It may be helpful to imagine Nicodemus as a middle-aged man, about to have his first heart attack. Or perhaps, he is already recovering from some health crisis or scare. A friend his same age came down with what looked like the flu, and then it became pneumonia, and now this once active colleague is dead. Did Nicodemus go to Jesus that night because his personal life had taken an unexpected turn? Or like many middle-aged men, had he had spent the last twenty years climbing the ladder, only to reach the point in life where he could see that the ladder was leaned up against the wrong wall? Does talking with Jesus prepare him to be born-again? Trauma is coming. Jesus offers him the hope that he will need to navigate the coming transition.
I’ve been reading Richard Rohr’s book on the two halves of life (Falling Upward). He contends that there is a dramatic shift that occurs sometime in the middle of life that thrusts us on a spiritual journey. Rebirth is the process of abandoning the first half of life’s obsession with survival and success. After we are born again we seek whole heartedly to discover who we are meant to be. Rohr writes:
“Most of us are never told that we can set out from the known and the familiar to take on a further journey. Our institutions and our expectations, including our churches, are almost entirely configured to encourage, support, reward, and validate the tasks of the first half of life.”
I find this a refreshing challenge.