Born Again!

The first thing I want to do is to ask your forgiveness for what I’m about to do. It is human nature, from the time most people can remember, to want to share new and exciting things, especially good things and experiences, with those around us. And most of the time, even those who aren’t interested in what you've experienced or saw or heard will still patiently listen to what you’re saying, or participate in the discussion, just because they understand that you’re excited. The exception to this politeness is when someone attempts to share a religious experience or belief. So, for the purpose of politeness, I apologize for sharing this essay with you. But I ask you to read it, regardless of your inclinations not to.

Born Again Christians trying to share their experience actually scare other people away! They don’t want to. In fact their intention is quite the opposite. They want to engage other people, to share with them their experience and excitement. They want to “open other’s eyes, hearts, and minds” to the wonder that they now know. They want to share the Truth that they now know and have experienced. And they don’t understand other’s aversion to them. Most all Born Again Christians do not understand why non-Christians, and even some Christians, don’t want to be around them. Who would not want to experience Enlightenment?! Who would not want to experience complete Forgiveness?! Who would not want to know True Love?! Who would not want to experience Peace and Contentment?!

Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about that have nothing to do with being Born Again.

Exploding Color

Imagine seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, at dawn. What a wonderful, peaceful, magnificent, silent, and majestic explosion of color; an awe inspiring circus of color that simply cannot be put into words. It’s something that has to be seen and experienced first hand. The first thing that you want to do when you get back to the real world is tell everyone you know all about it. You want to share it, explain it, and show photographs of it. You want your friends and family to share the experience through you! You want them to feel the excitement through you! And you also want them to experience it for themselves. But, you can’t take a person, who is afraid of heights, have them shut their eyes, rush them up to the edge of the Grand Canyon and scream “open your eyes and look!”

Yet that’s what Born Again Christians tend to do.

It’s not that they want to scare their friends, neighbors, or strangers among them. They’re just so enthusiastic that their well intended actions get ahead of their brains.

Stormy Experiences

The “Exploding Color” story above was imagined to make the point of how one’s enthusiasm can get ahead of propriety and even common sense. Now let me share a true example of that enthusiasm with you.

I love thunderstorms. I think they are one of nature’s most brilliant displays that just must be experienced. My father and I used to sit at the kitchen window or on the front porch and watch them. I’m one of those people that when a really good thunderstorm is building, all I want to do is find a great big wide open meadow to sit in and watch the storm as it passes over in all its glory. I don’t do this of course, because science tells me that it would probably be that last thing I ever did. But the urge remains.

But, I truly do not understand how anyone can love rock and roll, or the opera, or a marching band, or the orchestra and not love a thunderstorm. Sitting on my three-season porch and closing my eyes and listening to and feeling the thunder is like sitting outside of an orchestra hall and feeling the tympani rumble through the walls and down the hallways, or experiencing the feeling of the bass guitar and drum as the foundation of a rock and roll song. It’s not just hearing the clap of thunder, but experiencing the feeling of it rumbling around and through you. It’s truly magnificent.

I also don’t understand how anyone who enjoys a fireworks show doesn’t enjoy a good thunderstorm. Lighting is truly mother nature’s fireworks show. You know how when you’re watching a fireworks show if you look real closely you can see the rockets firing into the air and kind of guess where and when they are going to explode? But every now and then you don’t see or even hear the rocket and then Bam! It explodes! Those are the ones that are usually the most fun because you don’t know their coming. That’s true of every lightning bolt in the storm. You never know where or when one is going to strike. It’s always a surprise, and it’s always a shock, and it’s always beautiful.

One of the most beautiful lightning storms I’ve ever seen was when I was driving up to the entrance of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel in Virginia. I never heard thunder. And I never saw any rain. But the lightning was unbelievable. The lightning was the type that shoots out and scatters across the bottom of the clouds like millions of electric fingers. You could actually see the fingers stretch out, growing, from a single point across the sky. There wasn’t a moment when there wasn’t lighting occurring; it was a continuous fireworks show. Like at the end of the forth of July shows when they send up a continuous stream of fireworks for 5 minutes and everyone is just amazed. But this show lasted for half an hour. I tell you all of this just so that you can get a feeling of how excited and in awe of thunderstorms I am. So, that you will understand that it’s something that I not only want to share, but something that I'm excited to share.

My wife loves music and also loves fireworks shows; however, she is not quite as enthusiastic as I am about thunderstorms. In fact she would be perfectly happy if we lived somewhere where there weren’t any thunderstorms, ever. And even though I know this, I get so excited by the show put on by the storm that I run out of the three-season porch and try to get her to come see it with me! Sometimes I even start to grab her to pull her out on to the porch. And when this happens my wife makes it perfectly clear that she doesn’t want to see the storm! And for just a second I’m dumbfounded, shocked, and dismayed. Why would she not want to experience this?!

You see even though I know my wife doesn’t like thunderstorms I get so excited by them that I forget that. And one of the first people in the world you want to share something exciting with is your spouse. So, I run and get her to show her the storm and she recoils from me, and the experience.

That’s what Born Again Christians tend to do.

It’s not until I step out of my enthusiasm and remember that most of the people in the world are inundated with warnings about storms their whole life that I begin to understand her reaction. The wind will knock you down or hurl things into you. The lightning will strike you and kill you. Or start a fire that kills you. Or the storm will spawn a tornado that will kill you. We are taught our whole lives to fear storms. We are so fearful of storms that when we encounter someone like me who, not only isn’t afraid of storms but actually wants to be in them, we tend to question those people’s sanity. When I do step out of my excitement, then I understand, a little, why my wife doesn’t want to see the storm, and certainly doesn’t want to be out in it like I do.

I just get so excited that I truly cannot understand why someone wouldn’t want to hear about and experience what I've just experienced.

What I’ve just done in the true story above is called “witnessing”. Witnessing is simply the telling of a true story, not for the story’s sake, but to impart a message to the listener. The message I’m trying to get across is that Born Again Christians are trying to say “I have experienced something wonderful. Please let me share my experience with you.” But, just like people who enjoy thunderstorms, they are seen as a little off kilter by those who haven’t experienced it, or those who fear experiencing it.

Allow me to give you two more examples of witnessing.

Experiencing a Movie

Close your eyes and try to think about all of the movies that you have seen and how you have seen them. Just take a second and think about yourself sitting there and watching those movies. Now, have you ever experienced a movie?

I have. Once. I’ve probably seen thousands of movies, but I’ve only ever experienced one.

When I was a child I grew up in an area called Kempsville which is in Va. Beach, Va. To say that it was a mostly white neighborhood is the understatement of the year. It was so white that you knew exactly where the few black people lived. It wasn’t a racist thing. It was just that they stuck out because they were different from everyone else around them. My father was a wonderful man. He would spend hours tending this little 10x15 foot garden and teaching me about plants and how to plant seeds and till the ground. But, just like every person on this planet, including me, he had faults. And one of those faults was that he was racist. He was. He didn’t want to hurt anyone because of their race and he didn’t think someone should be denied something or an opportunity because of their race. But, he would have been very happy if integration had never happened. He would come home and tell funny stories of what had happened at work that day. And some of those stories included his black co-workers. And some of them he spoke very kindly of. But, it was clear that to him blacks and whites were different. I tell you this so that you can understand a little of the environment that I was brought up in. And why my movie experience was so unexpected.

There was a movie theater in Norfolk Va. called Circle 6 that was in a shopping mall called Military Circle about 8 miles from where I lived. Norfolk, as a whole, had a lot more black residents per capita than Kempsville. As a matter of fact when I went to Military Circle mall I was the one that stuck out. This is the theater where I chose to see the movie “Rocky”. To be honest I was apprehensive about going there. I was still a young teenager, living at home, and there was a lot of news about the crime rate at the mall and needless to say my dad didn’t want me going there. But, I went anyway. I don’t remember if a friend went with me or not, although I imagine one did. Here I am in a dark theater, in a high crime area, with people that my father would have seen as “different” than me, about to watch a movie. And as the movie started and continued playing the crowd started yelling at the screen. Then I started yelling at the screen. Everyone was tense and excited. And when the movie ended everyone was standing and cheering and clapping and high-five-ing each other. And chanting "Rocky!" "Rocky!" "Rocky!" over and over again. It was just incredible! I hadn’t just seen a movie. I had participated in the life of a boxer and cheered him on in the final bout!

That’s the only time I have ever experienced a movie. I’ve seen lots of good movies since then, but never experienced one. Never felt a part of the story. Never felt like I had a stake in the outcome. When I think back about that movie, I wonder what made it so different. Why was that an experience, instead of just watching and listening? Of course it was a great movie. It was very emotional, engaging, and even enthralling. But, it was just a movie. The difference was the audience. The people I saw the movie with made the difference.

I imagine that the manager of the theater was a little concerned when he heard the yelling and screaming. And probably came in to see if there was a fight or some other kind of problem. He was probably afraid that his theater was being torn down.

That’s what a room full of Born Again Christians can be like.

We’re “different”. We’re “excited”. We’re “enthusiastic”. And from the outside we’re scary.

But, just like the people in the theater, our intentions are not to scare others, but to enjoy the experience of life. And to hopefully share that joy with those around us.

{After the witness above was written it was pointed out to me that it could be taken as a racist story. That was not, and is not, the intent. It is simply a true story. To not include the difference of race would dilute the message of how apprehensive a situation it initially was, and that I was acting against my father's wishes. Eliminating the discussion of race would have also taken away how unexpected and truly wonderful the experience was. I quite frankly do not see people as "races" and therefore do not see one race of people in comparison to any other. The witness above is just one of the many experiences that have taught me that race is irrelevant. To paraphrase Walter Cronkite "...that's the way it was." And to Michael Jackson's point I'm not going to spend my life "...being a color..." nor acting like anyone else is either.}

Experiencing Bugs

Yes, you read that right, “Experiencing Bugs”. And when I wrote that section title I thought pretty much the same thing, but that is really what this next experience was.

I was returning home from visiting my sister in Northern Va. It was fairly late in the evening and I was just north of Charlottesville Va. I don’t remember why I had started my return trip so late, but I do remember that I hadn’t been feeling well during the whole visit, and my illness may have delayed my leaving. I was traveling east on interstate 64 and both the side of the road and the median in between the east and west sides were covered with tree growth and bushes. I couldn’t see the other side of the interstate and there were no headlights behind me, or taillights in front of me. It was overcast so there was no moon light. I was alone, late at night, and in absolute darkness except for the light coming from my car.

Most people in a situation like the one described in the paragraph above may feel a little apprehension or even fear. But I was quite relaxed; I had driven this road many times before, and was confident that this trip home would be just like the many trips before. I was wrong.

I first thought that it was a single light way off in the distance. A small yellowish light like seeing a lighthouse from many miles away. But then there were a few more. And then even more. They were on both sides of the roadway now! They were in the trees and in the bushes, everywhere there were lights! Thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of lights! But these weren’t people, or cars, these were lightening bugs. There must have been millions of them. I’d never, ever, even imagined anything like it.

As I drove for what seemed like miles and miles the tunnel of light moved with me. During one section of road I turned off my headlights and drove by the light of the lightening bugs. They lit up all of the trees and bushes as I drove mile after mile in a tunnel of light. Blinking on and off randomly, and beautifully the bugs guided me. I later realized that what I had experienced was a moving, living, and brilliantly decorated Christmas tree. It was the most remarkable experience I have ever had. Even this description falls exceedingly short of what I saw and experienced that night. I simply cannot effectively put the experience into words, but I can close my eyes and see it as if it had happened just a few moments ago.

So far I have witnessed to you about my joy of thunderstorms, my one movie experience, and a truly magical Christmas tree. I hope you enjoyed these true stories. But I hope you also enjoyed the messages within them, because now I would like to witness to you about my experience as a Born Again Christian.

The Born Again Experience

After the “Stormy Experiences” witnessing above I explained that Born Again Christians are trying to say “I have experienced something wonderful. Please let me share my experience with you.” That experience is called being Born Again.

That one two word phrase, “Born Again”, probably drives more people away from Christians than any other. People who are not Born Again think that it’s some kind of fanaticism! That Born Again people are nuts! They’re always spewing forth from “The Word”. Every other sentence ends with “Praise the Lord.” or “Praise God”. They’re always spitting out names and numbers: “John 3:16” and so on. They’re eyes are as big as saucers and their smile is bright enough to blind you. And all they ever, ever, want to talk about is God and how He works in their life and how He can work in your life too. So, let me try to explain what Born Again really is in a way that isn’t very religious, or fanatic, or scary.

Americans are legislatively free. What I mean is that unless someone provides evidence to a judge that illegal activity is occurring in your home, you don’t have to worry about an agent of our government coming into your house and tearing it apart and taking you to jail. Now sometimes mistakes happen and homes get searched that shouldn’t and people are arrested who shouldn’t be. But those are still, for now, the exceptions. So Americans have no real fear of their government. There may be a little distrust every now and then, but no real fear. We are basically free to choose where we live, who our friends are, where we work, where we go to school, what we wear, where we shop, etc... We can get into our cars and drive anywhere in this country we want to. No state boarder guards, no interrogations, and no checkpoints. And we usually think nothing of these freedoms. But, if you ever went to Europe during the Cold War or go to Mexico or go to just about any other country in the world you will thank God when you return to America. Even if you aren’t Christian! One of the WNBA Minnesota Lynx player's told a story at a season ticket holder function where she related one of her overseas experiences to us. The country she was in was at war and Americans were under a veil of threat. So, her experience was a scary one. And she said that when she got back to America that she was so happy she wanted to “kiss the ground.” After experiencing other countries and cultures most Americans become acutely aware of our freedoms that we normally take for granted. It’s as if their freedoms were taken away, for just a short time, and then returned to them. They begin to tell others about our freedoms, they send emails to other countries telling them of our freedom. It is because of our freedoms that we are a beacon to the world. It is because of our freedom that we WITNESS to the rest of the world about how great America is. And it is because of our freedom that others want to come here.

For most of us the first time we really experience that freedom is when our parents tell us that they are no longer going to tell us what to do. They will listen to our problems and give advice, but it’s up to us to make the decisions. And we love it! “Finally I don’t have to listen to them! I can do what I want, when I want, and how I want! Ha!” We immediately run out and tell all of our friends and the rest of our family. Because we definitely (or could it be defiantly) want the rest of our family to know that we don’t have to listen to mom and dad anymore!

Most of us get that freedom around 17 years of age. Some get it sooner. Some get it later. But, eventually, we all get it. And at that point most of us feel re-born. “This is now my life! I’ve been telling them that since I was 13! But, now it really is!” Now we truly have legislative freedom and have become adults.

Let’s say that you live to be 107, which means that you have that legislative freedom for roughly 90 years. During that time there are certain bounds you had to live within. And, much to your dismay, you still pretty much had to follow your parent’s advice most of the time. But, at 107 you die. And that’s it. End of story. I hope you enjoyed it, because it’s over.

I know what I’m about to ask you to imagine is a lot. And I don’t expect anyone reading this to be able to imagine all of it. But, I ask you to please try.

Now imagine that instead of legislative freedom you were given total freedom. True physical and spiritual freedom, freedom from worry, freedom from turmoil, freedom from despair, and not just freedom, but true, everlasting, inner peace as well. Also try to imagine what eternity is. Because, unlike the gift of freedom that America and our parents gave us, these gifts don’t last only 90 years. These gifts last for eternity. Also imagine that not everyone got these gifts, but that every so often someone was specially chosen to receive these gifts. Not by their biological parents, but by the very Creator of all life. Now imagine that you were one of the chosen. Also try to imagine that these gifts are not just generic gifts, but custom made just for you. As amazing as those gifts sound, even more amazing is how they are delivered. The delivery is also custom made for each recipient. Some people do see lightning and hear thunder when they receive these gifts. Some people beg for these gifts over and over before they are delivered. Some people are just sitting and reading a book and are given these gifts out of the blue. Some people even receive them in their sleep. But, everyone who receives these gifts share two things in common. The gifts are not given until the recipient is ready to receive them, and their hearts and minds have been opened up to the Voice, Message, and Spirit, of God.

That is being Born Again.

Now you might be saying “that’s all very well and good, but what does that have to do with real life?” I’ll tell you.

Have you ever sat and watched a child play? Not your own child. You can never really watch your own child because you are always looking out for them. I mean really watch a 3 year old play. I doubt you will ever see a better example of complete and total trust in your whole life. That child is completely wrapped up in playing. They are not concerned with where dinner will come from. They are not concerned about any of the untold dangers that lurk just feet from where they are. They are not concerned about shelter, the weather, the car, money, insurance, stocks, or even if their feet stink. As far as they are concerned the world is their oyster and naturally anything they request, or need, will be delivered. And they have no fear, no inhibitions, no shame, and are freely giving of their love and affection. This is some of what you will see if you really watch a child play. Total involvement in what they are doing and total trust that everything is good.

That is being Born Again.

Have you ever watched the news reports about tornado or flood victims? Invariably there will be those whose whole lives have been torn apart by the storm. All of their pictures, love letters, things that really mattered to them are gone. Their personal belongings, their house, their car, their clothes, are all gone. And a lot of people in that situation are crying and screaming and tormenting themselves over their loss. And it is a terrible loss that they have suffered. But occasionally there will be an interview with someone standing in the open, where a house once stood, and that person will say something similar to, “I loved that house and I wish I had the pictures of our children back, but we’ll rebuild and start over.” And usually that person almost has just the hint of a smile on their face. That isn’t someone folding his or her hands and saying, “Oh well, life goes on”, or just submitting to the circumstances. That’s someone who knows that whatever happens in their life happens for a reason, and that reason will be revealed to them, and they will be fine. That person recognizes that everything that they own may be gone, but they were spared. They simply have complete and total trust in the Lord. That is why we are called children of God. Because we trust God as simply and completely as that 3 year old playing child trusts the world.

That is being Born Again.

Now you should be able understand why Born Again Christians are so excited! So, enthusiastic! So, loud! So annoying! We have been given a remarkable, tremendous, gift. We have been given the greatest gift that has ever been and ever will be given. And as happy and enthralled as we are with our gift, all we want to do is share it with others so that they can experience it as well! We want everyone to be able to experience being truly free! Not just for a lifetime, but for eternity!

That is being Born Again.

That is my witness to you about my experience of being Born Again. Not the steps that lead up to it. Not how it happened. Not what happened after. But, simply what the experience is like. Notice I did not say “WAS like”. I said “IS like”, because the experience continues each and every day. And just like the living Christmas tree I described above, I cannot fully put my experience into words. It is something that has to be lived to be truly understood and appreciated.

The Gift, Delivered

There is one thing that I alluded to earlier, but didn’t come right out and say. Earlier I said that no one receives the gift of being Born Again until they are ready to receive it. What that means is that God prepares you to receive the gift before he gives it to you. He gives you hints as to what is coming. Some of those hints are given by people witnessing to you as I have today. Sometimes it’s a family member telling you a story. Sometimes it’s just a feeling in your heart that something is missing. Sometimes it’s a feeling that something is coming. These hints are meant to prepare you for what can be an overwhelmingly powerful and humbling gift. And, as if the gift itself wasn’t enough, it is delivered by a very special Person. You may not ever see Him. You may not ever even feel His presence. But one day you will realize that He was the One that brought those hints to you and prepared you for the gift. He was also the One who delivered the gift. He was the son of God, Jesus Christ.

That is being Born Again.


I hope this essay has, at the very least, given you some understanding of those well meaning Born Again Christians that you encounter. But I also hope that it has been a true witnessing to you of the Glory of Jesus Christ and becomes one of those hints mentioned above so that you may also receive this wonderful gift.

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