Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Born Again. Again.

Dear Friends,

Last week I was listening to Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home” and thinking of a friend named Ron. On November 14, 1960, Ron came out of a comfortable and familiar place where he had been living for nine months, passed through his mother’s birth canal and into the bright light of a brand-new world. Fifty-nine years later, on November 13, 2019, Ron passed out of a comfortable and familiar place where he had been living and was birthed into the bright light of a brand-new world that exceeded everything that he had ever imagined and hoped for. 

Henri Nouwen was an internationally-known Catholic priest who wrote over forty books on the spiritual life, and Presbyterian pastor Fred Rogers (“Mister Roger’s Neighborhood”) recognized Nouwen as one of the most significant spiritual leaders of our time. In “Our Greatest Gift ~ A Meditation on Dying and Caring,” Nouwen gives us a parable on the transitions in our life:

Twins are talking to each other in the womb. The sister said to the brother, “I believe there is life after birth.” Her brother protested vehemently, “No, no, this is all there is. This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling to the cord that feeds us.” The little girl insisted, “There must be something more than this dark place. There must be something else, a place with light where there is freedom to move.” Still she could not convince her twin brother.

After some silence, the sister said hesitantly, “I have something else to say, and I’m afraid you won’t believe this, either, but I think there is a mother.” Her brother became furious. “A mother!” he shouted. “What are you talking about? I have never seen a mother, and neither have you. Who put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have. Why do you always want more? This is not such a bad place and we have all we need, so let’s be content.”

The sister was quite overwhelmed by her brother’s response and for a while didn’t dare say anything more. But she couldn’t let go of her thoughts, and since she only had her twin brother to speak to, she finally said, “Don’t you feel these squeezes every once in a while They’re quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful.” “Yes,” he answered. “What’s special about that?” “Well”, the sister said, “I think that these squeezes are there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face-to-face!!!”

Nouwen’s parable ends there but imagine with me that it continues: After the twins had grown up, the sister went through her life believing that this world “womb” was a temporary home and that death would simply be the transition to a new stage of existence unimaginable in this life. Her brother went through his life doubting that it had any meaning or purpose and believing that death would simply be the end of his existence.

In the metaphorical parable, life outside the womb was beyond the twin’s capacity to picture and there were sensations from the outside that they could not comprehend. Sounds. Movements. Squeezes. Bright lights would sometimes light up their dark, safe space that hinted of the life to come. The brother closed his eyes and ears to the reality of another world and brushed off the signs as meaningless wishful thinking. His sister’s “evidence” that there was someOne bigger than them was because the Holy Spirit had given her the ability to see that they were immersed in God’s existence (the “mother’s womb” in the parable), and they were being supported, fed and nurtured in every way by their “Creator.” The girl knew that as they continued to grow and develop, their existence and development made no sense unless they were meant for something more, by someone “bigger” in whom they were growing. And she knew that with the approaching end of their nine month life, the uncomfortable “squeezes” were the sign that something wonderful was waiting for them. She was filled with a hopeful expectancy of a better world to come! 

For the unbelieving world, the word “birth” can bring great joy while “death” brings fear. But for those whose hope is in Christ, our transition from our mortal existence on earth is simply another joyful “birth” into an unseen world that is only glimpsed by us in this life. “..No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 

At Ron’s memorial service, I was talking with a friend who has absolutely no fear of death. She has complete faith and trust in God and, like the girl in the parable, had been given a vision of her next destination after she leaves this “temporary home.” Our souls were created to have eternal life. We simply transition from one world to the next, stepping over the threshold of the door that God is holding open for us. As believers, death has no victory in our lives 1 Corinthians 15:55 because “it is well with our soul.” For those who believe, what awaits each one of us is simply another birth into a better world. John 3:16; Rev 7:15-17; Rev 21:3-5  Amen?

Listen to Carrie Underwood's "Temporary Home" HERE

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