(Continued from last week…)
Practice makes progress; Jesus makes perfect.
Last week, we reviewed how Jesus told Nicodemus that every man and woman must be born again (see John 3: 3-8). Now, this rebirth is not something that we have power to make happen ourselves. None of us can give birth to ourself.
And while “born again” as a term refers to a likeness of our physical birth into mortality, I believe that it alludes more specifically to our being born the second time spiritually. We are already our Father’s spirit children by birth before this earth life. He sired us. We were spiritual beings then, and relied on our spiritual senses to guide us. But by our coming to earth, receiving a veil of forgetfulness, and due to the effects of the Fall of Man, our spirits have fallen “asleep.” They don’t naturally see and feel, or communicate and do as they once did. Their magnificence and power have been forgotten, confined, and somewhat restricted to what these earthly bodies are capable of doing. But this is the way God wanted it. We have things to experience and learn here in this spiritually harsh environment that we could experience and learn in no other way. (And that’s a whole other topic for another day.)
So, being born again—meaning being born of God again—born spiritually again—is necessary for every one of us…but it is not accomplished in the same way. (We don’t enter again into the spiritual womb, so to speak.)
Therefore, even though we are already God’s spiritual offspring, because of the fact that we fell from the nobility of His eternal world and lost our spiritual connection with Him, we must become spiritually alive sons and daughters again. Each one of us must be spiritually awakened to a “newness of life” (Romans 6: 4), “quickened [or made alive] in the inner man” (Moses 6: 65). Each of our spirits—our inner self—having forgotten all, was now no longer “alive,” or spiritually awake—no longer steering the ship. We would each need to be roused from our spiritual slumber through this second birth.
And who has our Eternal Father chosen to be the doer of this great work in us? None other than the Lord, Jesus! Through His grace and the provisions of His atonement, we are blessed to eventually leave the ranks of natural men and women by becoming the spiritually awake children of Christ! Jesus, who is the only One commissioned of the Father to baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, also becomes the Spiritual Parent. We become His sons and daughters. (See Mosiah 5: 7.)
JESUS AS MOTHER
Now, it is pleasing to think of Jesus as being so personal as to be the Father of our individual rebirth…but, He is also the beautiful image of a mother.
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49: 15-16; 1 Nephi 21: 15-16).
A woman who has given birth to her child by cesarean has a lifelong reminder of her baby—the scar on her abdomen. For, every time she notices the scar while showering, getting dressed, etc., she is reminded of her child. Likewise, Christ has reminders of us graven in the palms of His hands.
But obviously, a woman doesn’t need to give birth by cesarean, and have its accompanying scar in order to remember her babies. Her entire body is a receptacle of vivid memories due to the alterations it underwent during those nine months when she carried the child within her. Think of it: the surprise and discomfort of morning sickness; the stop of menstruation; the inconvenient need for frequent urination; the persistent expanding abdomen; the swollen ankles and feet; the strain in her lower back; the shortness of breath; the irritating heartburn; etc., all imprinting mental and physical reminders of the child’s approaching birth. And, what about the remarkable sensation of feeling another living human being move inside you? This is something a man will never experience and a woman will never forget. Then, the birth process itself: the breaking of waters; the emotional anticipation of what’s coming, along with the fear of the unknown (for, each birth can be different); the deep pressure and pain of the contractions; those fatiguing, arduous hours of labor; all culminating in the actual delivery, when the baby comes through the birth canal, crowns, and finally transitions out of its mother to breathe those first breaths. Can a woman really forget any of this? Perhaps the acuteness of the events will soften, just as any pain and difficulty are lessened with time. But she will remember, for it is all indelibly imprinted in her body. And the mother’s care for this child is certainly not over—it only continues to magnify: the persistent need to adequately nurture this completely dependent newborn; the ongoing fatigue due to being up at all hours of the day and night; the physical and emotional bond that occurs during breast feeding, as well as changing diapers, giving baths, etc. Can any woman really forget any of her children, when her own body that carried them is so presently her constant companion?
And so it is with our Savior. He doesn’t need scars in His hands and feet and side to remind Him of His carrying us. I would suggest that His scars are there for our benefit, to remind and assure us of what He did, and His unwavering commitment to each one of us.
Like a mother, He has so much more than scars to remind Him of His spiritual family. He has felt within His own body the twisting and turning of our struggling, writhing spirits; the profound contractions of our personal temptations, failures, humiliations, and disappointments; our exquisite pains and paralyzing sorrows; our suffocating sense of worthlessness, self-loathing, and despair; our repetitive guilt and shame, along with the septic toxicity of our anger, desire for revenge, and hardness of heart. His bowels have been filled with compassion for our loneliness, brokenness, robbed innocence, dashed hopes, and soul-crushing rejection and betrayal. He has felt it all moving within Him, and remembers it in perfection, all the days of our lives. He has carried it all while carrying us. And He will not ever—no never—forget!
And just as a mother, through the process of pregnancy, birth, and beyond, forges an eternal bond with her child, so Christ has forged one with us. And those among us who will take the time to consider and ponder it, will instinctively rejoice and spontaneously fulfill the prophetic word:
“And now…they shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that he has bestowed upon them according to his goodness…forever and ever. In all their afflictions he was afflicted. And…in his love, and in his pity, he redeemed them, and bore them, and carried them all the days of old” (D&C 133: 52-53).
(to be continued…)