Monday, February 14, 2011

"The Metamorphosis--Why Gregor Samsa Became a Roach and So Can You"

Perhaps you remember the story of Gregor Samsa. One morning he wakes up to discover that he has become a giant vermin (this often gets translated as "roach"), only he doesn't seem very surprised--a little embarrassed, but not surprised. Kafka never says why Gregor turned into a giant vermin--only that he does. The point seems to be that Gregor merely becomes outwardly what he truly was all along. As the proverb goes: "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7 KJV).

So, if we are what we eat, and thoughts are the food of the mind, then we become what we think. It truly is an easy equation with a difficult solution: if we claim Jesus the Messiah as our Lord (ruler) and Savior, then we have signed up to follow Him and be transformed into His likeness. If so, then we need to eat food (think thoughts) that will be transformational for that life in Christ. Romans 12:2 states: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" (NIV). The Koine Greek word for "transformed" here is "metamorphoo." Look familiar?

Often we think of transformation as instantaneous, but a look at the life of C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, or any number of people throughout history will show that transformation often takes place thought at a time. Also, Paul's exhortation requires action on the part of his hearers. He does not say, "Sit back a wait. God will unilaterally transform your mind." He gives a negative command (Do not be conformed) and gives a contrasting exhortation (Be transformed). This is action that takes work over a period of time.

So, what are the different things that influence our thoughts? People at work, friends, family, radio, internet, T.V., books, magazines, etc. How mindful are we about the quality of information we are getting? 

Recently, I had to do a project in which I had to pick an hour time slot for 4 to 5 viewing sessions of T.V. and catalog the images that were being conveyed as I flipped through channels. First of all, I was amazed at the sheer amount of images and messages that assault our minds in just one hour of T.V.! Second of all, I was surprised at how certain norms and agendas were being reinforced or promoted. I encourage you to keep a pad of paper on your coffee table and write down notes on the images you see during programing. What is being said about women, men, different races, needs, wants, politics, religion? What keeps recurring? What is being left out? We can do this type of evaluation with everything from billboards to radio.

There is no doubt that we are being shaped. The question is: WHO is shaping us?

One day we may wake up to find that we look more and more like Jesus Christ...or we may wake up to find out that we have turned into a giant roach like Gregor. We need to be mindful of what we're eating/thinking. Maureen brought up a powerful verse in the discussion of my last post, and with that I will leave you: 2 Corinthians 10:5 "We pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ" (Good News Bible).


  1. Excellent thoughts.

    I'm finishing up my sunday school lesson for this week and we are discussing Philippians 4:8-9. It's fascinating how Paul's admonition to "think on these things" was to constantly dwell on the depths and reality of the gospel (for all those characteristics he mentions find their bedrock there). If we feed our mind the Gospel every day, it will be no wonder if we are more loving, more humble, more united with our fellow brothers & sisters. Love the post!

  2. Well written, Nick! The Gregor Samsa story is a perfect analogy! Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 10:5 are scriptures that many of us know by heart, but are we really allowing them to sink deep into our hearts? Are we meditating on what they truly mean? The process of transformation is just that...a process! One that will certainly take a lifetime:) Satan is subtle in the way He chooses to pollute our minds...that is why it is so important for us to be careful with what we choose to expose ourselves to...garbage in, garbage out, right? Even something as simple as a 20 second TV commercial can be damaging because it exalts something else over God.

    Thanks for making me think! I'm so proud of you:)

  3. Well said, Justin. It is really fascinating to see Paul reviewing all of the Jewish theology he learned in light of the Risen Christ. In other words, "If this is true (that Jesus the Messiah and He rose from the dead) then this has implications for all of these areas of Scripture. And as I live life inside of that Covenant Community and as my life is in Jesus the Messiah, then this is how it affects my life!" The Good News takes on richer meaning the more we understand the Old Testament. The 1st Century Church had a leg up on us in someways--the OT was their "pop culture." They knew the stories from the Scriptures like we know scenes from A Christmas Story or Dumb and Dumber or any number of movies and TV shows. So when Paul says that the Philippians need to "Do all things without murmuring and arguing", the Church catches the allusion to the Israelites' wandering in the wilderness which was characterized by murmuring against Moses. They all knew how that turned out!
    So many good things to say about Philippians! But I digress. Yes, we do need to reflect on the Gospel in such a way that it truly is the "Good News" in each of our lives.
    Yes, Brandy, we all need to allow the truths of Scripture to sink deep into our hearts...but this takes time and intention. Both of these are areas where many of us lack. We do not take time to sit and think about God or take time to plumb the depths of the verses we casually read. I wish I was further along in this journey than I am. Alas, we have to start somewhere.