On the face of it, it may seem as if these terms are synonymous. Sometimes we get excited by changes, and seek out superficial change such as home or body makeovers. We crave losing weight at the beginning of the year, and tend to want to "spring clean" our homes at this time of the year, and focus on toning our bodies so they will be presentable for summer at the beach and in skimpy attire.
However, real change, at a fundamental level, does not happen overnight. We live in a "microwave" culture where we desire quick fixes and short-cuts! But good cooks will tell you that marinating is a vital part of the cooking process, if you're going to produce something that's flavorful and of superior quality.
Popular culture encourages us to constantly crave the new, and tire of the status quo. We are schooled on the art of reinvention through the fashion and technology industries. Tweak a little here, fiddle with a little there and... hey, presto... we have something that's gloriously new!
It's easy to feel old and past our "sell-by" date when things are constantly changing. The tendency is to think that we have to change along with everything else. Makeovers have become the norm. We all like the idea of new beginnings because it seems we so readily mess up or grow tired of the old. We like the idea of being able to wipe the slate clean and start again. But real life cannot be lived in such a clinical fashion. If we keep building new homes on the sand, they will inevitable be destroyed (either slowly or suddenly) when the changing tides of life wash up against them. The answer surely lies in ensuring the house is built on a solid foundation.
Mental Health Awareness Week (May 13-19) in the UK featured many stories of those who have experienced and overcome many issues with "body image." One such case was that of Lyndsey Thomas who had breast augmentation surgery in her twenties but later had to have one of the implants removed due to an infection. During this painful medical journey, she came to the realization that all her efforts to conform to a stereotype of beauty, which was promoted in the popular culture, had not improved her self-esteem, and that as a result of her vain decision, she could have died from sepsis.
This led to a turning point in her life to have both her implants removed and to learn to accept herself and her AA breasts. She realized that she had been suffering from body dysmorphia, defined by the Mayo Clinic as "a mental disorder in which you can't stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance—a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable." Most significantly, she knew that she wanted to pass on to her daughter a healthy self-image, based on who she is as a person rather than her looks.
Guarding our minds
Any lasting change must first occur in the mind. The more we think about something, the more it will feed our desires. It's always important to want the right things, and the saying "be careful what you wish for," rings true. If you crave a wealthy husband, he may shower you with gifts but withhold time and affection. If you crave a career, you may never have the time or energy to nurture close relationships with your family as well as the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you crave beauty, there will always be someone more beautiful than you, and you may attract people for the wrong reasons. How beautiful is beautiful enough? You may spend much time and money in the pursuit of an abstract quality which is defined by society in an ever-changing treadmill of fashions and trends.
The essence of transformation is found in the following admonition:
"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect" (Romans 12:2, NLT). This inner work takes longer than any outer procedure, but it will have deeper and more lasting effects in our lives. Cosmetic surgery often needs to be re-done or fails to yield the benefits which were anticipated. God wants to prepare us for eternity, starting today, by developing in us the inner virtues that will reap an eternal reward. When God touches our hearts miraculously to see ourselves for what we are – in desperate need of Him – instantly God now sees us as "new creations in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:17), with a new destiny; yet we may be dragging around an old mindset and attitude. Sometimes we hold unto our past like sentimental pieces of memorabilia from the old habits we used to have.
But we cannot escape the aging effects of sin. We may feel old in our decaying bodies and old in relationships and jobs where we feel we have been taken for granted. We don't need the latest placebo, so much as a sense of who we really are. True change requires marinating, not microwaving! Rest assured it will take time to manifest on the outside the change which has occurred on the inside.
Before you yield to the temptation to dispose of the old and reach for the new in terms of your outer circumstances, think again:
- Will this saddle me with debt or regret?
- Would it not be better to regain my appreciation for the old, such as my existing material possessions, including my body?
A closer walk with God brings about the change which really matters, and is about stepping out of the comfort zone of what the culture considers acceptable or trendy. With Jesus as our compass, we have the assurance that we will be pointed in the right direction on a journey of true and satisfying transformation.
– Dr. Carla Cornelius is a Director and Editor-in-chief at Jesus Joy Publishing. Her Ph.D. in Biblical Counseling has equipped her to trace humanity's problems back to faulty thinking and values which fly in the face of the Maker's instructions. She has a passion for exposing the distortions of truth spun by the media and popular culture which leave sick souls in their wake, souls desperately in need of spiritual detoxification. She is the author of five books including Culture Detox: Cleansing our minds from toxic thinking, Captive Daughters: Breaking the chains and No Way Out: Keys to avoiding suicide.