Some years past, Son Shine Preschool every spring experienced a metamorphosis. Not that the kids in the class changed, or the classroom, but they experienced the metamorphosis of butterflies. They would purchase a number of caterpillars which were all but ready to go into chrysalis stage. Soon in place of caterpillars the kids would come to school and find cocoons hanging around the netted cage. By late spring butterflies were emerging and the metamorphosis was complete. The word for this comes from a Greek root meta, which by itself means with or after but when built into a compound word most often means to change, and morphā which means form. Metamorphosis is a change of physical form.
That’s not the only Greek word for change that has migrated into the English language. Metanoia is another. As you can tell it carries the same prefix, meta, for change but the rest of the word relates to ones mind, thoughts, and attitudes. You might even say, in our colloquial way of speaking, “change of heart.” Metanoia, (noun); Metanoew (verb) are usually translated repentance or repent in English Translations of the Bible. They are different than a metamorphosis because a person cannot necessarily see the change visibly. It’s not a change of form. It’s a change that takes place on the inside. So it’s not something you expect from butterflies. It’s something for people. Yet, even though it takes place on the inside, it still has tangible results. Resulting from the change of mind and heart is a change of direction.
This metanoia is what the penitential season of Lent is all about. It’s a time to recognize those patterns in our life that still take us in other directions besides the way the Lord would have us go. It’s a period of change. It takes a butterfly two to four weeks to go from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Lent is six weeks long but often it can take even longer to effect change in our lives. That’s not to say we need so speed it up. Experiencing that transformation of heart is not something we can do ourselves by sheer power of will, neither is speeding the process. Metanoia is something that God does in us. It’s all part of his new covenant in Christ. When through Jeremiah the Lord foretold of this new covenant he said:
“I will put my law in their minds and I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. . . .For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
Through Ezekiel he spoke of it as well. He said:
“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit within them. I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. They will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:19-20)
At the end of the Lenten season, on Maundy Thursday, Jesus spoke of his body broken and his blood shed as the inauguration of this new covenant and he shared it with his disciples. We who share in that same supper, and who share in that same culminating passion and resurrection story, share in this metanoia. Join us this Lent season on Wednesday nights for Metanoia Moments. Like the Son Shine kids used to do every spring, we’ll each week look at the metanoia moment of another individual from the scriptures, and the Lord will use it to do the same for us.