In all my readings about the theories of leadership for grad school, the theory of transformational leadership has resonated with me. It seems to me that the people I look to as leaders in my life are the ones who have helped to transform me in some way. And the leadership experiences that have been the most satisfying for me are the ones where I have witnessed a transformation occur in the group. Transformation truly is a beautiful thing!
While beautiful, transformation is also a difficult process. A caterpillar does not transform into a butterfly in the blink of an eye. When you really think about it, it’s not a comfortable transformation. Trapped in a tight and uncomfortable cocoon, the caterpillar waits in darkness as time and biochemical reactions systematically change its physiological and anatomical structure. The result of this long and arduous process is a stunning and fragile butterfly.
So often, when I think of the process of transformation, I think of the beginning and the end, the caterpillar and the butterfly. Rarely do I dwell on the most important part—the cocoon, the place where transformation actually occurs. Without the cocoon, there is no butterfly. For this reason, the ability to learn from adversity is critical to the development of not only leadership, but to personal character development as well.
Jesus’ words in Mark 8 reflect this transformational process as well when He calls to the crowds and disciples to take up their crosses and lose their life for His sake. If we want to be transformed we have to let go and die. Just like the caterpillar has to let go of being a caterpillar and take on a new identity as a butterfly, we are called to die to our old way of life and thinking. But again, I am focusing on the beginning and the end and not the process of transformation itself.
This avoidance is natural for me, I think, for all of us really. Personally, I do not possess the discipline of reflection. I have tried so many times to make reflection a habit, but I still am not able to. I keep trying to think of reasons why and I think that fear has a lot to do with my dislike of reflection. I fear what conclusions I’ll come to as I think through past circumstances. I fear that I won’t be able to change no matter how determined and disciplined I am. I fear that I’ll fail and have to keep reliving that failure again and again.
The truth is that I let fear keep me from transforming as a person. I keep hoping and pushing to become a butterfly, but I don’t want to get in the cocoon to make it happen. Transformation cannot happen without a cocoon. But it’s clear, if I want to follow Jesus, if I want to be a better leader, if I want to grow as a person, if I want to be a butterfly, I must transform. I must enter the cocoon. Slowly, but surely, my desire to transform is overwhelming my fear of failure.
What’s the answer to the problem of fear? John encourages the believers in his letter 1 John writing that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (4:18). God is love and God casts out fear. Paul reminds the Roman Christians that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:31) Nothing, not even fear can separate us from “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39).
I am beginning to be convinced that the fear in my life is a direct result of me misunderstanding the character of who God is or of believing the lies that the enemy tells me about myself and about God. We often fear what we do not understand. Reflection and meditation on truth and past experiences can help us to understand better the truth about ourselves and about God. This is why reflection is such an integral part of the transformation process. Like the cocoon, the reflection does not happen overnight. It takes time for transformation to take place.
Now the question is whether or not I’ll enter the cocoon and allow God to transform me more. To change my systems of thinking, to change what values are important to me, to change my dreams, and to change my heart. The heart is the real crux of the matter. For the transformation to be real, it must take place in the heart. Perhaps this is why we must pay careful attention to the state of our hearts and allow God to transform them into His image.
I’m always amazed at the power of God’s love to transform. For me, the most encouraging stories to hear are the stories of transformed lives. Real and good change can happen when God takes us through the cocoon and transforms us into more of who He made us to be. So if you’re ever feeling down on yourself and wonder if you will ever change into a butterfly, remind yourself of the power of God to transform. Those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, He has transformed into His sons and daughters and He continues to transform His children into clearer and brighter reflections of His good and loving nature. So, let us not be afraid of the cocoon of transformation and trust Him to be faithful and good to bring us through to the end.
Soli Deo Gloria!