History, Failure, and the Daily Practice of Turning

I sat on the back porch eating a bowl of oatmeal. A book in one hand and a spoon in the other; the coffee beside me had gotten cold. The devotional I was reading mentioned the difficulty we have of moving beyond our history to embrace life with God. I nodded an affirmation. As one in the second half of my life, I have a lot of history---a good thing if you think of the alternative. The problem is the culture tells us our history, who we have been and more importantly, what we have done, determines who we are.

We enjoy our accomplishments and they seem a reasonable way to express who we are, but like a meme on Facebook, they quickly disappear out of the newsfeed. Our egos are boosted for a moment, but it's not long until we need another fix. 

Our failures are sticky. They stay with us. Failure is hard to shake so we carry it for a long time. Our failures become very familiar to us because we tend to roll them over and over in our minds. Failure marks us and we begin to believe it defines who we are.

This is why Jesus instructed us to die daily. Every day we need to be converted. We need to pick up the cross and identify our lives with Him. We are saved and being saved.

Convert: to change or be able to change from one form to another. Origin: Middle English (in the sense ‘turn around, send in a different direction) based on Latin, convertere   ‘turn around’ from con ‘altogether’ and vertere ‘turn.’



Transformation isn’t a one and done proposition any more than it is a calculation of our success to failure ratio. Transformation happens with the act of dying daily, of beginning where we are on the given day. We are transformed when we turn again and again and again.

As I write these words, a song popped into my head. The song came to me as I considered the place where I sit on the back porch observing the resurrection of the trees, the grass, and flowers. The hummingbirds have returned. A breeze is blowing and everything speaks of life.

It is the birds (not the Byrds) that are singing ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ to me this morning. The song recorded by The Byrds in 1965 is inspired by the words in Ecclesiastes 3, the words of King Solomon reflecting on the seasons, how nothing is static. Change will come. “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

(Jesus said)… “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

       And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
(Luke 9:22-25 ESV)

I'm tempted to skim over these verses and go on up the mountain with the Teacher. Jesus was speaking to his disciples after all. At the time, they had no idea what He was saying. I imagine myself sitting with them kindergarten-style on the ground, listening but distracted, picking up pebbles and throwing them at seed globes of dandelions; fidgeting because I don’t know what to make of it.



In our world where accomplishment is highly valued, it seems weird, even foolish, to approach the season or the day as a new opportunity. We are supposed to be building—- a resume, a portfolio, a life and a legacy. Although we like the thought of having do-overs, we usually don’t want to start where we are. We want our accomplishments to matter.

That’s where regret threatens to trip us up. (I wrote about regret a couple of weeks ago.) What if we choose to start where we are? What if we embrace the idea that every day is a day of conversion, of being formed and transformed?

After a while of living like this, we will hardly know who we are. That’s the point Jesus was getting at. He was leading the disciples, and in turn, me and you. He was leading us to life in the kingdom of God. He was telling us how to be saved.

You may have turned to Jesus many, many years ago. There may be a day and time you point to as your conversion, but if you have been given the gift of years, you know you have turned again and again through many seasons of life. The temptation of mid-life and beyond is to stop turning. The turning of the days on a calendar starts to feel like losing. This is a lie. Those in Christ have eternal life. When we turn we are not depleted, we are saved, transformed. We lose the “whole world” and find ourselves.



I’ve been a sporadic “turner” over the years. There were seasons when I turned out of desperation. There were a couple of seasons I didn’t turn at all, days when the cross seemed too heavy to bear; no birds were singing.

The intention of the second half of my life has been to turn daily, to rise with the sun and begin anew each day, seeking to live under the authority and the power of the cross of Jesus. I write that sentence and don’t really know the breadth of what it means, but I’m not discouraged. Paul instructed that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. That’s where I start because I know after living a long time that my thoughts lead my actions.

Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Romans 12:1-2 explains it so well:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

Will I grow up as I grow old? Will I mature? Will I be transformed until Christ is formed in me? Is it my intention to be fitted for the kingdom rather than the culture?

This daily dying is grace and opportunity. It is “profitable,” paying forward in eternal dividends. 

Turn. Turn. Turn.


Comments

  1. Readily recognising what He wants from me and responding is exactly where I'm at Dea.
    Very much a work in progress but it's certainly easier these days because have done what I've heard Him prompt me to do for decades now, I've learnt that I can utterly TRUST Hin with the outcome of obeying those prompts.They no longer scare me. In fact, my greatest JOY is to do the will of Him who sent me; the best and most satisfying things I do, are the things He suggests.
    Oh how I love Him.
    Journeying towards Him every day with eternity in our hearts, making each day count for eternity someway, somehow, is so rewarding, even if at the same time there are some deep sorrows and as yet, unanswered prayers. Learning to TRUST Him was my turning point of note.
    God bless you, lovely lady.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your heart, Mary. I relate so much to your experience. Learning to trust is so key. It is the place of surrender, the dying to live. Thank for living for Jesus and in Jesus. You are a light in the world.

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