Now We Were Four

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My second was born in the coldest part of the night, the hour before sunrise. She arrived as most do, squinting and cackling her first pathetic cry, a protest against light and air and noise. The midwife placed her on Dorinda’s chest and she settled down, daughter on mother, beauty in an embrace.

Dainty was the word for her. Seven pounds even, a feather of a thing, with dark hair on top and perfect little fingers to someday play the piano like her mom.

After a long night of laboring, Amelia was here. She completed our nucleus; now we were four.

A couple of years had passed since Isaiah was born, and I had forgotten how tiny, how helpless a newborn baby is. Amelia was totally reliant on her mother to move, to eat, to stay warm — even to breathe in those first moments, when Dorinda instinctively massaged and patted away the coughs as lungs swapped amniotic fluid for air.

If that is truly how we begin our spiritual life, then I have yet again underestimated God’s grace.

What a different picture than the empowered, enlightened person I considered myself to be when I was yet a spiritual infant, when all I could really say for myself was, “I’m here. I have been delivered.”

And what a powerful picture of God’s care, that in such a perilous world any of us survive past spiritual infancy. “Long for the pure spiritual milk,” Peter writes, “that by it you may grow up into salvation.” Without my wife to nurture and protect her, Amelia would not have made it a day. Was that really me? Did I survive only because God shielded and fed me?

An even deeper truth is found in the third chapter of John, where Jesus likened salvation to the gritty, painful transition of birth during his exchange with Nicodemus, who acknowledged Him as “from God,” but was apparently incapable of recognizing the Nazarene as God incarnate. As far as we know, the phrase “born again” had never been heard until Jesus coined it in that moment, and it must have sounded a little bit like nonsense. So we can be patient with Nicodemus for wondering, how can these things be?

On this side of the cross, with the Spirit of God inhabiting our hearts, we see the beauty and wisdom in our Lord’s words. Especially when you witness the struggle, the outright physical warfare that is childbirth, the analogy rings with spiritual depth. It holds.

Like Amelia on the morning of her arrival, we enter the new kingdom with nothing to offer. Spiritually, we are naked, needy, vulnerable, bewildered.

And like a newborn, we are not just somewhere new, we are something new — in Christ, a new creation. Lungs draw their first air; eyes take in the color and shape of things; fingers stretch through the first of a thousand rooms. At that moment, a human being, dormant and confined in the womb, begins to blossom into the world she was made for, with all the parts to experience it.

Before rebirth, the soul is a “lodger in its own house,” C.S. Lewis once wrote. Confined, dormant: a spiritual fetus. But through the work of the Holy Spirit, the soul is delivered into a new realm — the one for which it was made, the one that will never end.

Let us never suppose that spiritual realities are less authentic than the physical — that the rooms are somehow fewer, or the colors duller, in the spiritual regions that our Heavenly Father opens before us with a welcoming smile, knowing all there is for us to taste and touch in His kingdom.

First kiss.

Preparing for my introduction.

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that The Lord is good.”   {1 Peter 2:1-3}
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.'”   {John 3:1-8}