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