I have a few friends who are pregnant right now. Some of them will likely be delivering babies right in the middle of this pandemic. In some places, women are told it might be better to plan for a midwife and home births; in other places, husbands aren’t being allowed in delivery rooms. I know there are many ways this pandemic can be uniquely hard for us individually, but there’s something about these mamas that makes my heart kind of catch. What a scary time to be ushering new life into the world…
I told Jacob the other night that I’m not as brave as I thought I was. I’ve read a lot of WW2 novels, and I sort of always imagined myself to be one of the spies on the front; the aid worker sneaking food behind enemy lines; the mobilizer and encourager and vision-caster… one of the brave ones. And in this WW3 against an unseen enemy, I haven’t been who I thought I would be.
Instead, I feel more like a mama in her 37th week of pregnancy. I’ve turned inward more than a little, conserving my time and my energy… Frankly, it hasn’t been hard for me to stay home. Outside of daily walks and bike rides, I’ve ventured out only 2 times in the last 11 days, and both times I’ve been eager to quickly return home. It feels like something primal has kicked in; a mother-hen-nesting-instinct rooted in a desire to shut-out the world “out there.” I’ve only given birth once, but I remember the emotional journey of labor; of bringing forth a new life… the fear, the anxiety, the resisting and tensing and holding on… and finally the letting go. This feels a lot like that.
Over the last few days, I’ve felt two phrases reverberating deep in my spirit. Two phrases I think God is offering as a map to lead me through this journey. Ironically, they seem contradictory. Hold on. And let go.
Labor hurts. One birth story is enough to teach me that. Labor takes you to places you didn’t think you could go; places you certainly didn’t want to go. Labor involves all the stages of grief: denial, pain, bargaining and anger, loneliness and isolation. And then, transition.
And in that moment, the curve changes direction.
A mama lets go – physically, emotionally, spiritually… she literally unclenches every muscle in her body and ceases resisting the impending change. She lets go and pushes through the pain and keeps moving. This is that next stage of grief: acceptance. Resignation? Maybe. More precisely it looks like resolve. A tender and fledgling bravery, no less fierce for its vulnerability.
Friends, we’re in this.
We may not want to be. We may not think we are brave enough for whatever lies ahead. We may be grieving the lives we left behind for a very long time. We’re in denial. We’re hurting. We’re feeling angry and lonely and isolated and scared. “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” (Romans 8:22) So much is uncertain, but one thing remains unchanged: the only way through this is through this. The only way through is to hold onto hope and let go.
It’s jumping off a high dive.
It’s that first dip in a roller coaster.
It’s a trust fall at high school church camp when the first boy you ever had a crush on really did catch you.
It’s setting our eyes on “what is above, not on what is on the earth.” (Col. 3:2)
Its relinquishment and unclenching and trusting that even though we may not feel very brave — and even though it hurts a hell of a lot — we were born to do this. It’s trusting that we actually aren’t in a free-fall, even if that’s how it feels… We’re safely held in the no-matter-whatness of God. Yesterday, today and forever.
For me, one of my first moments of transition came the other night when I saw a friend’s Instagram post where she shared a picture of the March 24 Jesus Calling devotional. (Thanks Jenn!) Here’s what it said:
“This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My Presence, where you are complete. Take time to bask in the Light of My Love. As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into My care.
You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence. The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes: I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand. Herein lies your security, which no one and no circumstance can take from you.”
Sometimes we associate ‘holding on’ with bravery and strength and ‘letting go’ with weakness and failure. But that’s not the true story of humanity. That might be the story of Americana; the wild-west-pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps ethos we’re all so permeated in. But the way we all came into this world tells a different story — someone let go to let us arrive. Years ago, when one of my sisters-in-law was giving birth under a scary set of circumstances, my dear mother-in-law (who is like a spiritual midwife to many, including me) told her, “This isn’t a time for you to try to put on your big girl panties.” Put another way, this isn’t a time for pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.
It’s a time for surrender. For letting go. For trusting that we will get to the other side of this, all the while remaining confident that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Ps. 27:13)