Transformation: A New World in the Midst of the Old One

By Keith Miller | May 25, 2010

Our teenaged son went to a summer camp a normal, interesting kid who was only interested in football (and I assume, sex).  But when he got home last week he was a religious freak, spouting Bible verses out of context with his eyes shining like his team had just won state.  I’m a church going Christian and we’ve prayed he’d do the same.  But as you once said to me, about another matter, we must have “over-prayed.”  What can we do?

A funny thing happened years ago at our house.  Kristin, our then teenage daughter, had been learning to drive.  She has always been a very alert girl, always aware of where we are and where we are going when we are out driving.  I am not.  I often drive for blocks past a turn-off, with my mind a thousand miles away.  But Kristin was the one who often sat beside me and whispered, “This next block is our turn, Daddy.”  She knew our town with her eyes closed.

But when she got behind the wheel for the first time in traffic, it was as if we were in a new city:  “Do I turn here, Daddy” . . . Is this the right street?”

I was amazed and thought at first she was teasing me.  But then I saw that she was not.  A town that she had known like the back of her hand as a passenger became a strange and foreign place when she became responsible for the minute-by-minute decisions of driving.  She had to look for a whole new set of objects and distances.  She had to see cars backing out of driveways, puppy dogs and children starting for the street, vehicles at intersections, all kinds of street signs, in addition to everything behind her in the rearview mirror.   With all of these new things on which to focus—which had heretofore been only a part of the background—she felt as if she were in a different world.

I started to fuss at her and tell her to “Pay attention to what you are doing!”  Then I realized that she was very serious and was paying attention.  But she was experiencing a reorientation in the same situation because of trying to focus on different elements of her environment.  So I said nothing and kept telling myself it was the end result of her training which was important.

As we drove along, I began to understand why it may be that newly committed Christians sometimes appear to be sort of “out of it.”  For a while, they seem to be like new drivers behind the wheel—in a kind of daze in which the world they have known appears to be totally different.  Because of accepting the responsibility of a new relationship with God and focusing on loving him and his people, they seem to be unaware of things and people to whom they once paid attention quite naturally.  Many ministers or relatives are hurt and surprised when a church member gets “turned on” at some sort of non-denominational renewal meeting and begins paying less attention to them while focusing on new Christian friends.  They suspect that the new commitment was to a cult of some sort of self-centered pietists.  The temptation is to be very judgmental of people experiencing this reorientation.

I do not know how one really ought to handle this situation.  But by the end of the week (in our car) I noticed that Kristin knew where she was again.  And now she is a much better driver than her father and effortlessly includes both the old things she used to see . . . and the new things she needed to see to grow up and get on down the road.

When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is. When we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.

Goethe[1] as quoted in Psychological Foundations of Education

In training a horse, it is important not to break his spirit because it is his spirit, during and after the training period, which will determine his style and endurance.  Does education, we may ask, allow for the ex­pression of the wildness of vitality during the educational process, or does it repress vitality in the interest of form and conformity?

Reuel Howe, The Miracle of Dialogue[2]

A . . . peculiarity of the assurance state is the objective change which the world often appears to undergo.  “An appearance of newness beautifies every object.”

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience[3]

Lord, help us to be patient with new Christians who seem to have lost their perspective as they have entered an “exciting new” relationship with you.  If they become temporarily blinded to the ordinary responsibilities and to the old friends—and even to us as parents or pastors—around them, helps us to provide an atmosphere in which this new relationship with you can be tested and translated into deeper relationships with people and you.  Help us in the church to trust you enough to let new Christians enjoy the excitement of discovery without our hypercritical judgment—even though there may be some anxious moments about their apparent (or even real) lack of soundness and responsibility.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12, 13 NIV

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world. Matthew 5:8 The Message


[1] Morris E. Eson, Psychological Foundations of Education (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965), p. 39.

[2] Reuel Howe, The Miracle of Dialogue (Greenwich, CT: The Seabury Press, 1963), p. 93.

[3] William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: The Modern Library, 1929), pp. 452,453.

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