When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. Not because I skipped class or sassed my teachers or caused problems, but because I was a bit of a non-conformist. One thing you should know about me is that I love hats and there’s nothing better than a hat on a bad hair day. Trust me when I say that, in the 80s, I had LOTS of bad hair days. I had that whole lion-mane-mall-bangs look. Plus I lived in Texas, and as the saying goes, everything’s bigger in Texas, especially the hair. So yeah, I donned many a hat. And wearing hats was against “the rules”…unless you were a guy. Can anyone say “double standard”? I pretty much loathe double standards. Always have.
So I “voiced” my annoyance at the seemingly bogus rule by wearing hats to school. Each time I did, my first period teacher would send me to the principal’s office where we’d have chats about everything from rules to politics to the future of education. That poor man listened patiently while I unloaded my frustrations about the world and sports. Yes, sports. It was Texas. Sports were/are king, queen, AND the royal court. I was a theater geek. We were the foppish jesters, rogues and vagabonds, begging for funding. I digress…
I look back on that time and think of how much easier things could have been for me had I just conformed to the rules. The hat rule wasn’t the only one I broke. There were a couple of others that involved discrimination. More double standards. Nicknames preceded and followed me down halls and into classrooms. More than I can remember, or more than I want to remember. They weren’t all bad, mind you, but they weren’t my name.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was sitting in my booth with my friends, Cori and Lady Di, I read a verse that God had put on my heart: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Cori, who was struggling with some things, honed in on the “testing” portion of the scripture. Lady Di focused on understanding the perfect will of God. I, on the other hand, zeroed in on two words: conform and transform.
The root of both words, obviously, is “form”.
In the beginning, Genesis tells us, the earth was “formless”. Nothing was here. God brought form and He formed us: “Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person” (Genesis 2:7). Such a beautiful picture of God, the artist, creating man with nothing but dust and a breath.
I explored the two words and looked first at the prefix “con” in relation to “form”. Con means several things:
- deception trickery
- in opposition to, against
- slang for a convict
Paul tells us not to be conformed to this world. I believe understanding the “con” helps us see why:
- The world deceives us, and tricks us.
- The world is in opposition to what God has formed.
- The world wants to live outside the law. The world wants to lock us in its prison so the devil can throw away the key.
Next, I dug into the prefix “trans”. It means:
- across or through
- complete change
So I can conform or BE transformed. I own the conforming. God owns the transforming.
- I can live in the lie of the world’s deception, or I can allow God to transform me with His truth.
- I can be in opposition to God, or I can let the Holy Spirit run across me and through me.
- I can be a prisoner, a convict, or I can be set free.
The word “trans” doesn’t just mean changed. It means complete change. Why?
On the cross, Jesus “was in the form of God” and He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus completed it. He uttered “It is finished!” upon His death. It was, as Oswald Chambers tells us, “the final word in the redemption of humankind.”
Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians, “you also are complete through your union with Christ” (2:10). He completed it and in Him I am complete. Total transformation.
Looking back on my days as a non-conformist, I realize I was preparing myself for a Christian walk that doesn’t conform to the ways of this world but allows God to transform me. Praise Him.