When the moment came for her to give birth to our baby twins, Maddie and Ben, there was the voice of the doctor who said to me in a kind of direct-with-a-tinge-of-urgency-in-her-voice way: “Tell your wife to take a deep breath and to push as though her son’s life depended on it.”
I’ll never forget that commandment. “Take a deep breath and push as though Ben’s life depended on it.”
I’m not a woman. I’m unable to know the experience of childbirth, but I know what I experienced in that birthing room. Deep breathing and pushing. Repeatedly, consistently. The pain accompanied by strained muscles and bones and the tearing of flesh; these are the things that led to the joyous occasion of new life. In our case, to two new lives.
American civil rights activist, documentary filmmaker, lawyer, educator and faith leader, Valarie Kaur, wrote: “Love as mothering is a form of sweet labor that transforms and births anew. Love is not any one emotion but employs many emotions in that labor… mothering is not biologically determined but a capacity within each of us. Spiritual geniuses from Buddha to Jesus, Mohammed to Guru Nanak, called us to practice love beyond family and tribe." (See related: Keynote Speaker Calls for Revolutionary Love
, Nov. 4, 2019
Choosing to actively engage in a community of faith is a lot like childbirth. It is about pushing and breathing. Constantly. Consistently. It is about the pain associated with the push of constant change in a world that demands it, and it is the resting in God associated with the breathing. It is difficult and complex. Both are essential parts of the transitional process required for transformation that ultimately leads to new life.
And, through it all, we are called to be faithful by trusting in God. Through the pushing, I hold on to the promise God provides the Church God gave us through Christ. That, although our labor may be filled with the painful sweat and tears of the push, and that the pushing sometimes takes the form of yelling and finger-pointing, accusations and threats, slander and divisiveness of flesh, there is also the breathing in of God’s presence that gives us the strength to persevere, to have the courage to move forward, to be brave enough to endure, to rest in the knowledge that God is with us, preparing us for the next push. Birth and rebirth, Birth and rebirth. Birth and rebirth. Continuously. Consistently. That’s Church. That’s life. It’s so very hard. It’s complex. It’s a necessary and integral part of discipleship.
Through it all, the faithful make the difficult choice to remain in covenant with one another. We choose to bear one another with patience, and mercy, and grace, forgiveness and compassion, and always with kindness. We choose not to forsake community for the sake of personal power and pride of tradition. We choose love for one another above all other divine virtues.
Ben and Maddie are turning 18 this week. Throughout their 6,570 days, they have, as we all do, experienced constant and consistent pushing and breathing. May all our lives continue to be filled with both, as we consciously and actively choose to step into the ever-flowing transitions and transformations that lead us to new life. To experience birth and rebirth.