Elder Todd Christofferson of the Seventy shared this story at General Conference:
“Years ago, when I served as a stake president, a man came to confess a transgression. His confession surprised me. He had been an active member of the Church for years. I wondered how a person with his experience could have committed the sin that he did. After some pondering, it came to me that this brother had never become truly converted. Despite his Church activity, the gospel had not penetrated his heart. It was only an external influence in his life. When he was in wholesome environments, he kept the commandments, but in a different environment, other influences might control his actions. How can you become converted? How can you make the gospel of Jesus Christ not just an influence in your life but the controlling influence and, indeed, the very core of what you are?”
In essence, Elder Christofferson was asking, “How can I become born again?” and I was caught off guard. After listening to his talk, I turned to my husband and sadly asked him, “Am I going to make it into the Celestial Kingdom?”
He was quiet. Then, he patted my hand and said, “Yes, you will.”
I felt a little better then, not because I believed my husband would have the final say on Judgment Day, but because I realized I was experiencing the first two steps of repentance: realizing I was sinning by being a lazy Christian and feeling great sorrow for being so. I had a broken heart. My spirit was called to repentance. I felt it crucial for me to recommit, to be "born again."
I was recently invited by a sister in my ward to witness the birth of her baby boy. While I was first apprehensive about witnessing a process I had heard much about but never seen, I was greatly blessed for having been present. The experience gave me much to reflect about what it means to be born again.
What I learned about the physical birth process:
- Birth is painful.
- A baby sits in a Comfortable place: warm, some light, some sounds, floating, can’t move too much but can a little.
- But then the baby feels Pressure to move or change location, uncomfortable, pressure. She must squeeze through an area MUCH smaller than her head alone!
- The Process involves pain, constant pressure. The baby may not want to proceed and feels restricted as she cannot move her arms or head.
- But eventually, the baby passes through: Delivery into open space and is free to move, to stretch, to learn to walk, to talk and has more freedom than she did in her previous state. There are bright lights and clear sounds.
- She is Received into the arms of loving parents.
What I am learning about the spiritual rebirth process:
- Spiritual rebirth is painful.
- We are Comfortable for some time and then something presses us to change.
- Pressure to move or change, an uncomfortable feeling.
- We begin the painful, uncomfortable Process of repentance. The sorrow is heavy and weighs us down; our spirits become contrite; our hearts broken. Sometimes, it feels unbearable. We may not want to proceed with the pain. It feels like we cannot take it anymore and then…
- DELIVERY! The joy of the atonement of Heaven. We can move, we can breathe. We have more freedom than we had in our previous state. We stretch, learn more, walk uprightly. We have greater light; the whisperings of the Holy Ghost are clearer.
- And we are Received into the arms of loving Heavenly Parents.
The physical birthing process is not only painful and uncomfortable for the baby, it is also uncomfortable for the mother. She toils though because she knows it is only for a little while and her baby will then be free.
The re-birthing process is not only painful for us, it is also uncomfortable for our Father as he watches us, his beloved children, go through the anguish of sorrow and repentance. But he knows it is only for a little while, and then, we will be free.
Sis. Elaine Marshall, Dean of the BYU College of Nursing, said in the article "Lessons on Healing" (Ensign, April 2004):
"When I was a young nurse in the hospital, hardly a day went by that a patient did not ask, 'Will it hurt?' If I had been truthful, the whispered answer would nearly always have been, 'Yes, it will hurt.' I have learned that healing hurts. Life hurts. Healing really begins only when we face the hurt in its full force and then grow through it with all the strength of our soul. For every reward of learning and growing, some degree of pain is always the price."
Most of us accept that there is usually pain involved in repentance, but we often forget to keep our eye on the goal: the promised joy at the other end of the process. The prophet Alma reminds us to accept the joy of being born again. (Alma 36:12-23)
Walk through the fear!
Bring your broken heart, bring your contrite spirit, and offer them to the Lord with your tears. Yes, the sorrow will bring pressure and discomfort. It may seem as if the process will never end. It might feel as if you cannot take anymore. And then Christ’s Atonement will envelop you and heal you.
Embrace the joy!
You will have greater light, you will hear more clearly, you will have more freedom than you did before, and you will be stronger.
What Christ did long ago is still in force. His sacrifice keeps working for us. His joy keeps waiting for us. We can be born again. The gospel is good news! Jesus is truly and presently my Savior and your Savior. These are the latter days and the perfect time to increase our joy is today.
[Posted song: "The Answer" by Shane & Shane]
LOVE this song!