Born Again...and Again...and Again...

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Consciousness is self awareness. The moment a person realizes that he or she exists is when the conscious mind is born. Before that moment, time has no meaning, nor does identity, purpose, or morality. The origins of human consciousness are as mysterious as the time when life first appeared on the earth. Suddenly matter is deciding if it will go right or left? Mother earth awoke from a volcanic stupor and found her skin crawling. Imagine her surprise. How and when did this happen? Science doesn’t have much to offer in the way of answers. After all, no one was keeping records. The book of Genesis says that God was behind it all, which I believe, but the story is pretty stingy with the details. Somehow life developed. And somehow one form of life developed conscious thought. The old story tells us that Adam and Eve found consciousness in a dramatic moment when a piece of forbidden fruit was eaten. In an instant, their undifferentiated world split neatly along a moral seam. Their eyes were opened, and they knew right and wrong. This first division spawned others. They found that there was naked and not naked. Other discoveries would be even more traumatic. Soon they would find that there was Eden and not Eden. If you are wondering when you left the Garden and first became conscious and aware of yourself, recall your first memories. Unconscious minds are smooth and uncluttered. Lasting memories are hung on the pegs of self awareness and language. How does a child manage to anchor that first memory in her undifferentiated little brain? No one knows, but somehow everyone manages to find a solid wall and sink that first nail. We are natural-born interior decorators. We cannot abide an empty house but must festoon the walls of our minds with all manner of decorations: worldviews, cosmologies, philosophies, theologies, and intellectual structures of every kind. I believe our frantic and compulsive need to fill this world with meaning is precisely why Genesis says that we were made in God’s image. I was born in 1961 in Fort Worth, Texas. Those were the days when they drugged mothers to get them through childbirth and kept fathers in the waiting room, so there were no witnesses to my birth apart from the medical staff. There was a moment of pause, then I came squirting out of a dark, watery, unconscious world into a hard, cold, world of light and structure. I’m sure I screamed. All healthy babies do. My mother awoke from her medicated stupor and found a baby squirming in her arms. Imagine her surprise. My earliest memories have to do with the birth of my brother, who came into this world when I was not quite three. It is probably no coincidence that his physical birth was the occasion of my conscious birth. The advent of another person helped me to think of myself as a person. And so I began to have my first thoughts. And just like that, Gordon Atkinson was born for the second time. Years passed. I learned the rules of my family, my tribe, and my culture. In my case the first two were decidedly Christian in nature, so I became a person of faith. I learned; I studied; I sinned; I was redeemed; yada, yada, yada, and now I am 48 years old. I’ll tell you this much: I am still learning. Every day brings something new. Every season teaches me more about how little I know of God. I have hung many decorations on the walls of my mind - hedonism, shame, joy, religious ecstasy, lust, love, loss, fundamentalism, liberalism, apostasy, and reclamation. And yet, entire rooms in my mind are still unopened and undecorated. What a joy to live and to learn and to grow and to change. What a tragedy it would be if I was the same person in 2010 that I was in 2000. Occasionally I meet people who seem to be living in a spiritually unconscious state. Their hearts are closed and their minds as well. Questions are not asked. Instead, answers that served well ten years before are ritualized, hardened, and pressed into little idols. With the night sky above us, the mysteries of our planet below us, and the words of the scriptures burning in our hands, why would we want to worship something we can put in our pockets? A robust spiritual life calls for a series of rebirths. How many? That depends on your stamina. How about one a day until you die? Our understanding of ourselves and God is always being refined. In John chapter three, Jesus told Nicodemus that he should be born again. I don’t think he meant just once. Image from a stock photography collection