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Changed Utterly

Changed Utterlyby Stephen Martz

A rabbi once was given a glimpse of all the sages gathered in paradise. While at first delighted, disappointment set in quickly. There’s nothing special, or even different about paradise. The sages go about their business much as they did on earth.

He had expected more—and does not hide his disappointment. But then he hears a voice: You do not understand. You are looking for the sages in paradise, and not seeing that paradise is in the sages.

Perhaps we, like the rabbi and his idea of paradise, have particular expectations of what transformation looks like. Maybe we expect high drama; imagine it filmed by Cecil B. DeMille and playing on a 3-D I MAX screen.

That’s not unreasonable. Transformation can be astonishing and dramatic. Saul thrown from his horse arises as Paul, championing the very religion he fiercely opposed not so long ago. Lazarus, quite dead after four days in the tomb, comes to life at the command of his friend, Jesus.

A leper kneeling before Jesus, begging to be made clean and whole, is miraculously healed by the Savior’s touch and words. Or a man blind from birth encounters Jesus on a road; Jesus stops, makes mud from dirt and spittle, and spreads the messy mixture on his eyes. Amazingly, after washing in the pool of Siloam, the man returns with sight—and insight.

These are quite stunning transformative encounters, and many of us also have known dramatic change, moments when something seems to take us over and demand a particular course of action that to our ego seems unwise or misguided, impulsive or impetuous— yet is right and necessary.

The Rev. Stephen Martz is a Jungian analyst and Episcopal priest who lives in Glen Ellyn, Ill. He can be reached through his website at www.jungiananalysischicago.org.

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