OK, So You’re Born Again; Now What?

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

In Western Christianity, especially in Protestantism, there has been an emphasis put on a “born again experience,” that defining and often exhilarating experience when one feels touched by the Spirit or has found Jesus.  In the experience one may feel deeply loved, and temporarily released from fear, guilt or shame.  It is often the topic of many testimonials at church gatherings.  Retelling the experience also rekindles dwindling religious fervor.  Therefore promoting this experience is often the goal for many preachers and evangelists:  do all one can so that the new believers will have this experience and the old believers all feel rejuvenated in their faith.

Perhaps this stress on a peak experience comes from St. Paul and his conversion, providing a religious model that has gotten a lot of miles and is celebrated whenever it happens; and rightly so.  This initial conversion experience is an important component of religious and spiritual development. 

The problem arises when the honeymoon of this Christian experience wanes in the rough and tumble of real life, and the believer then substitutes the increasingly barren, hard path for a variety of panaceas like the secure comfort in joylessly adhering to religious rules, fake enthusiastic religiosity or active participation in the enjoyable social activities of a church.

However, religious and spiritual maturity involves two aspects and the barren, hard path is one of them.  Just as a good marriage has its honeymoon experience and the long years often marked by fidelity and mutual support in times of dryness, sickness and financial difficulties, the truly spiritual religious life also has the same.  Genuine religious faith based on a deep spirituality has learned to thrive in the hard times.  However, how this awareness has been learned and what has been learned is often not talked about in mainstream Christian religions, yet this is the understanding that gives life to genuine religion. 

As John Welwood says in his book, Toward a Psychology of Awakening, we need the realization experience that starts us on our religious journey, yet we also need to actualize the experience in the very fabric of our being through daily practices and life disciplines like prayer, dreamwork, meditation and a willingness to look at psychological issues which cause us to stumble.  This is what makes the religious life real and alive.  Otherwise, we are just trying to live off of a high by bypassing the nitty-gritty of life.

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Into the Dark Night: When There Seems No Response to Prayer and Intention

spiritual dark nights

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Much has been said on this website, in my classes and in other places how it is possible to intend or ask for a dream or specific piece of intuitive information to help heal or resolve an issue. All that is possible but I would be very remiss if I did not say that there are times or a long period of time when all the praying or intending seems to produce no immediate or apparent result, no matter how often one prays and intends. This can be a very difficult experience if one has become accustomed to receiving answers in dreams or meditation. Often, it is enough to make one lose heart and give up on the practice.

What to Keep in Mind

This period of darkness has had many names in spiritual practice. A common one that has held over the centuries is The Dark Night of Soul. It has also been described as a dry period when there is no productivity or creativity. A sense of being lost and or a profound feeling of emptiness are yet other descriptive characteristics. Here are some pointers to keep in mind if you are experiencing this phenomenon:

  • It often comes after one has achieved a certain degree of maturity or achievement in one’s spiritual practice, and it often itself is an indicator of progress made—which is something to keep in mind and consider as a source of encouragement to keep going.
  • It may last for a while but usually it is temporary.  One can go through many “dark nights” or a very long one in one’s life.
  • It is a very important part of the spiritual growth process because it is like a test, challenging your resolve, patience and capacity to seek more insight in difficult situations.
  • It makes one realize that getting what one wants through positive thinking and intentionality isn’t as easy as some of the New Age proponents would like you to believe. It’s not all a rose garden.
  • If undergone with fortitude, faith and patience, just as day follows the night, it often heralds a new beginning, a breakthrough or a transformation—making all the confusion, frustration and isolation and lostness all worthwhile!

I have found these dark times to be reflected in dreams with images of the full moon in a dark sky, of being lost in a foreign city, or the lack of dreams and insight altogether—even when I pray or intend them. For me these kinds of dreams or lack of dreams are clues telling I am going through a Dark Night period. It happens to all of us on the spiritual journey. But remember, answers come when they are meant to come, and when we truly need them. So keep intending and praying for the dreams and inspiration you need. Guidance will come!