Been thinking lately about the obvious: birth! But, more specifically in the words Jesus said to Nicodemus: "You must be born again."
I think one of the things that shocked me the most about birth the first time around was how brutal it was. I don't mean the pain--I knew to expect that to be awful. But, I guess I imagined the moment the baby left my body would be one of exhilaration and an overwhelming sense of life... When, really... it felt like a shock, a severance, a loss, a lightening... The separation of the child's body from my own literally caused my body to jolt from the parting. I didn't imagine that.
So, I've been thinking about Jesus' use of the analogy of being born when talking about being a part of God's kingdom. I think in reading that passage before, I would think about it in reference to "new life"... but not the actual process of birth. I thought of other analogies Jesus could have chosen: "Think of it as joining a club" or "You must apply yourself, like at school, if you want to get good grades" or "There is a member's fee". But, no. He chose birth.
I think it is because... not only does entering God's kingdom mean you are entering into a new life.... but also, entering God's kingdom--being born again--is often, to us, a brutal process.
When I truly am in God's kingdom, there will be times that it feels brutal. That I feel the shock of separation from my old way of thinking, a lightening from what used to matter to me, a severance from the things that used to control my decisions and my outlook.
Birth is a one-time thing... but living as one born-again is an on-going one. This is where physical and spiritual birth are different. As those born to God, we have the choice to return to how we were. To re-assume the old identities, to return to being owned by the earthly. Being born into God's kingdom is one-time... and it is also daily. A birth that requires dying... new life that bids farewell to the old. Kingdom-living gets its rhythm from the nudges of sanctification, truth and sacrifice.
I think about the process it takes for a woman to get to the point of birth-- the gradual building of anticipation, the aches the pains, the swelling... until, all that woman longs for is birth. I think it's the same for us... That getting to the place where we actually desire to be reborn, to be alive in God, to let go, is often a process. A gradual intensifying of need and desperation, until... finally... we can't do anything more than bow our knee to God and say: "I am ready. Have your way in me."
Birth is brutal. It is full of the unknown and of risk. But, it is also beautiful and unlike anything else on earth. It is life-changing, life-beginning, and life-renewing. Birth creates families, unites communities and inspires joy. So let us choose to yield to that which God desires to birth in us, and release into His hands that which must not remain... true life comes only through this!