It’s hard for those who love the Word to imagine reading it and not being transformed.

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. Romans 12:2 (NIV)

But it actually is possible for a reader to let the personal, applicable truth in a verse to pass us by. If it’s uncomfortable, if it requires that we set aside something we love to do, or a change an attitude that is “natural” for us in our humanity…that’s one way of avoiding something that makes us squirm. But as journalers, we have another trap to fall into: reading just enough to see the picture-word in a verse and decide that’s what will be drawn – and then stop listening to what the Holy Spirit is trying to transform in our lives.

I’ll readily admit that I struggle with this. I’m so visual that I can get sidetracked by a picture-word, or I recall an image I saw someone else use with the verse and decide to do that, too. (For instance, I have see many interpretations of this verse with caterpillars and butterflies.) I have to continually bring my attention back to how God is speaking to me. His truth is for me, today, right now – am I listening?

When I set aside the ever-present “what will I draw?” question, and focus my attention back on the Lord, my time in Scripture is much better-spent, and my life CAN be transformed.

In the fishbowl example, my study time included verses 1-3:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 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. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you… Romans 12:1-3 (NIV)

My discussion with God was about how to make my body that living sacrifice. What does a living sacrifice look like for me, today? What area of my life do I need to lay on the altar and set ablaze as a sacrifice? In what ways am I living in the filth of the world and need to escape? Where am I thinking too highly of myself – especially ways I don’t even see without God’s help? I want to be transformed, not to conform to the mess of the world around me.

God helped me to see a particular area where I have been swimming in a pool of water that is slowly becoming dirtier and dirtier – an area I’ve become so accustomed to swirling around me that I don’t even notice it. Like a frog in the slowly boiling water. It’s a place in my life that I needed to be transformed, because I was getting sucked slowly into acceptance of the cesspool – and needed to make a deliberate leap to escape it.

He showed me a step to take, and as I committed to take it and repented from not having even seen it until that day, I could feel the cleansing that began immediately. That squeaky clean feeling I only get from God’s forgiveness!

The feeling of escaping the filthy cesspool was one I wanted to capture in the journaling art, so I drew two fishbowls. The dirty one is only partly on the page, because I don’t like to give the world “space” in my Bible – but to place all that beautiful clean water front and center. I’m still a work in progress, and at the time of the journaling hadn’t taken the step that Jesus wanted me to take – so the fish (me) is pictured mid-leap! That created a dynamic image that always reminds me that I need to constantly be aware of the sin of the world, and be actively jumping into the arms of the Lord to repent and be cleansed.

I also noticed while doing my study that CONform and TRANSform both contain “form” – and chose to let the “trans” be written atop “con” as a text reminder that the transformation by the Word of God can completely overtake any conforming to the world’s ways….if we let Jesus do that work in us!