Are We Ugly Ducklings or Swans?

When I first became a “Christian” just over ten years ago, I did so in spite of the messages of condemnation I heard from church leaders and the fundamentalist right. I walked toward Jesus in spite of the legalism that seemed to permeate the narration of the Gospel. How was I able to make the choice to do this? Three reasons.

First, I was not raised in a Christian household, therefore I never had to “unlearn” any ingrained doctrine or dogma. Second, I read books by other believers (Claiborne, Lomas, Manning, Miller, Tchividjian, Willard, Wright, to name a few) who led me to the true nature of a loving and grace-giving God. Third and most important, I read the words of Jesus – those red-letter words in the Bible that came directly from the mouth of my Savior. This is why I call myself a follower of Jesus.

I walked toward Jesus in spite of the legalism that seemed to permeate the narration of the Gospel.

As long as we continue to cling to religious law, doctrine and dogma over love, grace and mercy we will never understand the heart of Jesus, and following that, the heart of the Father. As long as we worship condemnation over Christ we will never allow His love and compassion to work through us to make disciples who accept and honor His love and grace. As long as we are afraid or refuse to speak truth to power, we will place human leaders over God.

Now some may think that because I call out the leader of our country I am judging him; that is not true. I see him through God’s eyes, as someone whose father administered transactional love, who learned early on that performance earns love. I believe he still sees himself as an ugly duckling – unlovable, untransformable, seeking accolades from anyone willing to flatter.

This saddens me greatly. I wish it were otherwise. But I see it in the bluster, in the blaming words, in the prideful behavior. There is fear behind the words and actions, because there is no grounding in Immanuel – a God who never abandons, who grants grace and mercy, and who delivers relational love, rather than transactional love.

Those of us who abide in Christ see our image through His eyes. We have been transformed through our Father’s scandalous, unconditional love and outrageous, generous grace. This unconditional love requires no performance; it attaches no strings, clauses or contingencies. His generous grace is given not because we earn it but because of God’s character. When we accept God’s love, we are able to offer love and compassion. When we welcome God’s grace, we are able to extend grace and mercy. We are, therefore, able to see ourselves as swans rather than the ugly ducklings we once may have seen in our mirrors.

If we are not raised in a family who gives unconditional love and grace, and if we cannot affirm or embrace God’s love and grace, then we don’t know how and are unable to magnify that love and grace to others. And instead of seeking the Spirit’s wisdom, we seek control, dominance and bragging rights.

If you know anyone like this, do not condemn them and do not pray for them to be converted.

Instead, pray God’s will for them. Pray they become transformed by God’s love, mercy and grace. Pray they become discipled by the Spirit. Pray they allow the Spirit to give them God’s ears to hear and His eyes to see. Pray they begin to see themselves as a child of God, as the swan God made them instead of the ugly duckling reflection they see through their own eyes.

“Whoever wanted Jesus, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.” (John 1:12)

18 comments

  1. Thank you for your heartfelt words. It is easy to fall into our own pet doctrines – and that certainly is one of the things about which Jesus condemned the Pharisees about so harshly – especially when we pick our pet verses to hold others accountable to. Yet, “All Scripture is breathed out by God….” (2 Timothy 3:16).

    Thank you again. We are currently diving deep into the stark difference between obedience and legalism in our pastoral blog, and your words are helpful – especially as we consider how legalism has wounded so many.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading, Pat. I appreciate your comments and your openness to consider what you are studying now. It gives me hope.

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  2. Part of the problem with that person is that he has gotten away with this bullying, narcissistic, dishonest behavior for 70 years. You may be right in that this job is bigger than he imagined. Even he may not be able to twist his way through it.

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    1. Very true, Beth. I think he is just beginning to realize the immensity of the job now. And I am praying for him to be greatly humbled.

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  3. So many thoughts come up when I read this.

    I was raised a Roman Catholic. For years I rejected it. Now, for all its warts, I do see that fundamental to Catholicism is charity. I think of St. Francis, my favorite saint, and his mercy toward all creatures. His example was closest to that of Jesus. The Church has to change its stance on women as equals and has to purge the horror of pedophilia. I think allowing priests to marry will eventually cure that evil. Pope Francis is the best thing to happen to Christianity in my lifetime, imho.

    Calvinism — which is non-scriptural — is responsible for this callous and selective, wrong-headed interpretation of Christ’s teachings.

    As for the man in the White House, his early childhood coupled with perhaps some congenital tendencies has created a pathology that needs to be dealt with head on. He does not belong in that position, as is clear and obvious. I pray for this country (and the world) that those with the ability to do so, face what has happened courageously and take steps to rectify it.

    I also pray every morning and evening for our deliverance from bad actors, on every level and in every part of life.

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    1. ” Pope Francis is the best thing to happen to Christianity in my lifetime, imho.” I agree with you here, Beth.
      As for the other – still praying for God’s will in the situation. He may need to be brought to his knees in order to experience God’s true love and grace so he understands the need and way to give it to others.

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  4. I love what you have told. I was raised in fundamentalism and it destroyed two of the four of us children. hugs

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    1. So sad to hear, Susan.
      As I began to hear the rhetoric, I knew something wasn’t right, and the more I read the words of Jesus, it seemed the opposite of the message He preached. The two never seemed to agree, and I couldn’t justify following Jesus with following a fundamentalist approach. I chose the One who Saves over humans who distort His message.

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      1. I am well. Left awhile but you know, it still tries. I was angry for awhile but now I pity them.

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      2. Understandable. I am sad for them, too.

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    1. Thank you my brother swan. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re very welcome Sister sparrow 😍🙏

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  5. “If you know anyone like this, do not condemn them and do not pray for them to be converted.
    Instead, pray God’s will for them. Pray they become transformed by God’s love, mercy and grace. Pray they become discipled by the Spirit.”

    Amen, Susan. This is so good. A person can be “converted” into some pretty ugly stuff thinking they’re serving God. But transformed by God’s love, mercy, and grace is truly beautiful. To be discipled by the Spirit is to become like Christ.

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    1. Right, Mel. There’s a HUGE difference between being converted and being discipled. A couple (two of my best friends) “worked” to convert me for a few years.
      Then I met one of their friends who simply walked with me and listened to me, answered to my questions and loved me. Finally, the wife of this couple saw what was happened and she shifted. She got it. And she and her friend (and God’s great patience) are the reasons I am a daughter of our Father today.
      My heart was open, so I was drawn into the discipleship of the Spirit immediately. That’s why I think I’ve been able to discern so readily the true Gospel – the words of Jesus which came to him from the Father. And this discipleship is not a one-time thing; it is a lifelong journey.

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  6. “When I first became a “Christian” just over ten years ago, I did so in spite of the messages of condemnation I heard from church leaders and the fundamentalist right.”

    I hears ya! Just keep in mind that religious spirit, politics, self righteousness, all that junk is what the enemy uses to try to drive us away from Jesus Christ. If we keep our eyes on Him, seek His favor over and above the opinions of others, we stay pretty safe, above the fray, in good Hands.

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    1. “religious spirit, politics, self righteousness, all that junk is what the enemy uses to try to drive us away from Jesus Christ.” Absolutely right, IB. It took me a couple of years to identify the enemy; once I did, I’ve not forgotten his voice, and the clear difference between the ugliness of that voice and the sweet voice of our Shepherd.

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