I am born-again and I'd be lying if I do not admit experiencing a sense of edginess each time I get to disclose the central core of my existence. A recent survey indicates that it is no longer cool to have born-again neighbors. We are seen as caricatures of alien stiffness.
I find contemporary culture's disdain over the metaphor riding on two presuppositions: the opiate of a new birth is for the emotionally weak and the morally distressed. All others: the strong, the intelligent, and the self-made have no need for such, in the same manner that Bill Gates won't grant minute attention to an Amish Elder speaking about the perils of technology.
There was however an archived development. A stalwart of intellectual vigor and emotional stability met with Jesus one stormy night (Gospel of John / Chapter 3). Nicodemus had absolutely no intent to subscribe to his teaching. He came as a representative of the most supercilious intellectual/moral class of his day (Pharisees). He came merely to invite the popular teacher to beef up their religious league. Jesus ignored the overtone and shot straight: you will not understand any of life unless you are born again.
In clarifying the imagery, Jesus introduced the necessary mystery that accompanies the proposition: like the wind that invisibly blows, so goes the message of the metaphor. In speaking to the cultural icon of intellectual suave and emotional fortitude, Jesus made a clear point: no one gets an exemption. Every person needs to be born again.
Of course, Nicodemus doesn't get it. How can a person be born again? Jesus emphasized the radical nature of his offer: there is nothing in human achievement or pedigree that merits intimacy with God. Only one thing holds: when all our efforts are recognized for their true lack and Christ is received as life's sole originator and administrator.
When this is believed, the wind takes over. The Holy Spirit completely transforms the willing vessel: born again in every sense of the word.
Augustine of Hippo once lived a life of debauchery. His lust consumed his hours with prostitutes. Upon conversion to Christ, it is told that he once visited a village where a young lady used to be his doodad. Upon a chance meeting, he treated her kindly, with warmth and dignity. There was no hint of lustful advance but its inverse. The young lady stood perplexed as Augustine bid goodbye. She thought that perhaps she had been unrecognized. After a few moments of thought, the lady pursued Augustine saying: "Augustine, Augustine ... It is I!"
Augustine replied: "I know dear Lady, but It is no longer I." The wind has blown.
I met the quintessence of Nicodemus's profile a few years back. The man was intelligent, affluent, and self-made. We once talked about my faith and in a most genteel intimation, he quipped that he does respect my foolishness but it's just not for him.
As time went by, my good friend contracted a terminal illness. Days of confused anger filled his search for an anchor. His son, who knows Jesus, one day delivered the package of Christ's offer: "Dad, there is no other way ... you must be born again."
Two months before he met his Maker, he called me to register his new birth. I was just imagining the personal upheaval when he gave everything up for what seems utterly foolish in exchange for Christ's guaranteed life. His joyful transition provided the resplendent powerpoint.
I walk this foolish path, all day, all night. There was once a Rabbi named Saul who took on this journey. His name was changed to Paul in lieu of his new birth. His grass marker is quite revealing: "I am a fool for Christ's sake."
A fool indeed, but there is not a day that I fail to receive the exhilarating surge of divine affection and wise fortitude that I know by heart, comes from the the Holy Wind.