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Birth and Rebirth

The question lingered like a child reluctant to leave the classroom after the lesson has ended.

Published on:
December 10, 2019
Read time:
3 min.
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“What do you think about reincarnation?” my friend asked. I was quick to dismiss her. I don’t believe I’m coming back to live as a slug if I create bad karma, or to live a life of luxury if I’m good. 

But the question lingered like a child reluctant to leave the classroom after the lesson has ended. So I stayed with it, paid attention, and listened for what the question might need to say. 

As I leaned into the question, I thought about how the Bible’s creation story begins. It opens with darkness. The earth has no form or shape; it lies desolate and empty.

It inhabits liminal space, the time between times. This is unknown, undiscovered, uncharted territory. It is the womb of creation, the dark night before the dawn.

In Genesis 1 the Holy Spirit seems to brood over the silence with the tender, watchful eye of a pregnant woman. Maybe the occasional bubble rises to the surface as molecules and atoms begin to collide in what I imagine as the primordial soup below.

This beginning, as all beginnings must, originates in the dark.

Birth and Rebirth 

Words I am more familiar with began to surface—new life, incarnation, redemption, resurrection.

If I’m honest, digging into birth metaphors unearths wounded places in me. My reality is that giving birth remains a mystery into which I have not been initiated.

If I’m honest, digging into birth metaphors unearths wounded places in me. My reality is that giving birth remains a mystery into which I have not been initiated. My female body has never done what others have convinced me it was created for. My womb has always been empty.

I did not plan for my life to turn out this way. My heart aches with profound disappointment again and again as I watch others live dreams that seem dead for me. I grieve and struggle with a pain that never left alone for long enough to heal.

Still here they are—these metaphors—part of the holy scriptures I wrestle meaning from. So I sit with them, see what they might hold, even for me.

It turns out that talk of birth is everywhere once you start looking. Jesus, Son of God, is born in human form, now not only Son of God, but also the son of Mary. His public ministry is birthed in the waters of baptism and he is transformed in light at his transfiguration. Even the grave can’t stop Jesus and tomb morphs into womb as he is resurrected into new life after his death—a rebirth of sorts.

In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed away, the new has come.” It seems an apt description for the followers of Jesus the New Testament tells us about. The disciples, Mary, Joanna, the woman at the well, the blind man, the leper, Lazarus, the woman with the issue of blood—each one of them were invited into a different life from the one they were originally born into. Each one of them “born again” into something completely new. 

Even creation gets in on the act of rebirth. Trees that lie dormant over winter blossom into life each spring. Seeds that are buried under ground flourish and bloom as warmth returns to the soil. The seasons follow a continual pattern of life, death, and resurrection. The whole of creation is reborn each time the sun completes another circuit round the sun. 

New Life

When Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again to enter God’s kingdom, Nicodemus is confused and slightly horrified. He knows there’s no way a grown man can climb back into his mother’s womb. However, Jesus isn’t talking about a literal, physical rebirth. He isn’t talking about reincarnation.

Jesus gives us the opportunity to begin living a different life. The metaphor of rebirth demonstrates just how radical this transformation is intended to be.

Instead, Jesus gives us the opportunity to begin living a different life. The metaphor of rebirth demonstrates just how radical this transformation is intended to be. By using it, Jesus calls us back to the curiosity and awe of childhood. He invites us to emerge from dark, cramped places into light and spaciousness. He asks us to put on his lens of life, reimagine the world as we know it, and to live accordingly.

This is no easy, one-time affair. The invitation to live the new life that comes with being born again comes with the first buds of each spring and the first notes of the dawn chorus each morning. It comes in learning to see with the “eyes of our eyes” and to hear with the “ears of our ears” as E.E. Cummings puts it. 

I still don’t believe in reincarnation and I’m still living with the ache of disappointment and unanswered prayers. But I am captured by the idea that new life is possible. It brings me hope and I’m grateful to the God who offers it to me freely. 

Abby King
Abby King is a writer and teacher living in Birmingham, the UK's second biggest city. She divides her time between shaping little minds in the classroom and shaping words on the page. You can find her at abbykingwrites.com.

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