(Not a reader? Take a listen instead ⇓)
There are many crossings a human will make in a lifetime.
Our introduction to life is just the first.
From the dim, watery, stillness of the womb, we are thrust out into the bright light of day; into this dizzying kaleidoscope we call life.
Our lungs, filled with fluid and collapsed upon themselves like waxy, paper bags, suddenly inflate; as our intricately crafted nervous system reacts to the sudden change in temperature and environment. We breathe, for the first time on our own; the oxygen of this yet unknown world moving into our bloodstream and coursing through our bodies.
With a single, magical, breath, our circulatory system reorients itself and our heart transitions from right ventricle dominant to left ventricle dominant. The left ventricle will be responsible for sending blood throughout our body, while the right ventricle functions in an entirely new role of sending oxygen-poor blood to our lungs.
Breathing. Sentient. Alive.
A rapid and complex adaption has taken place, changing us from dependent fetus to independent newborn. We are the same and yet we are entirely changed.
This is our first crossing.
Fully formed, yet still a child, years will pass before we start to put away childish things. Sometime around our 16th or 17th birthday, we will begin our next crossing, moving into biological adulthood.
This crossing will be saturated with change, transitioning us in a few short years to full independence. We will emerge, butterfly-like, with our newly inflated wings fluttering in the breeze and a strong sense of our own values and personal boundaries. We will feel transformed, unconstrained, ready to take flight.
Yet we will also still feel, for all the world, like the bemused caterpillars we once were. We imagined we would know how to navigate this world above but it is largely still a mystery, a vast expanse that threatens to swallow us whole. Adulthood is a strange, new terrain.
We have made our second crossing and we cannot go back.
We will live several lives throughout adulthood, each one connected to the last by moments and memories, intersecting and joining together like the gossamer thread of a spider’s web. Sometimes we will recognise the echoes of ourselves from another time, another place, but in other moments, our glances backward will both bewilder and astonish; who is that stranger that carries our face?
We will perhaps begin to understand, too, that all of this life, this experience that humans share, is another kind of crossing, a change from this to that.
Yet it is also a journey through a world that, at its core, will fail to satisfy us, deep within our soul.
We realise we were always meant to change, it’s in our DNA. But into what we wonder. Is all of this life meant for something more? Who am I really meant to become?
“If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
Then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined I’m compared.
Am I lost or just found? On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
Is this a soul that stirs in me, is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?
Cos my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
An avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become.
Speak to me in the light of the dawn,
Mercy comes with the morning.
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me.
For we, we are not long here,
Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it.
And I, I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know you.
Hope is coming for me.”
Max Lucado, pastor, speaker, and best-selling author comments, “If we think that this life is all there is to life, then there is no interpretation of our problems, our pain, not even of our privileges. But everything changes when we open up to the possibility that God’s story is really our story too.”
God’s story – the one written in the stars and carried on the wind – is the story of who each one of us was intended to be. It’s a story that confirms we were made for more than just this life, that we’re meant to cross over into something greater, something eternal.
It’s a story of promise; of knowing and being known, of being fully and completely alive.
God is not far from each one of us, as near as the tongue in our mouth, as close as the heart in our chest (Acts 17:28, Romans 10:8). Another kind of life awaits us on the other side with God, but, Jesus says, unless a person is born again, they cannot cross over (John 3:5).
There is another crossing, more important than any we’ve ever made before. One that will cause us to once again pass through water, this time emerging as a new kind of human, breathing a new kind of air, into a new kind of life.
Jesus came preaching of this other kind of life. The gospel of Matthew writes that when Jesus arrived on the scene, he went and resided in the land of Naphtali, the ‘way beyond the sea’, so that the words spoken so long ago by Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them, a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:15-16, ESV).
In fact, he was that life itself, and he demonstrated its power through the miraculous; healing sickness, forgiving sins, multiplying bread and fishes, walking on water…raising the dead (Matthew 15:30, Matthew 14:13-33, Luke 8:49-56, John 11:25).
He was the light that dawned in the darkness, illuminating what lies on the other side of the crossing; a kingdom defined by mercy and love, failure and forgiveness, exile and homecoming. Its citizens, he said, were otherworldly; children of light and salt. (Matthew 5:2-11, 13-14, Luke 15:11-32).
He told us how to get there; by going through him. He is the crossing, the gate, the door, the way to this kingdom. No one finds that life, but through him. His is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved.
To believe Jesus really is who he said he is begins another crossing.
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.” | John 3:16-18, CSB
Moving from skepticism to belief, we choose to pass through water and are buried with Jesus in his death (Romans 6:3-4, Romans 10:9-10). Emerging once again from water, this time we have been reborn, by water and by spirit, into a living hope. From spiritual death comes a resurrected life; the process of radical regeneration through the Spirit has begun (Titus 3:5, Colossians 2:12).
Breathing. Sentient. Alive.
Like newborn babes seeing the world for the first time with wide-eyed wonder, we survey the spiritual landscape that now stretches out in front of us. The real journey – the journey of a lifetime – lies ahead.
But we are not alone in our resurrected life; it comes with the promise of help (Ephesians 1:13-14). The spark that has been lit in our hearts will grow and be sustained by nothing less than the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, renewing and transforming us day by day into the likeness of His image.
Spirituality alive and redeemed to God, yet our mortal body remains at the mercy of time and change. The curse of Eden has not yet been completely undone.
We age and decay, even though inwardly we are being renewed day by day. And though we may die, yet we will live again, of this we are sure. The resurrection of Jesus is our touchstone; we’re confident that what was done in Jesus will be done in us also. The Spirit living in us assures us that we are God’s child.
For this perishable part of us must put on the imperishable, and this mortal part of us, the part that is capable of dying, must put on immortality. We must have complete and utter freedom from death. It was promised, long ago in Eden, and so it will be. He who has promised is faithful.
After all, mortality cannot inherit the eternal.
Our earthly existence, clothed in the only body we have ever known, will make one last and great crossing. A final and breathtaking change will occur and we will be instantly and irrevocably clothed in a body which comes from heaven itself; our mortality utterly swallowed up by life.
“I came”, Jesus said, “that they may have life and have it abundantly.” | John 10:10
This will be the moment of our most significant crossing and we will never be the same.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” | 1 Peter 1:3, CSB