A Second Rebirth

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:3

I knew these words as a young teenager. I could quote them for you and show you where they were highlighted on the pages of my New Testament.

These words were what took me into the water with Jesus. Never mind that my baptism took place in a swimming pool on a Tuesday night. These words convicted my twelve-year-old self in such a way that I wanted to surrender my life to Christ forever.

I was born again that Tuesday night, and I became a part of a new Family.

And for the next fifteen years, it worked pretty well for me. I carried my Sword, I claimed His promises, and I taught anyone who was willing to listen about the Glory that was set before me.

The faith of my teenage years and early adulthood was even enough to motivate me to move abroad. But over the years of church attendance, service trips, and volunteer work, the faith I carried was also more than enough to puff me up before the throne of God.

What had initially begun as surrendering my life to Christ became bragging about my obedience to Christ.

I was working my way towards sanctification, one righteous act at a time. Surely if I made an international move for the sake of the Father, I could earn some major salvation points.

So when my feet stepped onto that Southeast Asia tarmac and into the humidity of my new home overseas, my heart was long overdue for another *born again* experience.

And oh, how that experience came.

Within three months, I waded through interpersonal conflict. I wrote a blog post that went semi-viral in a nasty way, and I lost a blogging trip competition on which I was hanging way too much hope.

I piled these burdens on top of full-time language learning, adoption paperwork, and the emotional roller coaster of my daughter’s first birthday.

Pretty soon, I found it hard to breathe under the weight of my own self-inflicted criticism.

I took showers for the main purpose of covering a good cry.

I dreaded being around my teammates for the fear of doing something wrong.

I stayed in bed longer in the mornings and returned earlier in the evenings.

I knew I was broken in an anxiety and depression kind of way. But I was also broken in a spiritual kind of way.

Since the time of my baptism, I had been given the gift of eternal grace and everlasting favor. But I had no idea how to accept it.

I had been persistently striving after more righteous deeds and greater levels of sacrifice. I was hoping to really catch God’s attention.

Unfortunately, all of my effort landed me on top of a pile of mistakes, failures, and disappointments. I had God’s attention all right.

Or better yet, He had mine.

He sought after my heart. He revealed some Truths I had been missing. He knitted my broken soul back together again using only His Word and the promise of His Mercy.

And while I may not have had a formal rededication of my life, it felt like a rebirth of my spirit. Finally, I was a person who could be freed from herself and simply live to glorify God.

It seems the process of being born again is so much less about what we can give to God and so much more about what He can take from us.

He wants to take our sin, yes. But He also wants to take our desire to earn a place of merit at His table.

We are welcomed. We are honored. We are free.

This is the rebirth we boast of.

>>><<<

I’m thinking, just maybe, that you ladies are far beyond my theology at this point. Perhaps you’ve already learned this lesson. Perhaps you never had to learn it.

Or perhaps there was another way you felt your spirit experience rebirth once you moved overseas.

And so, I’m offering a safe place for you to nod your head in understanding or to share your story below. What has been birthed in you as a result of your experience as an expat?

Photo Credit : Unsplash

9 Comments

  1. Elizabeth December 18, 2014

    I still remember the first time I discovered grace for what it really was (in counseling, after a death in the family). It was painful and I cried a lot. I had to undo a lot of years of thinking to, as you say, unwrap the gift of grace. But that was just a beginning. I have had to revisit it many times, although now I have a baseline for it that I can go back to when I struggle again to accept grace. I think we are all, always, working to understand grace more fully, both for ourselves and for other people. It’s the best news in the world, but it’s so wonderful and other-worldly that we get to keep on having breakthroughs in it, until we die. We ask ourselves, shouldn’t I be further along in this than I am? But no, you are right where you’re supposed to be, getting another dose of Grace, the medicine settling deeper into your soul.

    I think that living overseas, in relative discomforts both physical and emotional, has a way of taking us deeper into God, and in surprising ways. The thing I have struggled with this year is the question, “does God love me as much as He loves other people?” And it was a surprising question, since I thought I had already settled that in my mind. But it’s a slightly different question than I’ve asked before, where I was wondering, can my sins really be forgiven, can grace really be for me? Because this time I was asking why some people seem to be more highly favored, and does that mean God loves them more? The question, when I finally realized that’s what it was, took a lot of soul searching and praying and journaling. But I think that the process of getting to the other side, to the answer, took me deeper in love with God. “Just a closer walk with Thee. . .”

    1. Lauren Pinkston December 18, 2014

      Elizabeth, I just love your thoughtful and heart-felt responses. We must meet up sometime soon! Coming from similar backgrounds, I feel we are writing each others’ stories. I agree, too, that we have to learn some of these lessons (especially about grace) over and over again. And I’m finally accepting that the waves of cultural adjustment are not true to a specific formula but seem to be more cyclical. Lifting you up just now as I write this, and thanking you for sharing how you’ve been burdened this year by a surprise struggle. You are a mentor and an encourager, and I’m thankful to have women like you in my network of cheerleaders!

      1. Elizabeth December 18, 2014

        Yes, it was so hard for me to accept the cyclical nature of spiritual formation! I’m a little better at accepting the ever-deepening cycle now, but only after really kicking against it first. I would get so upset that I STILL hadn’t arrived! I thought I dealt with this already! Now I’m a little more patient with myself, but only after being exhorted to be that way, over and over again, by both counselors and dear friends. It’s ok to relearn the same simple lesson on God’s love, and His grace, over and over again. Each time it means something slightly different, because I’m in a different stage of life. It’s always new, always hard, but always good, because it helps me stay fascinated with the Father. His mercies are new every morning. His mercies are new every stage of life.

        As a side note, I am sure our similar backgrounds help us understand each other’s writing so much more! And getting together would be awesome! Especially when you’re so close geographically. Someday, right?

  2. Kim A. December 18, 2014

    Beautifully written my dear!  love the rawness and it definitely hits home for me!  thanks for sharing!!

    1. Lauren Pinkston December 18, 2014

      Thanks, Kim! I love some openness and honesty…that’s why I appreciated having you in my connection group so much!!

  3. Danielle Wheeler December 18, 2014

    Lauren, this is beautiful on so many levels.  THANK YOU for opening up so tenderly to share with us the work of the Father in you.  It is SO relatable.

    THIS: I had been persistently striving after more righteous deeds and greater levels of sacrifice. I was hoping to really catch God’s attention.

    AH,  that describes all too many in our line of work.  Ok, ok, it’s an all too honest description of ME.  I’m right there with you, sister, unwrapping that unearned, lavish gift called grace.  Unwrapping it again and again…

    And yes, living overseas has pushed me far beyond my limitations, time and time again leaving me in a puddle with my fists full of my own efforts that are simply and always never enough.  And that’s when He says, “This gift has been here for you all along…  Put down your fistfuls and open it again.”

    1. Lauren Pinkston December 18, 2014

      “This gift has been here for you all along…  Put down your fistfuls and open it again.”

      Yes, ma’am! And just like Elizabeth said, we have to keep rediscovering that grace. Isn’t it silly how often we forget it? Why do we feel so much better judging ourselves by works? Why must we wear ourselves out for no reason? It was so freeing to me when someone finally revealed that the Father is already working in our cities an our countries…that we simply have so show up and join in the work He’s already doing. No recreating, no massive productions. Just us, finding Him, and being willing to be used. I needed that burden lifted off my shoulders!

  4. Monica December 18, 2014

    Lauren, this post spoke directly to my heart, in more ways than you can imagine.  Believe it or not, your childhood, young adult story- even the AGE of your baptism, is close to spot-on with my story.  And now, after fourteen years of living overseas, living in villages, suffering illnesses, birthing children, learning language and culture, facilitating village health classes, running workshops all over the country, homeschooling, supporting a husband who is a minority language advocate and so on, and on, and on, and on….I finally crashed under the weight of trying to be the best M out there. But no one knew.  SO put together, our family garnered attention as ‘hardcore’, and as role models to incoming workers.  Oh the shame I feel in that. Despite our exhaustion and empty souls, we just ‘kept going’ because that’s what ‘suffering for the Lord’ meant to me.  Thankfully, we finally (this year) took a Sabbatical.  But, oh, did I fight it in the beginning!  I needed to be DOING something, not resting!  In the last few months I’ve had to come to terms with the deepest parts of me that I have ignored for so long.  And the part of me that has scared me the most is the simple truth that I have let my passions and good intentions of serving the Lord turn into a stage of good works, ‘sacrifice’ and performance.  I don’t know when it ‘all went wrong’, but I now have hope that I don’t have to keep living that way.  In the last few months, this ‘seasoned’ M is finally learning what Grace really means, that He truly LOVES me- not because of what I’ve done or DO for Him, but because I’m simply His.  I don’t deny that there are parts of me fighting against that simple True Love. but for the first time in years, I’m experiencing a Rebirth…and the Freedom I feel is exhilarating!  Oh to be set FREE!

  5. Lauren Pinkston December 20, 2014

    Monica,

    As I read your brave words here, I found myself nodding my head in understanding and shaking my head in feeling your pain. I hate that we have to walk through these hard times, don’t you? But in the end, like you said, Christ only wants to set us FREE!! If we must walk a long road of exposing our hearts to correction, yet there’s a freedom gate at the end, I’m all for it. I’m so happy you’ve discovered this freedom, and I’m just splashing around in it’s downpour of joy on my life as well. It’s for freedom that we’ve been set free. PTL!

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