Transformational Renewing

“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 of what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2 NIV

Have you ever read Romas 12:2 and reflected on what is meant by “patterns of this world?” I was in a church service recently and our attention was brought to this verse, which for some reason got me thinking. I wonder what the world looked like through Paul’s perspective when he was writing to the Romans two thousand years ago? I wonder what traits, tendencies and patterns reflected then that we still mirror to this day? What did Paul mean exactly by “patterns of this world?” What did he mean when he said the “renewing of your mind?” How can this transformation of our mind help us test and approve of God’s will?

My thoughts….

Bad stuff happens, so I don’t think we need to focus on those “worldly things,” as I would assume we all realize we shouldn’t conform that direction. I can say however that negativity often seems to be a center of focus for many of us, even when we don’t realize it. Gossip, judging, shaming, selfishness, lack of forgiveness or just straight up anger are all examples of how we can feed on negativity. Short term this might feel empowering or exciting in a human way, yet hopefully we can all agree that long term these “patterns” only lead to pain, hurt and darkness. What about some of the good things like loving relationships, finally getting that promotion, having children (so I’ve heard), or even the simple blissful moments throughout our day? How about the feeling of standing on top of a mountain overlooking a valley below, which is possessed by an array of colors seemingly displaying the splendor of life itself? I think if we could all “conform to patterns of this world” that brought more of these amazing moments we admittedly would. Many patterns are good, many indifferent and many destructive. Yet what pattern is always present in “this world” that Paul may have been referring to? I could only come up with one: everything is born new and eventually returns to a place of death and decay. Some would call this “the circle of life.” Nothing in this world is everlasting….. right?

The “merry-go-round” of this world for many of us looks something like this (simplified version of course): be a kid, get good grades, graduate, get a job, get promoted, meet that “special someone,” get married, buy a home, have children, raise “good children,” eventually retire, etc..

All of these things can be amazing experiences, yet isn’t it ironic that when we reach certain milestones we still feel like something is lacking? Perhaps I’m the only one?

Here is another example I find pretty regularly, admitting of course that I’ve been here myself: Perhaps a new suit will help me feel better? Maybe moving into a new place? Maybe buying a new car? Maybe switching jobs? Maybe getting in better shape, or perhaps the opposite- scarfing that brownie sitting in the kitchen (or more often in my case the beer in the fridge)- yeah that will do it. Just keep buying, getting, possessing, eating/drinking and obtaining more in “this world” and perhaps I’ll get to a point that I finally feel complete…

Nope… something deep down at our core still seems to be missing. When everything externally looks pretty good, even in the most blissful times, we still seem to be searching for some deeper meaning or connection. Have you ever felt this way even during the truly solid times? I certainly have. My soul still cries out for more true peace, growth and fulfillment to fill the void that recognition, praise, possessions, other people or even money seemingly cannot. I don’t believe Paul was saying we shouldn’t enjoy some Earthly things. I do however believe he was saying the only way to really feel transformed/renewed is by connecting to our TRUE PURPOSE IN LIFE….GOD!

Here’s a thought- what if the unexplained void of fulfillment we all seek is actually the “renewing of our mind,” as Paul writes in Romans 12:2? What if the “transformation” to focus on Godly things instead of focusing on “the circle of life” is our real purpose in life? What if dialing into a relationship with Him that transcends our depth of understanding is the real ticket to peace, happiness and joy? What if our focus is supposed to be on God instead of our perception of what “this world” wants from us, or what we can gain from “this world?” Another question- how could we “test and approve” of God’s will unless we were actually CONNECTED to God- like literally? How could I, a mere human, “test and approve” of anything so Divine as God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will?” The only possibility I can think of would be if I was so “tuned in” to God that I could literally live my life directed not by my own footsteps, yet by the footsteps of The Shepard Himself. That I am literally tapped into God within myself via The Holy Spirit and experiencing Him moment by moment. TRANSFORMATION via the RENEWAL of our mind, by changing the way we think, by conforming to our spiritual calling over focusing on worldly patterns which always have an end date. All to experience a bond with God so deep that we can experience more of “His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Seems like pretty sound advice to me!

The Walking Wounded

One focal point I’m finding myself intrigued by is our misguided decision making based on underlying past experiences and therefore “conditioned” responses. I’ve sat in a counselor’s office plenty and realize that many of my perceptions are in-fact shaped from my past. I don’t think that’s news to those who have even the slightest level of psychological awareness. I get it, my emotional reactions stem from a response pattern hardwired since childhood. I find it fascinating that we hold onto the past so much. I cannot explain over the past few years how much life I’ve spent literally reliving previous moments over and over again in my head. I already lived them once, why keep living them? Have you ever stopped to think about what percentage of these moments that you’re “reliving” are the really happy times? I’m guessing 10% at best, at least that’s the case for me. The craziest part is that I’m reliving these past events, but often times find myself still not learning from them. I’m just feeling the miserable pain of mistakes, guilt, hurt or pain over and over again. Perhaps I’m just a gluten for punishment, or perhaps I’m just human. I used to wonder why I do this to myself; why most human beings do? I have developed my own little tagline for a syndrome I feel has infected the majority of the human race, at least from my experience here in the United States. This tagline is something I refer to as “the walking wounded.” You’ll hear me refer to this quite often in my writings as I interact with people and subsequently write about these interactions on my journey.

Here’s a brief example I’ll leave you with. I was walking into the grocery store recently and noticed a gentleman who seemed very perturbed. I was approaching with my eyes intentionally viewing my surroundings so he was hard to miss (one of my being present/awareness tactics you’ll soon realize I’m constantly working on). I noticed the man and his overall demeanor being extremely frustrated. I could only imagine what possibly happened at the checkout counter inside to set him off. I walked past him with a content smile on my face as I heard him mutter to himself “now where’s the fuc*ing car?!” I started thinking about what his life must be like, and also what he’s been through to get him to this place of such negative energy. I do believe we’re all very much a product of our past experiences, parenting styles, overall upbringings, successes, failures and so much more. The question I have is why so many choose to stay in those past experiences? I’ve spent much of my life guilty of this behavior and still have to consciously choose to stay in the moment to avoid what I like to call the “reverse rear-end mind collision.” Analogy- it’s like I decide to throw my car (my mind) in reverse to intentionally hit something behind me (typically a nerve, a negative feeling or just run myself over in general). The way to avoid such an ill-advised mental trafficking maneuver you ask? I have to choose to look in my personal review mirror when it rears its’ ugly head and ask “what can I learn from that situation, or what haven’t I already learned that I’m supposed to?” I figure if past experiences continue to present themselves then perhaps we still have unfinished business. I believe there is a lesson to learn, a person to forgive, or maybe even an opportunity to forgive ourselves. This gentleman helped me tagline “the walking wounded.” Something good came out of that moment for me at least, and I must admit I do hope he found his car.

Many folks that I interact with spend much of their time acting out from past hurts, mistakes, regrets, failures or traumas. This breaks my heart for all of us because our true spirit cannot shine through our past, only the present. I will continue to explore this subject in many future posts. I look forward to explaining my theories a bit deeper about our wounds not only creating impulse reactions and emotions, but also how they affect so much of our major decision making abilities as well. For instance- perhaps you’re in a place in an area of life today because of decisions you made long ago? Perhaps these decisions were made from a brokenness that stemmed from wounds that were never healed? Perhaps if/when healed, your decisions would’ve been different because they stemmed from your true authentic/spiritually connected self? Perhaps….