The mental, emotional, and spiritual growth of each of us is so significant. It will eventually determine the direction of our entire life. Some people climb the highest peaks of mental growth. Their ability and desire to understand their lives and their world never stop. Other people stay babes in their growth and understanding of both themselves and the world they live in. Paul uses the term “babes” in referring to the growth of the church members at Corinth. It is not good to be in mid-life and still be a “babe”.

It is interesting to me to watch a newborn child as they begin to explore their world. Everything they see and touch is new to them. They are exploring their world. When born, their mind is an empty disc, but as they grow, more and more information is stored on this disk that we call the human mind.

I just passed a significant birthday, so my mind has a lot of information that has been recorded over time. However, I find it very interesting that as I replay the disks of life, some of the disks are blank. For instance, I cannot remember my first three years in school… try as I might; those disks are empty. My classrooms, the teachers, and the information being taught, for some reason never did get recorded. My mind comes alive as I enter the fourth grade. The family had moved to another part of town and thus I had to change schools. My disk for the fourth grade comes alive in living color. Why? Was it the teacher? My teacher was Miss Nichols. She was a small lady, perhaps 100 pounds, but what she lacked in stature, she made up in performance. She had fiery red hair and deep green eyes. She screamed (literally), stomped her high-heeled foot on the floor, and yes her teaching included physical discipline. Luckily, I was never the object of this manifestation, but I assure you it intimidated this nine-year-old boy. Why is that disk still recorded and in living color? Why are some things in life so deeply embedded in my mind and others things are like a mist through which I can vaguely see? Why is it that for most of us, our minds and entire life drift into different patterns? Some become cynics. Some become very compassionate and add to the benefit of the human race. We all started with an empty disk, but life turns out so differently.

I’m thinking of a man in the New Testament who had one of these life-transforming incidents. He was highly trained. He had formed and solidified his belief system, yet in mid-life there were a series of small earthquakes that led eventually to a major change in the geography of his life.

Nicodemus’s introduction in the Bible starts with obstetrics. He is a questioning cynic. He has been watching and listening to the Messiah. He cannot believe what he hears. His question is, “How can a man re-enter his mother’s womb and be born again”? It does sound like an impossibility, but Jesus was talking of life in another dimension that Nicodemus had never understood nor was he able to grasp the meaning of the term “born again.” He understood it as physical, thus his question, but Jesus was talking of an inner change that would be life-changing. There is no evidence that at this time, Nicodemus changed his life. He was merely a questioner, but I think an honest questioner.

We meet this man again in John 7. He is among those who are religious leaders of the Nation of Israel. There is a very serious discussion taking place among these leaders as to what should be done with this man who claims to be the Messiah. He is becoming too popular among the people and the discussion focuses on how to get rid of Him. Nicodemus is sitting among these leaders, listening to the discussion. The disk is playing, and he listens again to the conversation between Jesus and himself in that night setting. There is a true religious discussion taking place in his mind. “Am I ready to declare myself as one who believes that He really is who He claims to be?

There are times in our lives when we are torn between what we traditionally believe and what I am now learning to be true. I am torn between what I was and what I am now. If I take this step, will I be declared a fool or will it lift me to a higher level? There are some who decide to ignore what they know to be true and stay in the realm of inner conflict. That’s where Nicodemus was at this time. As this discussion was taking place as to what to do with Jesus, the best he can do is say, “our law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing…”. Nicodemus is immediately criticized by the group as they say, “You are not also from Galilee are you? Search and see that no prophet comes out of Galilee”. The case is dropped, and Nicodemus remains silent in the face of criticism. He is not ready to take this step yet.
But that is not the end of the history of this man. The religious leaders found a trap and closed the trap with the help of the Roman Governor. Jesus had been condemned. The disciples fled in absolute fear of being implicated in this issue. The mocking crowd had left the grisly scene of the crucifixion. Jesus’ body still hung on the cross and in the Roman tradition, it would stay there until claimed by the family or the birds of prey devoured the flesh from the carcass. But who should show up?  Nicodemus. With the help of another friend, they carefully removed the body from that place of torture. Nicodemus, at his own expense, had gone to the market to buy spices and embalming perfumes, and he helped another carefully wrap the body of Jesus in cloth and took him to a tomb.

Where were the disciples? Hiding.

The truth had come full circle for Nicodemus. In mid-life, he traded tradition for truth and reality. He now understood the lesson on obstetrics; he understood what being born again really meant.

It’s a tragic thing to play the same disks in mid-life that you were playing in your twenty-somethings. I may not be able to recall my first years on the trail of education, but as I pass this significant birthday, I can look back on a path of growth with God and a life of walking with Him. I continue to be a seeker. I never want to stop the process of learning the ways of God.

May growth be a part of my learning as I go through this new year.

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