Written by Glyn Norman
In Kafka's famous book, The Metamorphosis, the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into some sort of giant insect. The transformation is unwelcome, and causes others to recoil in horror. Eventually, Gregor realizes what a terrible burden he is to the family (renters no longer want to rent rooms in a house occupied by a giant bug) and withdraws to his room, where alone and neglected he dies. It's a tragic story which roams over great themes such as our capacity for change, how we react to those different to ourselves and more.
For the Christian, we also are supposed to undergo a metamorphosis of sorts. When we make a decision to follow Jesus Christ, we become a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says it this way: if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. Choosing to follow Jesus is both receiving an invitation (Come to me, said Jesus) and issuing one. We effectively say to Jesus, "Come to me and transform me into the person you always wanted me to be. Deal with the sin in me. Erase the defects of character. Refine me."
And contrary to the effects in Gregor, the effect should be not that others recoil from us, but that they are drawn to us, as they see the good work Jesus is doing in us, making us less angry and more patient, for example.
Of course, the story is more complicated. Though "the old has gone" it still clings on to us. Decades of bad habits and attitudes are rarely shaken off in a moment. Like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, there may be traces of the old still attached to us. We are indeed, "works in progress."
This morning, in a situation of tension, the old me surfaced. It wasn't pretty. In such situations, I have to remember to have grace for myself. The temptation is to beat myself up, feel a failure, and not try any more. But that would be defeatist, and deny the Spirit the opportunity to continue working in me. So today I continue, working on a sermon about character, all too aware of the flaws and faults in my own. Know this church - when I preach to you on Sunday, I do not speak as one who has arrived. I am a fellow pilgrim struggling alongside you. These words of CS Lewis are a comfort to me this morning:
"No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of his presence."