Friday, May 20, 2011

After Birth

Every once and a while, the light bulb of illumination appears over my head.  You know, that "DING" moment on the old cartoons when the character has a "bright" idea?  I wonder if the proverbial "light bulb" of revelation has to now become an LED or CFL bulb?  I mean, cartoon characters have to be conscious of the environment too, right?  Actually, when you think about it, the entire image of the light bulb might not be politically correct anymore.  Why waste energy just because you have a revelatory insightful thought?   Maybe the character could just turn a shade of green when he has a bright idea?  Hmmm.  Well, anyway.     

I love it when I find a little piece of insightful truth that I never noticed before.  One of the reasons that I write is because it enables me to put my thoughts together in a coherent format.  By recording my thoughts, my humble hope is always that someone will glean something from what I've written and then develop a new insight of their own.  My favorite comments is always something like, "Wow! I never thought of it that way!"  When more people begin to express their thoughts, beliefs and insights, it can open doors for others.  They share their new insights and the cycle continues.  When I think about it, I think we are more prone to learn more from each other than we do from any other source.

This morning is was reading something that that really blew me away by the imagery.  My friend Rob Vasquez writes an online devotional called "Be Blessed".  This week he wrote the following about what it means to be born again and the transformation that occurs after:

"Many people don't realize or want to admit how messy, slow, painful & gradual real change is. And here’s the truth many don’t want to accept: it’s very messy for broken people to be healed & transformed. It takes time. Birth is messy. It isn’t pretty. And guess what? Neither is new birth. Following Jesus is messier than people make it out to be."
Unfortunately, a lot of Christ followers reduce their salvation down to a day they "accepted Christ".  They prayed a religious mantra that magically transformed them into a Christian and now they are suppose to be automatically different than those that haven't prayer "the prayer".  We do this a lot in our churches, don't we?  We compare notes with each other and base our worth on how many people have been "saved".  The higher the number, the better Christian we are and to US be the glory, right?  Get 'em into heaven, get 'em a Bible and direct them to a church, and our job is done!  But is salvation this simplistic? 
Let me be clear.  I'm not discounting the act of salvation.  I'm not discounting the fact that for some Christians, saying a prayer of salvation was a pivotal point in their spiritual life.  And I'm not saying that it is not a Christian's responsibility to share the gospel and hope to see people others come to Christ.  What I'm saying is that we narrow down salvation and making disciples to a one time event that really can have nothing to do with a person being "Christlike".  Yes, there is always a point in which a non-Christian becomes a Christ follower.  Usually, it is a specific decision we make. Sometimes it's a definable moment, and other times it's not that clear.  I look at my own salvation as a life long journey that contains many pivotal moments of spiritual realizations.  If someone asked me when I was "saved", there is a specific time that I refer to as the moment of my "salvation", but to be honest, it's somewhat irrelevant to me now.  I'm more interested in what has occurred, and continues to occur in my life today, and what I think Rob might be talking about in the words above.  What we're really talking about is "sanctification". defines sanctification as "the activity of God which liberates the Christian from the power of sin.  It is the process of becoming what we are in Christ. This involves the putting off of the old habits of lying, stealing, backbiting, etc., and putting on the Christ-like qualities of honesty, mercy, and love."  See Colossians 3:1-10
Basically, sanctification is the process.  It's the ongoing activity on our lives of becoming more like Christ.  We become sanctified as we get rid of the crap in our lives and start looking more and more like Jesus by our words, actions and thoughts.  While salvation is essential, sanctification is really the evidence of who we are.  In many ways, sanctification is more significant than a single salvation experience because it reveals that a transformation has occurred in a persons life.  How many times have you run across someone who claims to be a follower of Christ because they "prayed a prayer", but they displays nothing in their life that would lead anyone to arrive at that conclusion.  
And this brings me to my point: like Rob said above, change is a messy thing.  When we begin the journey of becoming more like Christ, it can be a very ugly, chaotic and nasty process.  Yes, becoming more Christlike is a beautiful thing, but the process of getting there can be anything but pretty because it can involve confronting lifestyle aspects that are no longer spiritually healthy.   Everyday choices and actions can become "anti" Christ, and when we confront these issues, a conflict arises.  Our natural person, the thing that existed before following Christ, begins to rebel and fight the "process" every step of the way.  It doesn't want to be sanctified.  In many ways, we don't want to change.  We would rather live in a state of pre-salvtion because it's easy, safe and non-threatening.  
When a baby is born into the world, it's a beautiful, joyous and life changing event.  But physically, it's not pretty, is it?  It's messy, painful and chaotic.  Screams and cries fill the air as this new life comes into the world in a wave of blood, bodily fluid and discarded tissue.  It's not a pretty picture from a purely visual perspective.  Being "born again" is no different than the physical aspects of natural birth.  Our Church culture has created an unrealistic view of what salvation is, and consequently, it's created an unrealistic view of sanctification as well.  Spiritual transformation is sometimes not pretty, and like Rob says, it's slow, painful and gradual.     
From my own experience, in many ways following Christ is much more difficult than the life I lived before.  As I grow, becoming sanctified, I encounter and overcome more and more challenges that reveal to me how messy my life is.  I was born (again), spit out into the world in a mess of spiritual afterbirth.  Yes, I was cleaned up, but it's cold, frightening and not the comfortable place I came from.  I've been poked and prodded.  I've had to eat things that taste like shit.  I've soiled myself and spit up when things didn't agree with my spiritual digestive system.  I've fallen when I tried to walk and been scolded when I did something wrong. 

1 comment:

Gina Cottrill said...

I love this post. I identify with this in good and bad ways. When I was "saved" I didn't feel very different (out side of just being kind of wary and confused) and it has been a long and hard journey and I couldn't understand what was wrong with me that I was not magically changed. I also went to a church where, once you got the "saved" stamp-you weren't very interesting anymore. Very real; honest. Thank you for this.