“And we all, … beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Forty years ago I was a missionary bush pilot in northern Canada. I would fly to ‘First Nation’ Indian reserves with dear Indian brothers sharing the Good News. Flying in those days was
ALL based on folowing a compass heading and reading a map that showed the outline of lakes (there are over 100,000 lakes in Northwestern Ontario). There were no navigation radio waves to follow. You flew by compass and sight.
On one trip I took off from a village for another that was about 2 hours away. I had not flown there before but had drawn a line on my map showing me the route. It was a compass heading of 30 degrees. I followed the compass without paying much attention to the line on the map which indicated the route I was to fly. About 90 minutes into the flight of the small bush plane I started looking at the map. It didn’t take long before I recognized that I DIDN’T recognize where I was. I knew I should be about 160 miles along the line on my map. But when I looked out of the window it was clear that none of the lakes below me were where I should be.
It is a scary thing to feel lost in the air! After I got over my initial shock, I wondered how it could be. I had carefully followed the compass heading of 30 degrees. But I was not where I should be. It was then that I noticed a metal pliers on the dash near the compass. The metal had changed the compass heading. I removed the pliers and the compass went to 33 degrees. I had been flying the wrong heading. It was only a 3-degree mix-up but after 90 minutes I was far east of my route. Thankfully, I was able to make a correction and in about an hour found the village.
When we think about the journey of Christian transformation most of the time we want things to change quickly for the better. We get tired of the same battles, the same wrong attitudes and behaviors. We want the Spirit to change us 30 degrees at a time instead of the one degree at a time that Scripture says.
Transformation (and deformation) usually goes one degree at a time. Obviously, the verse refers to the pace of sanctification. But I think it also implies the direction of sanctification. Get just one or two or three degrees off and in 90 days or weeks or months we will have lost our way. When there is a “long obedience in the same direction” we will find that transformation comes. Not quickly, but surely by means of the Spirit.
Plan on change into the likeness of Christ being harder than you want and taking longer than you anticipated. But follow an undistracted compass and you will find that one degree at a time your life is different. May Christ have mercy on us as we seek to grow into our reality in Him.
Jim has been working with Crosspoint Ministry for over 12 years as a retreat leader, teacher, and spiritual life coach. His kind and good-humored delivery flows from his restorative presence. Growing up as a missionary kid, seminary professor, church planter, pastor and now, working with hundreds of pastors and churches during his time with Crosspoint, Jim is a wise and compassionate heart who very competently holds space for and encourages many in his work.