"Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:6-8
The birth I want to focus on today is not the day I was born thir-shmuffmuhuh-ty years ago but the birth I'm hoping for this year. And the hundreds of births I've experienced in between.
The people in the picture above, my parents, grandparents, and pastor could only guess at the gift they were giving me on that day. Whatever you think about infant baptism, christening, dedication, or whatever (no I don't want to hear your opinion, thanks though) I receive mine as a gift, a birth. My parents were saying yes to God as best as they knew how. And he took them seriously. They were giving their firstborn back, even if they didn't fully realize it at the time, to the glory of God and as a testimony to truth. And he's held them to it.
As an infant just days old I was unwittingly experiencing a birth, an entering into life in the community of God, for better or worse, richer or poorer, till death do us part. As a child I was birthed into eternal life by responding in faith to the truth I understood; God is great, I'm not, and I need him to make it right. Later I experienced the birth of dreams, to be a missionary, a wife, a person of conviction and influence, a writer. I experienced the birth of love and learned that love is a kind of death to which you awaken a better, stripped down, version of yourself. I lost love and the birth of desperation surprised me, and I awoke an even more stripped down version of myself, one that breaths only Jesus. And then love found me again and the real work began.
The birth of my children was the birth of my own motherhood, and it still shakes me to my core. And then I learned I was born to a different kind of motherhood, mentoring. I've been born and reborn; advocate, student, communicator, artist, musician, storyteller, friend, fighter, leader, follower, over and over until I've lost count.
This year I'm looking forward to birth once again. I have my preconceived ideas and preferences, but they are really irrelevant. I'll only be born if I'm first willing to die in some way. And then to change and be transformed and be new. The life of a Jesus follower can't be lived tied to this world, or a set of dogmas. An unwillingness to be reborn, again and again, is antithetical to the life that's been given back to God. A resoluteness concerning the truth of Christ is essential but a loyalty to the particulars of religion hampers the birthing process.
And even in my pain/drug induced stupor, labor is something I remember. The birthing process is painful, for the mother, and I'm assuming the kid (I wouldn't enjoy my head being squished to the point of malformation.). But pain doesn't last forever and when endured is worth it in the end. It's a natural process to be cooperated with and not fought. And there are plenty of people to offer support along the way.
This year I invite birth. A birth to more love, deepening truth, different tasks, greater joy, new relationships. I also embrace the death that comes with it. Death to self, my own opinions, worn out routines, dogma, and dreams God never intended me to dream.
Life is a series of deaths and rebirths. Until the final rebirth when we leave the womb of this world and breath the pure, free air of eternity. But if we choose not to die or be reborn we stagnate and interrupt the process, remaining as an infant. I don't want that, I choose life. How about you?