Transformation In a Canoe

By Rick Lawrence
Vibrant Faith Executive Director

Not long ago I was meeting with a few veteran ministry leaders to discuss ministry strategy—we were fishing around for common threads in each other’s own stories of transformation. I asked them to talk about the spots along their life’s timeline when real transformation happened.

One said his life changed when he spent a day in a canoe with his church’s worship pastor, fishing on a mountain lake. I asked him to focus on what was actually transformational about that day. He thought for a minute, then said it must have been the slow, unhurried pace of the day. I responded, “You could have had a slow, unhurried day with almost anyone—was it the slowness of the day or the person sitting across from you in the canoe?

“Well, it was that worship pastor, of course,” he said.

“What was it about him that set the stage for transformation in your life?”

There was an uncomfortable silence while he searched for the intangible “right answer.” Finally, a little bewildered, he said, “I guess I don’t know.”

I think most of our transformational moments happen in the context of relationships with people who’ve been transformed by Jesus and are therefore like Jesus. It’s their Christlikeness—Jesus Christ living unfettered through them—that surprises us, challenges us, and opens us to healing.

But, like my teammate, it’s hard to put our finger on exactly why some people move through life leaving a wake of transformation behind them while others don’t. Here’s one possibility:

We’ve become quite skilled at our “tips and techniques” in ministry. But somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that real impact flows through a transformed life. 

St. Francis of Assisi famously said: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.”

What does it mean to be made into an “instrument” God can work through to transform lives? How do we “sow” the fruits of the Spirit? It starts with wonder—a fundamental response to the heart of Jesus unveiled and freed from the choking weeds of Christian “performance” and “usefulness.” This is exactly the message Jesus was hoping Martha would get when He elevated Mary’s wonder over her usefulness. 

Our impact is directly tied to the wonder we feel when we encounter Jesus as He really is, not as the diminished version most of us have grown up learning about.

So find yourself an open day, a canoe, and a mountain lake—or some reasonable facsimile. Invite Jesus to sit across from you. Then have the long, long conversation you’ve been putting off. I think you’ll come away from your day transformed.

Rick Lawrence is Executive Director of Vibrant Faith. He’s the general editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible, and author of 40 books, including The Jesus-Centered Life and the new daily devotional Jesus-Centered Daily.


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