling, and expanding as it ferments. Old wineskins are rigid and brittle, incapable of handling the volatility of change taking place within. New wineskins are flexible, adaptable. Able to survive.
Jesus showed up on the scene and was doing an entirely new thing. He was the volatile new wine. People kept trying to stuff his teachings and his work into their old paradigms, but it wasn't working. Their old systems (full of greed, power grabs, legalism, and self-righteousness) weren't built to handle his new work (asking for generosity, servant leadership, grace-filled truth, and God-given-righteousness.) You can't expect rigid mindsets to hold an expanding worldview.
To be able to see what Jesus was doing clearly and join him in the kingdom work, they would have to take the plank out of their eyes. Change the way they see things. Expand their view.
They would have to be born again. We have three daughters, and are about to give birth to our fourth. Childbirth is a violent event. But from that violence comes new life. I don't think this metaphor is an accident.
As I've mentioned before, the word Jesus used for repentance was metanoia, which literally means to change your mind. In a sense, it is having a mental breakdown so that a rebuilding and a healing can begin.
I'm not advocating change for the sake of change. There must be something or someone that we are being called to. Jesus is the new wine. We may not have the legalism of the Pharisees or the paganism of the Romans, but we have our own versions of it. Jesus is inviting us to the difficult task of abandoning those systems for an abundant life. If we are patient and pliable, He is the new wine that brings life and joy. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
Change is painful, and because of that, most of us don't change unless we are forced to. Henry Cloud wrote, “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”
Change requires a death. A death to me being 'right.' A death to the way I've interpreted the story. Perhaps a death to a relationship. And because it requires sacrifice, we resist. We fight. We cling. There's a lot at stake if we let go. There's a lot more at stake if we don't.