STUDENT BLOG – Kara
Our first class of students in the Aprentis Institute just finished a class titled Renovation of the Heart – in which they studied Dallas Willard’s book by the same name. As a final project, they were asked to reflect on the transformation of their “vision for life in the kingdom of God” over the course of their time in the Institute. We received several excellent papers and wanted to share some of our students’ hearts with you! Here is the next in a series of student blogs:
It’s Saturday night about 6:30 p.m. and my husband, Joe, and I are headed to dinner for my birthday. We are dressed up and planning on a pleasant evening just the two of us. Shortly before we leave I strike up a conversation about my feelings related to my impending graduation and the next “season” of my life. This takes us down the road of finances and house projects and expectations. I personally thought the conversation was going well. It was not meant to be negative, but I quickly learned my husband was feeling threatened and judged.
We get in the car making our way to the restaurant when it becomes obvious the celebratory mood of the evening has vanished. He is clutching the steering wheel and neither of us is speaking. I abruptly say, “Take me home. I am not spending the evening with you like this.”
At this point the story could go one of two ways.
The way it went for years was down a vicious path of yelling and screaming and fighting and bringing up every minute issue our marriage had ever experienced. However, once the words had come out of my mouth, I was not that same girl anymore and our “disagreement” did not have to go any further south. I did not want to be angry and I did not want to fight. I love this man and there was no reason for the evening to be ruined.
We did turn the car around and go home. For a brief moment neither of us wanted to say a word. But I took a deep breath and said a short prayer for God to help me know how to handle the situation. I no longer wanted to be the woman I had warped into time and time again “in a previous life”.
So what changed?
I was being transformed into Christlikeness.
My lifelong narratives told me when couples, especially married couples, disagreed they fought, and not only did they fight, they fought hard. The fighting was not just for a few moments but for hours with ruined plans and slammed doors and clothes on the front porch ending with words such as “I quit” and “I want out” and “It’s over, I want a divorce.”
I had seen and heard these fights a thousand times from my parents and I swore I would never be that wife. HA! I became that wife and I truly did not want to be that wife any longer. The new narratives I wanted to live by and become were ones opposed to anger and rage. They were of love and compassion, and not just love and compassion for my husband but for anyone and everyone who entered my life.
I have learned so much over the past three years as a student in the Christian Spiritual Formation program. My life was beginning to change for the good before I entered the program, but the drastic changes I have seen in myself because of the narrative changes I am making are tremendous. My “vision for Christlikeness” includes statements such as “show love to everyone at all times” and “be the person I want others to be to me” and “serve others in all my daily endeavors”. I love being a servant and living the life I am growing into each day.
So what eclipsed these changes in my life?
Dallas Willard defines a disciple as “someone who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is.” I want to be like Christ. I want to live as he lived, but to do that I had to make significant changes in my life.
Change is never easy.
Throughout my course work it became clear I needed to change more than just my thoughts. I had to change my thoughts and feelings and body and social realm and basically, all of me. Willard reminds us the “deepest revelation of our character is what we choose to dwell on in thought, what constantly occupies our mind – as well as what we can or cannot even think of”. On the surface I was thinking of how to be a good person but underneath the surface I was comparing myself to others and judging the actions of everyone around me.
Making the life changes I knew I needed did not happen overnight and not without continual effort. “The familiar words of Jesus are ‘without me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). But these must be balanced with the insight that, in general, if we do nothing it will certainly be without him.” Formation into Christlikeness is like any skill we want to attain. We must practice.
As stated before, I did not want to be that “ugly” wife any longer. The moment I slammed the door upon entering the house I felt God directly in front of me. He was glaring at me asking why I had just acted so childishly. I broke into tears and cried out to him to give me words of kindness and peace, and he did. Joe and I quickly got passed the impulsive negativity we had experienced all too often in previous disagreements. Not only were our words kinder but our demeanor toward one another changed. I did not have the desire to continue the argument as I had on previous days. My new narrative was not that of anger but of love and I needed to show Joe how much I loved him and was not condemning him but simply sharing my own fears of a significant life change.
I am not perfect and I do not strive for perfection. I strive to be the most beautiful Kara I can possibly be and to live my life as Christ has called me to live it with every action of every day in every way I possibly can.
Kara is a recent graduate with a degree in Religion & Philosophy with an emphasis in Christian Spiritual Formation.