by Rachel Sensenig, pastor of Circle of Hope in South Philly
Tend only to the birth in you and you will find all goodness and all consolation, all delight, all being and all truth. Reject it and you reject all goodness and blessing. What comes to you in this birth brings with it pure being and blessing. – Meister Eckhart (medieval theologian)
We refer to this quote in Mother Blessing ceremonies to encourage new mothers to see and embrace what they are becoming in this moment of change. It’s not just about the baby! The birthing process forms us, too, as creators, caretakers, and children of God. It helps us be open to all we don’t understand yet.
Birth, like death in our culture, is largely hidden, sanitized, and controlled. Aside from necessary medical intervention, I wonder if that’s a loss, because it distances us from the powerful processes of creation and recreation, grief and letting go. The distance separates us from parts of our humanity that are sacred and natural and inspiring to our own ongoing growth!
Birth is so powerful that it gives birth to Liberation Theology. In Exodus 1 a tyrannical king commands midwives to kill all the “enemy” baby boys when they emerge from their mother’s wombs. But the midwives refuse to obey the order. They risk their own lives to deliver the children and the future of those oppressed. They defy the narrative that men and governments own women’s bodies. They honor God by reverencing and protecting and trusting the life force above all else.
One of the things I love most about birth work and birth workers is this posture of support and fidelity to a higher power. Even though birth is messy, unpredictable, and doesn’t always work out in the way we want, birth workers encourage and trust the birthing person and life-giving energy at work in them. Instead of viewing birth as something to be controlled or manipulated or forced, they listen and support and witness the miracle. They know we don’t invent it or own it! The birthing process elicits respect for the creative energy that sustains and expands the universe.
Birth workers also demonstrate a wise willingness to enter the difficult struggle required for new life. I saw this courage in my friends Gi Clifton, Beka Coval, and Beth Goldberg, birth workers who contributed to our Sunday meeting message last week. They consider it a great honor to be with people in the vulnerable moments of labor, because they know that when people are supported and valued at their most vulnerable, humanity comes together. In fact, the birthing hormones affect everyone in the birthing room, with bonds of attachment and love.
Jesus pointed to the powerful biology of physical birth to direct us to our ongoing spiritual one. None of us are fully formed and finished yet if we are seeking a higher power. Who we are becoming is yet to be revealed, as the apostle John said:
Beloved, we are God’s children now. What we shall be has not yet been revealed. However, we do know that when he appears we shall be like him. I John 3:2
We are in the process of becoming like God incarnate; Jesus, the fully human one! Another medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich, describes a vision of Jesus birthing us from the cross, his blood and body creating our true selves.
My point is: be patient with yourself. Don’t give up on yourself, because God isn’t giving up on you. You are loved fully and completely like a beloved child who is growing into their fullness. The love and acceptance only increase as you grow, and God knows that growth requires painful struggles. We tend to resist what’s good for us, but God is patient. Birth is a process. Becoming takes a long time! But take heart that the life force is strong. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives within you. (Romans 8:11) The power of death was defeated by Jesus, and nothing can keep us from his love. Nothing! (Also Romans 8.) Your ongoing birth is still in the care of the Life-Giver. Tend to it, to you, with faith, hope, and trust in that higher power.