Pregnancy, birth, and a new kind of Christianity … part 6

My friend Helen wrote …

It was a great idea of yours to ask women about pregnancy and birth – your question has received a lot of good responses!
For me, the births of my children were times I had to give up control. The processes didn’t go as I’d hoped – each time I ended up having a C section to avoid incurring significant risk to the baby. I had to let go of disappointment over not having ‘normal’ deliveries and appreciate the outcome and big picture, which was: I now had two wonderful healthy children.
If I’d clung to ‘my’ preferred way of delivering them rather than giving up control and having the C sections, I could have seriously jeopardized their health or even their lives. If I’d dwelled on my disappointment about the process not going the way I’d hoped I’d have made myself miserable and missed the joy I could have had with my babies
I think there are parallels with New Christianity – the outcome will be compromised if people try to retain too much control over the process which births it. And they will be unhappy if they focus on the way they wanted things to be rather than letting go, looking at the big picture and outcome and appreciating the awesome new thing which is coming into being.

The idea to invite these reflections actually came from Bob Carlton after he had read an early draft of my upcoming book. Thanks, Bob!
Always-insightful Julie Clawson recently posted this …
And there’s a beautiful insight into the first person to call Jesus “my Lord” here…
Many of you were moved by Laryn and Janel’s story yesterday. Laryn sent this link to the sermon mentioned in the post. Highlights are included after the jump … (Thanks, Laryn.)

From Pastor Del Glick’s sermon:

I tell this experience from the first-hand perspective of Elizabeth Myer Boulton, minister for discipleship at Old South Church in Boston. But for the moms here this morning, it may well duplicate your birthing experience.
Pregnant women preparing to give birth do a lot of breathing through their teeth: “Hee, hee, hoo. Hee, hee, hoo. Hee, hee, hoo.” The birthing instructor said this breathing would help mitigate the pain of labor, and it does, until women hit that thing called transition, the most intense phase of labor when even the strongest women momentarily lose faith in their ability to bring new life into the world.
I was no exception, says Elizabeth Boulton. After six solid hours of labor, transition arrived and I grabbed my husband by the collar of his shirt, pulled him close and groaned loudly, “I can’t do this anymore!” Then I took hold of the midwife, “It’s too hard. I can’t do it!”
The midwife looked at me with a clear, steady gaze and spoke in a voice as ancient as Shiphrah’s and Puah’s: “Elizabeth, you ARE doing it. Right now. This is what you were created to do—and you’re doing it.” So we breathed and I pushed and after some of the most painful, difficult hours, a slippery little baby came into the world. We took one look at him and fell in love.
Elizabeth continues with her story: I was proud of my body when I was pregnant. “I’ve gained 60 pounds,” I’d say to strangers and friends alike, “and no stretch marks! Can you believe it? I weigh over 200 pounds and no stretch marks!”
Well, vanity has a way of catching up with you. After that little baby slipped into the world and my stomach was as empty as the tomb on Sunday morning, I saw them: bright blue stretch marks hiding on my abdomen and, to my horror, creeping down my thighs.
…[snip the middle part of the sermon]…
…there will come times we find ourselves taking hold of John the Baptist by his camel-hair collar and groaning loudly, “It’s too hard! I can’t do it! Repentance is too difficult. I can’t turn around. There is no way I can reverse my steps and start facing the other direction.”
But think of it this way: before John slipped Jesus into the water, before the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, John proclaimed the good news to the people: “you do not have to do this alone! One is coming who is more powerful than I, and that one will be a midwife to all the nations. When you find yourself saying, “It’s too hard! I can’t do it!” that one will look at you with a clear, steady gaze and speak in a voice as ancient as Shiphrah’s and Puah’s: “You are doing it. Right now. This is what you were created to do—and you’re doing it. Keep breathing. Keep pushing!”
The new baby is on its way. Can’t you feel it? All creation is groaning as if in labor. God’s new world is slipping into being even now, and with the Spirit’s help, we can play our part, breathing through our teeth, letting our skin be stretched and throwing the doors of our hearts wide open to change, difficult though it is to turn around.
But in that turning around, there is rejoicing . . . like the new mother and new father who can rejoice after the hours and struggle, pain and labor. And with our struggle, pain and labor to be faithful to the call of Jesus and to experience the shalom of salvation, we are reminded by our scriptures today to rejoice.
Zephaniah invites us to rejoice because the Lord has taken away the judgments against us. Isaiah’s thanksgiving reminds us that the Lord’s anger is turned away. Paul’s joy is a defiant nevertheless which draws strength from the gospel story and from laying our deepest concerns before God with thanksgiving. Rejoicing follows repentance.
This rejoicing is not the euphoria that vanishes with the aroma of the drying Christmas tree but is rather the basis of our lasting joy as followers of Christ. We learn to rejoice in God’s presence, even or especially when there seems little visible evidence to support it or even when breathing through our teeth!