We live in a transformation-obsessed society.
We're all addicted to YouTube makeup tutorials, HGTV renovation shows, and TLC 500-pound weight loss documentaries. (I stand guilty as charged on all counts.) We love them because of the quick results--we know that there will be a dramatic reveal at the end of the episode.
Yes, we love our transformations.
But transformation in real life is never quite so fast. (Unless you’re Jesus.) No one ever gets the immediate gratification of a real-life 45-minute kitchen renovation. Transformation is slow. Transformation takes time.
Easter is all about new life and transformation, but this year, that was hard to envision, with another month of COVID-19 shelter-in-place ahead, making April feel like a rerun of March. There were no green buds on display this Easter Sunday. Instead, any and all evidence of nature’s transformation was covered in a white shroud of snow.
This year, instead of transforming myself into my Sunday best for a church service, I spent Easter Sunday in my pajamas with my dirty hair thrown up in a mess on top of my head. There was no new dress to put on, no makeup to apply, no hairstyle to fuss over, no uncomfortable shoes to squeeze into.
There was no Easter feast at Grandma’s house. I did my best to transform what I had into a passable holiday meal, but it was nothing compared to the juicy ham and fluffy mashed potatoes and decadent pies that I’m used to.
There was no family gathering this year. Instead, I spent the day FaceTiming with my family. This was actually fabulous, and the two-hour call felt like 15 minutes. It was surreal, like watching a home movie in real time. I got to see my two-week old niece and her two-year-old sister. I got to see my grandma, my parents, my sisters. And, because of COVID-19, I got to see my brother, who is rarely present at family gatherings because of his work schedule.
We spent at least half an hour of that FaceTime call listening to my brother, now out and proud, discussing wedding plans with his partner. A decade ago, this would not have been possible. He was a different person then, closeted, wrapped in the death shroud of heternormativity. It was not until that pretend self had died that he could emerge anew, truly himself, fully transformed.
A lot of transformation can happen in ten years.
I spent Easter Sunday contemplating the Divine transformation of death into life.
I spent Easter Monday contemplating transformation of another sort.
I'm a huge Jones Soda fan. I love the messages printed inside of their bottle caps. Sometimes they feel almost prophetic. On Easter Monday, the message printed inside my bottle cap suggested that I find a penpal, so I put out a call on social media to find out who wanted letters, and I had enough responses to keep me busy for seven straight hours.
A few of them went to friends and family, but most of those letters went to former students, which was so sweet. Back when I was teaching, I wrote a letter to every student in their senior year, and it was my absolute favorite thing I did as a teacher.
It was an unexpected blessing to revisit the experience and write to them again as adults.
Perhaps it was even more gratifying the second time around.
They’re truly grown-ups now, with responsibilities, with jobs and mortgages and electric bills, even with children of their own. But in my mind, they are forever 17, dressed in ratty hoodies and skinny jeans, their hair hanging in their eyes, just long enough to hide the self-hatred and depression. The anxiety and fear. The isolation and defeat.
I thought about this as I wrote, and I realized that many of the burdens that they carried as teenagers have died away and transformed into something new and beautiful: self-hatred into self-acceptance. Depression into joy. Anxiety into peace. Fear into confidence. Isolation into community. Defeat into capability.
They have each gone through their own unique cycle of death and resurrection.
These transformations happened so gradually that I almost missed them. In fact, if I hadn’t written those letters, I probably wouldn’t have thought about them at all.
We are so used to our heavily-edited television transformations, the kind that cut out the wait time and deliver results on demand in a neat 45-minute package. It’s easy to dismiss a change if it isn’t an immediate one. We want the jaw-drop of the before and after contrast, not the gradual slope of slow change.
But the gradual slope of slow change is what we usually get.
A transformation is still a transformation, no matter how long it takes. We all "are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
From glory to glory.
Little by little.
A thousand tiny deaths followed by a thousand tiny resurrections.
Slowly, gradually, mystically.
This is the miracle of Easter.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.