On this day 38 years ago, I was born. I did not have any say in the matter. There was a time I did not exist, a time I did, then a time when I entered the breathing world. Everything provided for me in the months that followed–feeding, changing, medical care, shelter–was provided by others. I was entirely at their mercy, and mercifully they met my needs.
I know all of this, of course, because I am still here, not because I remember any of it. The story I am told is that Mama and I lived with Mimi and Papa during my first 5 weeks. Yet I have no recollection of this period, though my care was the central concern of the household.
The existence of such a category of life–cared for yet unaware–is fertile ground for existential musings. How is it that I was being loved without feeling loved? How was I the beneficiary of others’ sleepless nights, financial sacrifices, and communal effort without being conscious of it? How did my very survival depend on a level of care I could not even comprehend until I began caring for my own helpless, needy children?
These are humbling questions to ponder. The longer I pause over this time in my life, the less credit I can take for anything I have accomplished in the years since. I certainly applied myself in school, etc., but those early years were the sine qua non, the period without which the rest of my life would not have occurred.
Such is the wonderment of our spiritual life in Christ. Because each believer’s entrance into the family of God came about with the decision to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9), we can develop the mistaken idea that our spiritual existence owes largely to our effort. This is the spiritual equivalent of a 5 year-old hearing “Happy Birthday” sung as a tribute to his self-determination.
The fuller story begins not with us unaware but uncreated. Paul locates the origins of our life in Christ “before the foundations of the world” when God “chose us in him” and “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4, 5). The Father brought this about in real time when he “caused us to be born again” (1 Peter 1:3), born of the Spirit (John 3:8), such that even our confession of faith in Jesus is revealed to be a gift (Ephesians 2:8, Philippians 1:29).
Meditating on this “cared for yet unaware” period of our spiritual life should enhance our awe and intensify our gratitude that we are alive at all. When we are privileged to observe the conversion of another unbeliever and change some spiritual diapers, the experience accentuates the miracle of our own life. We realize how little it had to do with us and launch into an eternity of pondering and praising “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
If you are a believer in Jesus, then you were born. There was a time you had no spiritual life, and now you do. Take a deep breath, bask in the mystery, and give thanks to your Father who brought this about.