The transformed woman strides confidently into a room of waiting family and friends, who gasp in unison and burst into applause. Broken-voiced, her husband tells the camera, "She's absolutely beautiful." Watching, my Mom and I blink back our own tears.
Whether it comes to the home, body, style, or personal habits, television overflows with stories about miraculous makeovers. And why not? It's fun to watch decorators transform a small living space from drab to delightful, diet doctors help someone shed extra pounds, and fashionistas redo a person's clothes, hair, and makeup so that her family and friends are speechless with amazement. Of couse, at the close of each show, we're blown away again by the "after" version as we're reminded of how bad the "before" version used to be.
The church is no different than pop culture when it comes to an appetite for dramatic transformation stories. I've got one of those death-to-life kinds of testimonies that seem to be in demand around Easter time, as do many of us raised outside the church. But I fear for my kids, who've been plodding along inside the church for years; they don't feel like "before-transformation" prodigals who've spent time in a distant land. Like the older brother in Jesus' story, it might be easy for them to take the love of the Father for granted. That's why I'm praying for them to be stunned by the sickness of their own souls. I want them to despise the "before" versions of themselves in a way that leads not to self-hatred but to overwhelming gratitude.
An ancient way to grasp our pre-makeover condition is to meditate on the Cross. Beth Slevcove, Spiritual Director for Youth Specialties, encourages families to journey through the Stations of the Cross:
Much of our cultural Christianity leaves us without a place deep enough to hold our human suffering and disappointments. I believe our students desperately need to know that (as Henri Nouwen put it): "There is immense pain in the wide world around us; there is immense pain in the small world inside us. But all pain belongs to Jesus and is transformed by him into glorified wounds which allow us to recognize him as our risen Lord."
As "older brother" teens and prodigal parents remembering the lavish expense on the Cross, we can be awed together by the Ultimate Makeover of Easter.
Mitali Perkins is a freelance writer who has lived in Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Great Britain, Mexico, Ghana, Cameroon, and Austria, and has traveled extensively throughout Asia. Her fiction for youth includes Monsoon Summer, and her articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Christian Parenting Today, Discipleship Journal, Prism, U.S. Catholic, Campus Life, and Presbyterians Today. Visit her weblog at http://ambassadorfamilies.blogspot.com/ and post your comments there.
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