Robert "Woody" Woodson is a new addition to the CPD as an army chaplain. I recently had the privilege of attending his Branch Transfer to the Chaplain Corps service in a church service at Hawaii Kai Community Church as he officially became a chaplain. He has been taking seminary classes, and had to write this for one of his classes. Walk with him today as he wrestles with the role of change and transition in how they lead us to transformation.
--Ray Van Gilst
Sometimes God will allow us to feel lost, so that we learn to find our direction in Him. Many years ago, on a patrol in Afghanistan, I had a “directional” experience. This was not so much a wandering from God moment, as it was literal wrong direction experience. In the Army, when one unit hands over control of an area in combat to another, the leaving unit takes the gaining unit on a physical tour of the battle space. I had the unfortunate experience of getting turned around in a town where I had conducted numerous patrols, and to make matters worse, I was turned around during a hand-over patrol. There is no more humbling experience than finding out we are pointing in the wrong direction.
The spiritual growth of an individual requires us to be oriented in the right direction. God ordains different seasons in each of our lives, but ultimately, the success of the individual depends on submission to God and willingness to hand over the direction of our lives completely to Him. Christians today can expect to find themselves in any variety of one of three primary directions: totally right, totally wrong, or neither right nor wrong. In any of the three circumstances, allowing God to lead will result in success.
Most Christians will experience a natural flow from sinfulness, to spiritual immaturity, to spiritual maturity. Minor fluctuations may occur, and a few never reach maturity, but the process for most is remarkably consistent. The key to impacting this flow is to submit to the changes God works in our lives. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians who are actively engaged with God through the spiritual disciplines will be better prepared to respond to the changes He works in our lives as new creations. Individuals who do not invest in their relationship with the Father will find spiritual growth more difficult.
As God works change in our lives, we need to be sensitive to how He is changing us. Some changes may be easily identifiable, while others will take time to discern. William Bridges notes, "It isn't the changes that do you in, it's the transitions." If we are unwilling to listen to God in the transition, we will find the process more abrasive and cause tension in our relationship with God. If we allow Him to control the transition from a place of humility, He will grow in us the fullness of Christ.
The ultimate goal of change and transition is transformation. Transformation is a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance; it is when the new normal no longer feels new. Paul teaches us to, “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of [our] minds, that by testing [we] may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Christians who have achieved this state no longer need to be involved in correcting old habits. This state cannot be shortchanged or overlooked. An overwhelming majority of Christians find themselves enduring extensive period of transition because they refuse to allow changes to become permanent. Those who are serious about submission need to invest in complete transformation.
Seminary was, is, and will be a significant change, transition, and transformation for me. God has used this opportunity to show me where I was, where I am, and where I will be. I look back and see a proud man, distant from God in what I thought I knew and could do. Today I see a broken man, being lifted from my sin by a God who loved me first. Tomorrow, I pray to become the meekness of Christ in the service of God. Practically, this is my transition from a former Infantry Officer, to a future Chaplain in the Army. This is a transition from a full-time Army officer, to a full time stay at home dad. This is a transition from military leadership to ministry leadership. “I do not consider that I [will make] it on my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13)
God has brought me through a great desert experience and developed in me many spiritual disciplines that are extremely helpful in submitting to His transformation of my life. I still struggle with pride, which is where I need the most change, but He has helped me to trust Him. In faith, I now know that the Spirit will lead where I must go, and if I will reorient my direction in accordance with the will of God, He will continue my transformation in Christlikeness.