The Phoenix rises from the ashes. Cinderella rises from the cinders to become a queen. The Ugly Duckling becomes a beautiful swan. Pinocchio becomes a real boy. The frog becomes a prince. The Cowardly Lion gets his courage, the Scarecrow his brains, and the Tin Woodman a new heart. They are all transformed into the very thing they never thought they could be.
Why are we enchanted by tales of transformation? I can't think of a movie or novel or fairy tale that doesn't somehow turn on this. Why is it an essential part of any great story? Because it is the secret to Christianity, and Christianity is the secret to the universe. "You must be born again" (John 3:7). You must be transformed. Keeping the Law, following the rules, polishing up your manners—none of that will do. "What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people" (Gal. 6:15).
Is this not the message of the Gospel? Zacchaeus the trickster becomes Zacchaeus the Honest One. Mary the whore becomes Mary the Last of the Truly Faithful. Paul the self-righteous murderer becomes Paul the Humble Apostle. Erhaps we have changed a bit in what we believe and how we act. We confess the creeds now, and we've gotten our temper under control . . . for the most part. But "transformed" seems a bit too much to claim. How about "forgiven and on our way"? That's how most Christians would describe what's happened to them. It's partly true . . . and partly untrue, and the part that's untrue is what's killing us. We've been told that even though we have placed our hope in Christ, even though we have become his followers, our hearts are still desperately wicked. And of course, so long as we believe that our hearts remain untouched, unchanged, we will pretty much live untouched and unchanged.
For our heart is the wellspring of life within us.