Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2
I always had trouble understanding this particular passage. It would let me scratching my head, reading it and re-reading it slowly trying to dissect each word and decipher it’s meaning, and still I knew I was missing it. What on earth did ABBA mean by the renewing of the mind? how does this even happen?
I have learned that many a times, passages need to be lived to be understood. And I just experienced that with Romans 12:2.
As many of you know, I am a fairly new military wife, and this is a life I have fought passionately against -and for-. It has been a whirlwind of emotions, from overwhelming fear, to powerful faith, trust, anger, contentment… I have been taken to an emotional rollercoaster that has left me severely motion-sick. And lately, I just couldn’t take it anymore.. and I let go. I gave up. I losen my grip on my fight and slipped into a deep, dark place. I let fear overtake me in such a way, that I resorted to self-protection. I started to live my life in self-reliance, self-preservation, and self-defense. I made plans of my own that weren’t beneficial for my marriage, all under the guise of “doing the right thing for my children” The one thing I didn’t bring into my new plans? GOD. I had no idea how far fear can separate us from God and make us self-dependent, and that is a very scary place to be. I made such radical plans that I even considered quitting photography.
My breaking point came when we went to visit my husband at the base where he is currently training. I knew my attitudes and my emotions wouldn’t be of any help to him during this testing time, and the precious little time we had with him would be wasted if I spent it all pouting and being venomous. I cried out to God “Daddy! help me. I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to feel this way. I ask You, please, change my mind. Please change my heart… renew it. I give up being proud and making plans of my own. I want to see what you see, I want to trust what you have in store. Just, please, change my heart”
For the next two days, I fought an exhausting spiritual battle, waging war against my feelings and my emotions. I fought hard to draw near to God, to take captive all my thoughts and make them obey Christ. It was difficult, it was painful. It was so hurtful to lay down my own plans to self preservation and to open up the possibility that this is indeed a good thing, that my family, and my marriage can, and will survive, if I choose God’s plan, even when I can’t see it and it just doesn’t make sense.
Upon my return to Indiana, I had undergone a tremendous transformation. Nothing short of a miracle. Not only had I relinquish all control over my plans to God, I returned refreshed, restored, powerfully hopeful. I had renewed unconditional love for my husband (which is essential to withstand the long distances and the ever changing orders and military life in general) I was, for the first time, OK, no, more than OK excited about being a military spouse. That my friend, was, and is the hand of God because my best friend Jamie would tell ya, a week earlier would’ve been impossible!
So what really did happen during those days at Lackland? I believe I truly experienced Romans 12:2; I was transformed, literally, by the renewal of my mind. I have been pondering on how God brought about that transformation, and here is what I discovered:
It is OK To Be Weak
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
My friend, if you are anything like me, you tend to be so hard on yourself when you’re already down. When I know I am struggling, I struggle even more because I think “A strong Christian woman wouldn’t deal with this” “I am such an awful, unsupportive wife” “Wow, I am so ungrateful”. I have to realize that it is OK to feel this way. It is OK to struggle. It is OK to hurt. But it is NOT OK to stay there, and furthermore, it is not OK to act on those weaknesses because they lead to sin. But being weak is a good thing. Being shifted means to be shaken so violently that all the unnecessaries fall off, and only what is needed remains. It strengthens my foundation, which is in The LORD. I have found that in the midst of my darkest trials, I experience my deepest, closest relationship with GOD.
Our Father knows our failure. It doesn’t catches HIM by surprise. And just as we shouldn’t take HIS almightiness lightly, neither should we HIS love. In HIS infinite love, He gives us room to freak out, to cry, to struggle, to break down, and also to run to Him when we are done, knowing fully that there are the strongest pair of arms waiting to hold us and love us and help us stand. Being aware that it was OK to be weak, that I was OK, safe and secure allowed me to move on and draw closer my Father, and the transformation of my mind. The enemy knows this, and that’s why he wants us in isolation and shame. Shame and pride go hand in hand if you think about it. We can prideful in our shame and not allow ourselves to be weak before The Throne of Grace. Once we humble ourselves before God, become aware and embrace our shortcomings, run for His rescue, we can begin our healing.
Run To Jesus Like A Mad Woman
If you could’ve heard the conversations inside my head during those two first days you would’ve have me committed, for real. I would go from freaking out, crying, pleading, screaming, being angry, becoming passive, resting in Jesus, in a matter of minutes, only to start it all over again. You may say I was losing my mind… and I was! Undergoing a complete transformation by the renewal of the mind is drastic, almost manic if you put up a fight like I did, because the biggest fight wasn’t necessarily that I was unwilling, the biggest battle was between two gods. (OK I can only imagine your face right now!) The fight was between YAWEH, The One True GOD and myself. My own fabricated idol.
How am I my own idol? Any time I let fear overtake my heart, who knows scripture, who knows what God has done, and will do, His promises, I am basically saying my fears are bigger than God. I doubt He has any power to do anything about it, or I doubt if He would want to do anything about it. Therefore I need to make contingency plans, in case God doesn’t show up.
When I gave my life to Christ, He took my word for it, even when I didn’t quite understand what it all meant. He did, and He holds His end of the bargain. As I have grown in faith and in relationship with Him, I have given Him my life in His hands time and time again. My future, my ministry, my goals… when I got married, both Erik and I placed our marriage and the future of our family in His hands time and time again as well. It is quite arrogant for me, honestly, to think that anything that is happening right now, whether we are walking in what we perceive is God’s will or not is outside of His will for us. Then why would I ever think that He is not present in what is happening, and what’s more, that I have to figure it out on my own? that my friend, is idolatry. I made myself an idol, and I had to sacrifice that idol to let God be God in my life once again.
There Is Beauty In The Pain
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” – Luke 22 -32
Going through a hard time is not fun. If we are honest, we would rather not go through that pain, and sometimes, when it gets so unbearable we shout “GOD! what are you doing! why are you allowing this to happen!” even in our prayer requests we reflect our rejection of pain and suffering. In Luke 22, during the Last Supper, Jesus tells Peter that he (Peter) will be sifted greatly. If this happened at a modern-day gathering, we would all go “ok, but we will pray against this, in the name of Jesus, we speak against the plans of the enemy, that our brother may be spared” interestingly though, Jesus Himself doesn’t pray this way. Instead He says “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail” The New Living Translation even adds “So when you have repented and turned to me again” wow… I mean… I can’t even. So Jesus is fully aware that Peter will, number one, sin and betray Him, number two, be broken to the core because of this betrayal but most importantly he knows the beauty that the sifting will bring. Later on, John 15 tells us that after the Resurrection, Jesus reinstates Peter and shows him how to use the great pain he just went through. While cooking breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves Him. Each time Peter says yes, Jesus replies “feed my sheep” and “Take care of my lamb”.
When we lost our baby back in 2015, I thought my heart would never, ever recover. I thought it would be so far broken it would become useless and unable to love properly, let alone be useful for any kind of ministry for the Kingdom. Then God brought to my life one of my best friends, Willow’s mom, and we walked her journey into living life without Willow, and I realized that losing Alexander had given me something I would’ve never gained elsewhere: a compassion and an understanding of my friend’s suffering that no one else did. We walked her deep, deep valley together. I wasn’t afraid of that darkness. I wasn’t terrified of getting down and dirty when she fell apart. I loved her with a love and an understanding I would have not had otherwise. Now I know, that the experience of my suffering entering military life is a good one. I feel equipped and actually quite excited, to know that He is using all of this as preparation to use me for those dear military wives I will encounter in my journey, and for that, and them, I praise Him for my valley. I see the beauty in this suffering, because I will grow in love and compassion… just like He does for me.
*God permits evil things at times because that evil in the end is going to be overcome by His goodness in such a way that evil is only going to magnify how great His salvation is. If it brings glory to His name and ultimately it brings good to you and I even though it is painful as we get severely tossed by the devil, my friend please do know, God’s got an ability to see beyond what we are feeling in the moment.*
I have learned to commit to memory Romans 8:28-29 and I will commit it to you to do it as well, because it has brought me great comfort and it has been magnified while I have been transformed by the renewal of my mind. He works ALL things for MY GOOD. Because He never leaves me nor forsakes me.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” Romans 8 28-29
A Peace That Surpasses All Understanding
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7
Ok, I cannot rationalize this one. I cannot explain it or take credit for it. All I can tell you is what I experienced, which was, an overwhelming, overflowing, all consuming peace that just didn’t make any sense. My situation hadn’t changed, I still faced the same financial issues, the same uncertainties with my husband’s location, with our living situation, I mean everything! but now, there was no more fear. After those two transformative days I mentioned before, the peace of God grabbed hold of my heart so powerfully, it is truly inexplicable, and all I can do is praise, sincerely, filled with love and gratitude for it. I am still experiencing the work of The Holy Spirit in this situation, and it is such a sweet, sweet place to be.
I am restored, in faith, in trust, in love for my God and my husband. In hope. I am grateful beyond what words can describe for the miraculous work of the transformation that God did in me. I will pray my friend, that if if you are walking through a rough path right now, that you can experience this sweet grace as well.
*Pastor Nathan Peternel, Life Church Indiana