I was driving home this morning when this sign caught my eye! I wondered how many people understand what the words mean, taken from the Bible gospel book of John, chapter 3 and verse 7. A more literal meaning of the verse from the ancient Greek text might read, “…. you must be born from above.”
In my early years as a child, and even in my fundamentalist college studies, I thought the idea meant a warning of how I could go to a place called heaven when I died. In a conversation between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus, a “leader of the Jews,” Jesus became the teacher from God. In answer to Nicodemus’ question about where Jesus received his authority, Jesus replied, “no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” Of course, Nicodemus wanted to know how a person could enter into his mother’s womb a second time and be born again. Jesus replied one must be born of water and Spirit. He related water to our physical birth and Spirit to our spiritual birth. Jesus also said, “That which is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of Spirit is spirit.” What does this mean?
It means one is mortal and the other is immortal. It means awakening to a new understanding of who we are as a person. We have physical and temporal bodies but when discovering a new understanding or belief, we can awaken to ourselves as Spirit. Spirit is where “heaven” is! Spirit is our nature’s essence. Bodies reacts to stimuli of this physical world, to the ego selves to which we normally identify ourselves. This identity has been shaped by the world around us. We are told we are boy or girl, which race we belong to, what mixture we are, where we live, what our IQ might be, the country we call home, the vocation we learn, etc. etc. Yet, all these are temporal and passing. We know this just by reason. Heaven, the word used on the church sign, is from a Greek work meaning sky or that above. It’s expansive and unending. Heaven is used for the Spirit or Unseen Creator’s existence. It’s a place or realm of peace, beyond time and space, beyond all dualities of race, gender, economic status, and nationality. It is the sense we feel of “no place,” of just being, without judgment, fear, or needing to do something.
Where then is this heaven? It’s within minds, our thinking, and how we think. Heaven is an idea. It can be equated with breath, or life. It is our Higher Self or the True Us. It is what Jesus once said is “Within you.” (Luke 17:21) It’s not up or down, behind or in front, it is the You or as some call, “the Thinker” or “the Observer.” In the Gnostic gospel of Thomas, it reads, “Be passersby!” (saying #42)
So, if you want to experience heaven, a place of eternal peace and love, you simply, yet profoundly, awaken to it as being within you, the True You! Such is like being born again, not in flesh or another incarnation, but in your mind, your thinking. You can experience the idea in a church (sometimes, at least) or in any place or time. In the Psalm it simply says, “Be still and you will know!” (46:10) Know God and know Heaven, peace, and eternal love.
To go to heaven, then, just understand it is you. You don’t have to go to a church, synagogue, mosque, ashram or temple. Sure, they could help, but they can also sometimes become obstacles. Beliefs can easily become gates of intolerance, narrowness and judgment.
I’m glad I saw the sign in front of the church this morning. It reminded me again of the simplest yet most dramatic, life-changing thought we can discover. Heaven? It’s You!