if you’ve been reading here for a while you know that i have more kids than the average person–5 lovely little bunnies, ranging from my oldest who just left for college down to twins that are almost 11. when the twins were born, there were a few months that i had 5 kids under the age of 7; yeah, it was really nutty. one thing that i always get to use when i play the game “two truths & a lie” is that i delivered all 5 of my kids naturally, no epidurals, no demerol, no nothing (and just to go out with a bang, the twins were 6 1/2 pounds each!). in reality, i am not opposed to pain medicine (and trust me, i cried out for it more than once) but i had midwives in the hospital for 3 of the 4 deliveries and just ended up making it through without ever getting any drugs. if i compare my midwife births to the one with a doctor, there really is no comparison in terms of the love, care, nurturing and support that i got through the entire process. i’m not dissing doctors in any way; they do a great job, but for me, i’ll take a midwife anyday.
they were gentle, strong, nurturing, challenging, present, wise, compassionate, and patient in a time of a lot of pain.
a while back a friend of mine told me that she was really thankful that i had been her “spiritual midwife” during a season of spiritual shifting and big pain & change in her life. i have since often reflected on these words & how this metaphor is a very important one with so many people experiencing huge spiritual shifts or moving to new places in their life & story for a variety of reasons. we need patient guides, people to hold our hands and remind us to breathe, people who recognize and respect the birthing-something-new process who don’t try to rush it or numb it out.
yeah, i think we need more spiritual midwives.
the typical-western-doctor-medical-model seems to kind of fit with so many of our christian experiences. the you-just-need-to-take-this-do this-stop-doing-that-believe this-work-toward-that mantra is the response that so many people get when they start to question, doubt, shift, or end up in some weird fork in the road of their spiritual journey. so what ends up happening to some is the pain gets too great & they just end up numbing themselves out and migrating back to what’s comfortable & familiar even though it doesn’t bring life or hope anymore. or for others, they may gut it out alone & end up never getting the joy of holding “the baby” because the process stripped everything instead of just the stuff that needed to be stripped. and i know for many of us we just long for a c-section, a please-just-get-to-the-end-of-this-now, instead of having to go through the pain of an unknown & scary process.
midwives understand the process of giving birth. they understand that it takes time. that it’s going to hurt. and that there are certain things we can do to hang on through the pain, but that there’s no way around it. that natural & present is better than artificial & checked out.
so many people i know are shifting in their faith, longing to give birth to something new but not knowing what’s going to emerge. there’s so much fear & confusion & loneliness & pain in that season, and while no one can do the work for us it is so much better when there are others along the way who can help guide, nurture, and remind that it won’t be like this forever and that something beautiful & wonderful can, indeed, emerge from the pain.
we need spiritual midwives who:
- remind us not to rush the process. i have seen so many people who want to move quickly through the pain of a shifting faith or a hard story & get to a new high too quick. it just doesn’t seem to work that way for most people. it can be long, agonizing, tiring. we need midwives who tell us we can’t hurry the process.
- let us express our pain instead of numb it. they will listen to our anger, our fear, our venting, our hurt, our angst and not expect it to go away right away. they understand that raw honesty is helpful instead of pretending or numbing out and losing touch with what’s really going on inside. they trust at some point we’ll stop yelling and crying.
- hold our hand and remind us to breathe. i have some amazing friends in my life who really have stuck with me through all the nuttiness of my journey. they won’t let go of me. they return my phone calls and hold me when i cry. they gently point me toward what’s good, what’s beautiful, what’s hopeful but without telling me what i should do and how i should do it.
- help us see the beauty in the process even when we aren’t looking so beautiful. to me, giving birth, while beautiful in so many ways, also can be kind of rough & hard & ugly. it doesn’t seem like it’s us at our best, although maybe it actually really is. when it comes to the spiritual things being born & re-born in us, we need midwives who help celebrate the beauty of the moment, of what’s emerging, of what God is doing us in the midst regardless of what it might look like at the moment.
- know if we hang on long enough & see the process through, a “baby” will be born that will need nurturing, love & care. i do think there is a point in the spiritual journey where a baby emerges. some of the pushing is over, it doesn’t hurt anymore. new hope is somehow born. but like a newborn baby, it needs lots of food & care & love and can’t survive without it. the new things surfacing in us spiritually need tending to so that they can be healthy & strong over time.
oh this metaphor has so many facets to it, but i think i’ll stop here for now. i like to think that when Jesus tells nicodemus in john 3 that we must be “born again” that there’s much more to it than just eternal salvation. i think our faith will need to be re-born again and again over the course of our journey. as i reflect on the need for spiritual midwives, i am reminded just how wild and beautiful and scary “giving birth” really is. there’s no question it is full of paradoxes. pain & joy, hope & fear, pretty & ugly.
it’s why we need companions & guides along the way who will help us see the beauty, the hope, the life, the light, the possibility that can emerge if we bravely stay with it and trust that something new, something good is coming even when we can’t believe it.