Being born again is a definitive marker in a person’s history. It is that “moment outside of time” when the spirits of the world are cast out and God’s spirit enters in. The entrance of God’s spirit into a soul means that the soul has come to life, as there is no life outside of God.
You literally become a new person not by your own hand but by God’s.
But this new person still lives in the world, with all its decay, filth, and problems. Even worse, the possibility to go back to one’s “old ways” is constantly a temptation not because the old ways are better than God’s ways but because they’re familiar and habitual. Familiarity and habit are strong temptations, if they’re against God. When you become born again, you need to establish new God-centered familiarities and habits, but that takes time.
I was born again from atheism when I was 36. That means I’d established 36 years of bad habits and familiarities that could be used as temptations against the new me, and so they were and so they still are. God permits temptations to be used against us as a form of testing as well as a form of teaching. We’re none of us perfect while we’re here on Earth (even Jesus wasn’t, but he was definitely sinless) and God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. That’s not why we’re here. The whole point of temptations and tests is to train and teach us the right way so that we willingly choose to walk the “strait and narrow” path that will lead us home to Heaven.
Memory is a mixed blessing. Being born again doesn’t mean you forget everything that happened before you were born again. On the contrary, many of my memories from my pre-born-again time were made brighter (elucidated) after I was born again. Things that had happened to me that I hadn’t understood and so pushed to the back of my mind, God clarified to me after I was born again. He said to me: “See? That was me there helping you. I didn’t tell you at the time because you didn’t want me there, but it was me. I was always looking out for you and I helped you.”
Being born again, I know now that God is always with me. He’s just always here. That thought gives me immense joy that nothing else on Earth can match (not even birthday cake!). But sometimes, as a form of temptation, something horrendous that I did when I was old me is brought to mind. The shame that washes over me when that happens brings new me to a complete halt. God brings these awful memories to mind not to punish us but to teach us how to deal with them.
When I was born again, God forgave me for everything I’d ever done. That is the basis for spiritual rebirth. Forgiving me meant the debt was paid and I no longer needed to suffer for the sins I’d committed up to that point. Then why does God bring them to mind again? What is the purpose of that?
Before being forgiven by God, I’d made a conscious decision to forgive the one person who had entered my life like my own personal tornado. Forgiving that person meant that I no longer held anything he had done to me against him. The only thing that remains from our interactions is my desire that he be healed as I was healed. I wish him only well and pray for him whenever he comes to mind.
This is how we’re supposed to deal with memories of forgiven sins. Those memories will remain so they need to be dealt with accordingly. If something comes to mind, I remind myself that God forgave me for that sin and it no longer has any power over me. I don’t need to feel bad about it or beat myself up over it again and again. It’s a done deal.
The same with things that were done to me prior to my rebirth. That list is as long as the list of things I did, and needless to say they’re both pretty long. Every now and then, I recall a grievance; sometimes it comes as a flash, sometimes as a longer scenario. But in either case, the way to deal with it is the same – I remind myself that God forgave me because I chose first to forgive. When I forgave the “tornado person”, I forgave everyone for everything, so those grievances are done deals. Everything that was done to me prior to my rebirth was paid for, and old debts that are paid for don’t need to be paid again.
I don’t need to weep and wail for forgiven sins and I don’t need to point a finger, either. They are all done deals.
God tests us on this. This is a huge test. Learning how to look back with love rather than looking back with blame for yourself or others is one of the most important tests of all. It can even become a stumbling block that ultimately prevents some people from entering Heaven.
Being reborn means you’re a different person. Jesus called it new wine being poured into new skins. He also mentioned that people prefer old wine just because they’re used to it. Old habits and familiarities can become so ingrained in us that we mistakenly believe they are us and therefore cannot be changed.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you have “old you” familiarities and habits that you know are not good (not from God), ask God to help you get rid of them and replace them with familiarities and habits that are inspired by him. He will be only too happy to oblige.
As for your part, if something you did before you were born again is brought to mind, don’t beat yourself up over it; remind yourself that God forgave you for that sin and it no longer has any power over you. Do the same for sins that were committed against you; remind yourself that you forgave those people as a condition of God forgiving you, and say a prayer for them. Whenever I do that (say a prayer for those who hurt me), the bad memory gets obscured by the rush of love I feel for them. The bad memory is replaced by love.
This is how you grow new habits and new familiarities that come from God, but the decision to do that must first come from you.