Awakening Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Lent 2 I grew up in a part of the world where “born again” Christianity was ubiquitous and i developed a defense early in life. When asked if i was born again i would always say, “no need to be; i got it right the first time.” Nicodemus had a […]
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
I grew up in a part of the world where “born again” Christianity was ubiquitous and i developed a defense early in life. When asked if i was born again i would always say, “no need to be; i got it right the first time.”
Nicodemus had a smart guy answer to the phrase also. Jesus says, “you must be born from above” or “you must be born again” and Nicodemus says, “how can a grown person get born? Do you expect one to climb back into her or his mother and come out again?”
But Jesus dishes it right back. He says, “you have to be born of water and spirit.” Water is physical birth. A woman’s water breaks and then a baby’s not far behind.
You can’t have that experience again. You can’t go back into your mother’s body (and she wouldn’t want you to), but you can be born from Mother Spirit. Being born of spirit puts spirit in a maternal role, an obvious detail overlooked by patriarchy.
But God the child-bearer is not a new concept, of course: jesus would have found it in scripture. Job 38.29 asks, “Out of whose womb came the ice? The gray frost of the sky, who has given birth to it?”
The answer is, obviously, God! God is the divine Mother who gives birth to ice and frost. Genesis 1 imagines God creating by the power of the spoken word, but Job imagines God creating, at least weather, by giving birth to it!
God is also portrayed in the scriptures as a comforting mother, a nursing mother, a protective mother who guides the children of Israel like a mother eagle who teaches he eaglets to fly, hovering nearby them to catch them if they fall.
The mother image isn’t the dominant image for God in scripture, but it is one of the many images of God. That discovery may be like a new birth for some of us, a new experience of spiritual awareness.
Here’s something else about the birth metaphor…birth is messy, and painful, and scary. There is anxiety and change and discomfort and mess…if your spiritual birth is easy, effortless, neat, tidy, clean…it’s not really a birth at all.
Birth is struggle and risk and change…to grow in our understanding of the Sacred will require our being uncomfortable at times, sometimes even feeling insecure, having old assumptions challenged, old prejudices confronted, old superstitions exposed, and being exposed to new ideas, but the result is a beautiful miracle.
Now, “born again” is not a figure of speech that I tend to use, mostly because it has been so misused by so many for so long. But I am aware of times of struggle, times of pain, times of awakening, times of breaking forth into a new experience, a new perception of reality…i am aware of being born again.
Coming out is a new birth…difficult, risky, painful, life-giving, beautiful, miraculous.
Coming to terms with one’s true gender identity is a new birth…and then presenting one’s claimed identity to the world is an obvious sort of new birth.
Daring to face a challenge with dignity and grace can feel like a new birth.
Learning to forgive oneself or others is a new birth.
Coming to trust that we are each God’s miracle and not God’s mistake, that there’s not a spot where God is not, that God is all-inclusive and unconditional love…that is a new birth.
To experience the fullness of life, we must have a new awakening, or a few. That’s all Jesus is saying. And, like our first awakening, or birth, it will probably happen after times of difficulty, stress, uncertainty, even pain, and then after the birth or awakening, more care will be needed. That’s actually empowering, hopeful, beautiful because it tells us The pain isn’t the end of the story, it may even be part of a larger experience that will prove to be wonderful.
A baby being pushed from the cozy, familiar environment of its mother’s body into a big, bright unknown world is probably terrified. The world the baby has known is coming to an end and it has no way of knowing what is coming up next. But on the other side of the experience, there are caring hands of nurses and doctors or midwives, parents or caregivers, and a future filled with possibilities. The terror is followed by love, hope, opportunity.
I have no way of proving it, but I imagine that’s sort of what happens at death also. Leaving the only world we know, not knowing what to expect beyond the transition, and yet when it happens there are loving hands waiting to embrace us.
But in this experience of life, when you feel like life is spinning out of control, it could be that you are just experiencing a new birth! It feels overwhelming now, but it might be followed by new reasons for hope, new causes for celebration. The pain of labor is followed by the miracle of birth.
The world’s not coming to an end my friend, the world’s just coming to a start!
Birth, physical and spiritual, may not be easy, and there will be more care needed after it happens, but that just means that the future has infinite possibilities. Waking up to who we really are, and to our enormous potential, and to an awareness that we are forever in and part of God, that is what it means to be born from above…that’s being born again, or having a spiritual awakening.
Do you want, or need an awakening, a miracle, a new perception, a new birth? It may be about to happen, or you may be in the middle of it already. In any case, a miracle, a bundle of joy expressing as your life, is on the way. And this is the good news.
I am waking up to my potential.
I am waking up to my sacred value.
I am waking up to the possibilities of life.
Thank you, God.