Grace and Peace to you.
Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the Realm of God without being reborn from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can you enter a second time into your mother’s womb and be born?”
— John 3.3-4
OK, class, settle down. After you all finish tittering about Nick’s silly question here—listen, it’s the same question you have, isn’t it? He gets our panic: in this being born again thing—I get to bring my old self along, right? He’s made the absurdity of it clear by using a biological image of climbing back into the womb and trying again, but the reality is spiritual: not just your body but your whole self, what you think is “you”— you can’t take it with you. When you are born again you don’t go back to some earlier point, you go onward. You die. You leave your self behind. You’re not just birthed again, you’re conceived again. You’re created. You’re a wholly new person.
Nicodemus’ question points out our deep attachment to our “self.” That attachment is what we call sin. Sin is living in the illusion that I can create myself, and that I do create myself, and that this self I create is worth defending. We assume that our self is contained in our body, and spend our lives wrestling with its limitations. We identify with our feelings and thoughts and beliefs, with our memories and personalities and accomplishments, as if that’s who we are. But who we are is an image, a little bit, a handful of God.
When we really, truly, madly, deeply love God, we love God even more than our own “self”—and we give that self over to God, along with the illusion that we are God, that we get to create and control our own self. In so doing we return to our true self, our soul. We allow God to create us, over and over again, in God’s good and beautiful grace, trusting, as she said the first time in Genesis, that is is “very good.” We are re-born, not by human will, but from God. “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of human doing, but of God” (John 1.12-13).
To “believe” doesn’t mean to think. It means to give your heart to the One who creates you new, every morning you awake, every breath. So, Nick, the answer to your question is yes. Enter again into your Heavenly Mother’s womb, and be born again, and again, and again. The hard part is letting go of who you think you are, so that you are ready to receive it from God. (That’s what Lent is about.) Every moment we choose, we can let go of the person we have been trying to be, let the Beloved conceive us anew, and allow her to birth us into this world as newborns, beautiful babies, full of wonder, and swaddled in love for the Mother who gives us birth and life.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes