“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (John 3:4)
Daily Bible Reading: Leviticus 12:1 – 14:32
Relate: I’m a single guy. I’ve never been married, never had kids, and since all of my younger siblings are adopted, never even lived in the same home as a pregnant woman. That said, I love babies. A lot. Some co-workers have called me the baby whisperer for my uncanny ability to get even the crankiest of babies to smile. I love babies, but I’ve never given much serious thought as to what goes on between the point of conception and the moment of birth. I’ve probably spent more time reading on this in the last few hours than I cumulatively did in my entire life prior to today. So I am no expert. Nothing I was reading was necessarily completely new to me. It was more like adding details to a miraculous process where I already intrinsically knew the basic outline. I couldn’t help but just keep reading and digging. Those details, the miracle of exactly how life comes to be, is just so beautiful. Our God is so good and creative.
Some of your pro-life vs pro-choice radars might be going off right about now. I am not looking for a debate although I know many of my comments will probably move some minds in that direction. There have always been two mantras, life begins at conception or life begins at birth. I’ve always held firmly to the former and I still do. But if you were to ask me, “does life begin at conception or at birth?” I would say, “yes.” Some basic characteristics of something being alive is that it is organized and can consume, grow, respond, adapt, and reproduce. For humanity we would add self awareness into the mix. Using those seven characteristics, there is no point in the process where we can specifically say, “This is now a living human being”. The process of coming alive for a pre-born child is a nine month miracle.
React: Many commentaries I have read regarding John 3:3 try to move away from the actual analogy of birth. I understand. Birth is a messy process. It is earthy. It is very… feminine, and for most of history biblical scholarship has been a male dominated profession. So there has almost always been a movement to imply that Jesus said right from the start “born of God” or “born from above”. Although Jesus and Nicodemus would have been speaking in Hebrew or Aramaic, the Greek we have in John allows for this disambiguation. I don’t buy it. Nicodemus would not have asked his follow up question of Jesus had said “born from above”. I believe Jesus wanted the analogy. He didn’t speak by accident. He wanted the miracle of physical birth to be a representation of the miracle of spiritual birth.
Because both are simultaneously a process and an event. The seed is planted. Deep inside it grows and is nurtured. Long before birth a heart begins to develop. Awareness and emotions begin to surface. There is a growing ability to truly see and hear. There is an ability to recognize and distinguish the voice of our Parent from the noise of some stranger. Finally, when that seed has grown and developed and is ready, it enters our world and a new life has begun. For physical life, that process is always close to nine months. For spiritual life, that process might take days or weeks or even years. Spiritual life doesn’t just begin the moment someone finally prays a prayer. It doesn’t just begin the moment a person surrenders to God. A lot has happened leading up to that point. There have been many hidden miracles deep inside that have made that person ready to truly enter God’s kingdom. We can’t see those miracles, but we can continue to pray and nurture them. We don’t know when the surprise and joy of a new birth will burst upon us. All we can do is rejoice and dance with the angels.
God, You know those who I have been praying for. For some I have been praying for days or weeks. For others, it has been decades. Sometimes I feel like they are close. Other times I wonder if this miracle of birth will ever come. You know the miracles You are working deep in their hearts. You know the seeds that have been planted. Nurture them. Grow them. Develop them. Help me to never quit praying and interceding and loving and caring and serving until that day when we are truly surprised by the joy of new birth. Let that day please come quickly. Continue to work in their life for as long as it takes. Let them be born again.