One of my favorite shows of all time is the medical comedy Scrubs. On the one hand hilarious and absurd, on the other insightful and emotional. It had it all. Following the lives of a handful of new doctors struggling to make it—not only as doctors, but simply make it through the world—the show often played on themes of identity, recognizing the difference between who a character hoped they would be and who they actually are.
In one season, after years of feeling inadequate, disrespected, awkward, and unattractive, one of the characters completely changes her appearance: she cuts and dyes her hair, changes her wardrobe, redesigns her living space, and adopts a new attitude. The changes are so dramatic that every other character takes notice and she even begins to refer to herself as a different person: “The old Elliot would do that, but not the new Elliot.” In her eyes, the external changes to her life marked a new beginning, a fresh start, an opportunity to be someone she hadn’t been before.
As I wrote about many years ago, this can absolutely be the case; our appearance does not simply change the way others treat us, but can also change how we treat ourselves. Our external realities can have an effect on our internal selves.
And yet, as one can intuitively glean, and as Scrubs fans will know, more is needed for conversion to take root than a new wardrobe. Within a few episodes, the “new Elliot” finds that she is still the same insecure person, that eye-liner and short hair cannot hide who she really is inside. While offering an opportunity for change, and in some ways even achieving this in her short spurts of confidence, these changes cannot magically erase twenty-some years of becoming who she was.
I offer this as a further example of what I speak about in this week’s video reflection. Many of us will not have distinct moments of drastically changing our wardrobe and wanting to become a new person, as this fictional doctor did, but most of us will understand what it feels like to pack up everything we own and move to a new place. There is probably no more life-altering reality that we routinely face. Everything changes, our whole world is new.
And yet, we largely stay the same. At least, we often do.
Moving, like wardrobe changes, offer us an opportunity for a fresh start, to begin anew, but they do not guarantee that our lives will actually change. Changing our external realities can have an effect, but unless we are willing to acknowledge our internal selves, everything can change around us and our situations would remain the same. Different location, different look, same us.
True conversion requires more than a new address and dyed hair. It requires that we look deeply at ourselves and ask: “What about myself is preventing me from being a disciple of Christ, and how can I leave that behind?”