Well, it appears its time. I have to talk about giving birth.
Not that I really want to. The birth process is scary and something beyond our control…but it has to be addressed because I am afraid that too many of us are trying to reinvent our lives when we are actually called to the process of rebirth.
I am not talking here about physical birth, though the birth of a child can be a wonderful fruit of this process. It was for me. Here though, I am talking about spiritual rebirth.
In a recent post I wrote about God calling me into the spirit of adventure with him and I am afraid that for all of the whimsy that a call like that suggests, it appears that most days I am just not up to this task. Deep down, the person I most identify with, is the little girl who wants to feel completely secure. Sometimes I wonder though: Am I really that girl? All the way through to the bottom? I’m not so sure that’s true. And if its not true then maybe I cling too easily to a part of my identity that’s really, in the end, unhelpful.
In the couple of years before Ellie was born I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out who I was and what exactly I was supposed to be doing. At times I affectionately call the decade of my 20s my “awkward teenage years” and for all the laughter that gets in a conversation, the actual living of those years were incredibly difficult. It felt like learning how to walk.
There’s a moment in the gospel of John when a pharisee named Nicodemus visits Jesus at night and tells him, essentially: “I know who you are because of the signs you have been performing in our community.”
Jesus responds to the man’s certainty with a slanted truth: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” This mysterious line sends Nicodemus into an intellectual tailspin as he realizes that while he had approached Jesus to identify with him and likely seek his allegiance he hadn’t expected Jesus to respond by holding up a mirror to him to ask him if he really knew the man in front of him in the first place.
Jesus tells him to be born again. Using terms like “born again” in our day and age is not a way to win any friends but I will say this…coming to grips with who you are, deep down, requires not just a rearrangement of what you know intellectually about yourself or your life but submitting yourself to the emotional-physical-spiritual gestation process that Jesus invites us into. Rebirth is not reinvention. He says it to Nicodemus plain as day in the text:
“You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to…the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.” John 3:5 Message Translation
Things started to change in my own life when I finally let go of what I felt I was certain of and took a chance on the mystery of the Spirit of God. First, I let go at work. Then, I let go at home. Before long I was leading an organization that birthed a business and not long after that I found out I was pregnant. If you had told me a year before this all happened that these two things would occur at the same time I would have dissolved into a puddle in front of your very eyes. Yet somehow, by saying I’d allow him to lead and then taking the next right steps with him, I got through a pregnancy, a multi-state move and a job transition with energy left to spare. Which was perfect – I now had a newborn to care for and a new life to build in a new city.
I would leave it at that but I think so much is left unsaid if I don’t share what I learned in the middle of all these crazy transitions. A few things are coming to mind:
- Rebirth, spiritual rebirth that is, requires a moment of consent. God is not going to drag us into spiritual maturity. He will wait patiently until we let go and allow him to lead us but he will not take one step in the direction of holistic and abundant new life if we do not take the step with him.
- He WILL allow our lives to become narrow and difficult. He will take us to a place where we don’t have much choice but to reach out our hand towards him in faith. He really is a loving parent. He really does want to help us out of our junk and he will make that fact obvious.
- Bringing something, someone or some part of ourselves to life takes ALOT of time. Way longer than you ever anticipate. So take your plans and then add some time. No, really. ADD MORE TIME THAN THAT. This will take more time than you ever imagined and this will be incredibly frustrating. There are more verses than I would like to count in scripture that say essentially: “And Joseph was forgotten and spent two years in prison…” (Genesis 40-41) Keep the faith. A broken and limited people may have forgotten, but God has not. This is not for nothing. This is how you change a life.
Finally, I would just say this. The joy on the other side of the mess will be better than you could have ever imagined. I lived in absolute terror of life for a good half decade. And that’s conservative. But I will say this: Just yesterday I sat back at the end of a beautiful spring day with a joy that spilled over into our evening. We ate dinner outside and “played lacrosse” with our daughter and I could have burst over the beauty of something that years before I would have been scared to allow myself to enjoy. Truthfully, I’m still scared some days. Thankfully, those fears are no longer driving the bus.
“Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32.