Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lent: Day Eight ~ Born Again

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Born Again 

I remember that day I became born again quite vividly. When you are born again in Christ, it’s not a day you can ever lightly forget. Christians worldwide can’t quite remember when they became a Christian, but being born again? They never forget that day.

I told my family in my excitement and they responded negatively to my announcement, 'I’m born again!' They said mean things like, “She’s being brainwashed,” “Don’t be spitting that Jesus stuff on ME.” And “Now she’ll be a Jesus freak.”

They were right, not about being brainwashed but about becoming a Jesus freak. As I’ve said before, I was being raised Catholic and the day I became Born Again I converted to Christianity. I was giving my life to Christ and my family didn’t know, didn’t understand what that meant.

My new school was a Christian based school and I was learning new things I had never learned about in my eight years during my Catholic elementary school. I had NEVER in my life heard the term Born Again. I didn’t know what it was. How can someone become BORN again?

The change began in my eighth grade year. I was on my way to completing one of the seven sacraments that it takes to be, I guess, initiated (?) into the Catholic religion. Confirmation was important to the teachers and nuns and the priests and all year long we worked on the meaning of Confirmation.

My mind swirled like storm-warning clouds as you can imagine for a thirteen year old. I was feeling the Lord deeply in my soul. He was moving within me and confirmation was confusing me especially when I was asked to tell a priest my sins. I had had a private meeting (like all of my classmates) with the priest and since I didn’t/couldn’t answer his questions I was deemed unconfirmable, which means one strike against me being confirmed.

The second strike came when we were to go to the church and have confession. You might call me defiant or stubborn, but I WOULD NOT tell the priest my sins! Sister Margaret Mary asked me why, “Why Joni, why?”

I bluntly told her that a priest cannot forgive my sins, only God had the power to do that. She rolled her eyes with a tight smile on her face and said, “You’re right.” A long pause, then she said something that changed my life, “God has a special plan for you, Joni. You don’t conform, I like that. Maybe you’re not meant to be in the Catholic religion. Only God knows.”

She had the sweetest smile when saying that. Any other nun would have been shocked and aghast but not her, she and Sister Karl Ann had said over the years that they saw something special in me. So my saying this did not shock her like I thought it would have.

That year, I was denied confirmation. I should have known that since I had picked Saint Joan of Arc as my patron saint. She was a persecuted saint. She talked with God on a regular basis (not much unlike myself) and she was burned at the stake. Sister Margaret Mary had wanted me to pick St. Christopher (the Christ bearer) or Saint Francis of Assisi (patron saint of animals) but no, I chose the patron saint of my God given name, St. Joan of Arc.

Being denied confirmation, I was told by my father that I had shamed the family, the only one in his memory who had EVER been denied confirmation in the Catholic-in-name-only family. Persecuted, I felt persecuted.

The night my classmates were confirmed, Sr. MM had told me I could sit up in the balcony and watch the service and that is exactly what I did. This was the night I was confirmed by God! Not by a priest, not by man, but by God himself. As the Spirit of the Lord washed over me tears fell from my eyes landing in Sr. MM hands as the procession of classmates cleared the church, she looked up at me and smiled. She knew, God had confirmed me.

It was the following year at Christian Liberty Academy that I became Born Again. We had watched a heart-wrenching movie on salvation and afterward we (all 28 of my fellow classmates) gathered around in a circle and fervently prayed. Tears were shared, emotions were high, the power of prayer consumed me, and as the Holy Spirit filled the room, satiated my soul, I gave my life to Christ. I was not just confirmed by God this time; the entire trinity wrapped warm arms around me and welcomed me to the family.

My life would never be the same again. As with all born again Christians, we remember distinctly the day we gave our life over to God, we distinctly remember the day we were ‘Born Again’. We became a newborn all over again, living for Christ and nothing else. Christ, our birthmark, would mark our every move. We wear Him on our skin for all the world to see. And like a newborn babe, everyone looks at us too see the beauty that we hold.

1 Pet. 1: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

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