A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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HAVE YOU BEEN PIGEON-HOLED? SEPARATING WHO YOU WERE FROM WHO YOU ARE

As many of you know, I was born again from atheism 23 years ago. For me, the switch from atheism to God worship was easy-peasy, because God did all the work during my conversion. All I had to do was agree to his terms (to choose to forgive), and I was an atheist no more. I didn’t have to work at being born-again; it just happened.

Since my conversion, I think and feel and speak as a born-again believer and follower of Jesus, at least in my own mind I do. But people who knew the atheist Charlotte have a hard time letting her go. You see, we get pegged as being either this or that and as having either these or those characteristics and traits. And for most people, these characteristics and traits are set in stone. They have no intention of changing their impression or opinion of you, no matter how much you actually change.

We all get pegged and pigeon-holed. Jesus was pegged and pigeon-holed in Nazareth. Even when he returned home as a renowned healer after he’d started his ministry, he was still, to the Nazarenes, the son of Joseph the carpenter. They couldn’t get past who he had been to see what he had become. He had been pegged and pigeon-holed for life, regardless of the miracles he performed or his newfound eloquence in scripture. The Nazarenes – including his family – still had him pegged and pigeon-holed as Joseph’s son, and the brother of Joses and James and the rest of Mary’s brood.

This is why Jesus ultimately left Nazareth permanently and warned us that we will never be taken for who we are by those who knew us as we were. Like everything else Jesus said, he was bang on the money. Every now and then I get contacted by people I knew before my conversion, and once they find out I’m a Jesus freak, they disappear down the communications black hole, never to be heard from again. Some of my old friends who contact me actually ask outright if I’m still a Christian, and when I say “yes, of course”, the conversation pretty much ends there. I don’t take it personally; I know how I’d feel if one of them converted and I’d remained an atheist: I wouldn’t even have bothered to contact them. I would have written them off completely and in derision.

We need to accept that we’ve been pegged as we were pre-conversion by those who knew us and who are not born-again. The sole exceptions are other converts. People who are genuinely born-again know that I’m genuinely born-again, but I know only one such person from my past, and that person is now gone. I’m not sad about her passing, because I know that if I make it Home I’ll see her again and forever. But for now, I’m just grateful that at least one person who knew the atheist Charlotte was able to make the leap to the born-again believer Charlotte, and to see me not for who I was, but for who I am. So far, it’s only been the one person who was able to do that, but it was enough. It was affirmation.

Maybe I’ll live to see a few more take the leap before I go Home.

In the meantime, I generally avoid people I used to know as much as they avoid me. I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not anymore, and it’s frustrating to see people look at me like I’m crazy simply for being a believer. It’s also frustrating when people treat me as if I’m still the cursing, drinking, “for-ny-kating”, lying, cheating bad girl I was before my conversion. That person is dead (she always was, spiritually) and gone, and she ain’t comin’ back. Jesus had the same problem of being perceived as Joseph’s son rather than God’s son, which is why he told us that, as children of God, we are prophets everywhere except among our own people. With few exceptions, we will remain to them whatever we were before our conversion (something something “first impressions…”).

It can be a temptation to turn back to who we were, if for nothing else for the companionship we used to have in the world. I don’t dislike the people I used to know before my conversion; I just don’t have anything in common with them anymore, and I make them uncomfortable. It’s like we’ve become strangers because we actually are strangers. We would not have formed a friendship in the “old days” if I’d been a convert then. It’s better just to admit that rather than to keep trying to force proverbial square pegs into round holes.

My friendships now are all in the Kingdom. Paul tells us that we’re surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, and he’s right. I can’t see my “invisible friends”, but I know they’re there. If you’re genuinely born-again, we’re friends. We may never meet or speak to each other, but we’re friends. I know you’re there and you know I’m here, and that’s enough, at least for me. And then there’s the spiritual realm of those who live permanently in God’s Kingdom in Heaven – they’re all our friends, too, which at last count was almost infinite in number.

Yes, the world has pegged and pigeon-holed us for whatever we used to be, but God and those who love him, and Jesus and those who follow him, know us for who are. That alone should suffice and sustain us for the rest of our time on Earth.


1 Comment

  1. […] I’ve written before about how difficult it is for most people, especially unbelievers, to see born-again believers as the new person they’ve become. If you’re genuinely born-again, you know what I’m talking about. It can be frustrating, but it is what it is. You roll with it, like Jesus did. If they don’t want to hear what you have to say, you move on. If you and God’s Word are not welcome, you move on. You don’t force the Word on anyone; Jesus never did. But he was always adamant that the record be set straight in matters of scriptural Truth. That was his special ministry to his enemies in Jerusalem. […]

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