Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(Cartoon from Mark Anderson's website)

As we continue to revisit Advent on this blog this year in terms of the concept of our own "spiritual pregnancies," we are kind of that point in the year, the dawn of the day preceding Christmas Eve, where Mary's water has broken and the labor pains have started. No more "abstraction" exists in that concept of the arrival of that baby at this point--it's all reality, and no one knows the reality of it more than Mary!

The moment when a pregnant woman realizes "her water broke" is like the curtain rising on a new act of a "write it as you go" drama. For some women, the moment comes in a gush, especially if labor pains started prior to the event, and there is no doubt what happened. For others, it's merely a trickle, and she, for a time, might be debating whether it really happened, or whether she just wet her pants (again) a little. Only until the labor pains start does she figure it out.

Then there's that moment of "what do do with the other half of the story." Women, for millennia, have been temporarily hiding the moment from the more, um, nervous and prone to be excited "significant others" of their world, in a temporary (and usually mistaken) attempt to control the potential drama of the situation. Other women, especially in the first pregnancy, become afraid, and desperately seek the strength of their partner or close family member. Some are relieved that this show is finally getting on the road. Some go through all of the above, and more. In short, it's rarely drama-less, despite all attempts at drama control.

In all pregnancies, be they actual or spiritual, in all the tumultuous events of our lives, be they joyful or tragic, there is the moment when the abstract-ness of birth abruptly ends, and the reality of the impending birth reaches that "point of no return." Even in death--physical death, the death of relationships, the death of the "givens" in our lives, the underpinnings of new birth emerge from the shadows. But in all of these "births" there is one constant and unyielding truth--it will be messy.

Now, I freely admit I'm going to steal a little from the best Christmas eve homily I ever heard here, but add my own take to it. Birth, for all its wonderful-ness, for all its awesome-ness, for all its joyfulness--when you get right down to the gory details of it--well, it's messy, and sometimes a little gross, and definitely a little scary. There's pain and sweating and screaming and moments of fear and unease. It involves smelly fluids and blood and genteel body parts and a crowd of people standing around looking at the genteel body parts in a rather impolite fashion. There's a placenta to expel--a mysterious piece of tissue that is half-mom, half-baby, a portion of the lives of two people--that will be unceremoniously dumped in the trash or turfed to the surgical pathologist.

Not only that, when that baby is born, honestly...few newborns are "cute." They're slimy and bloody and wrinkled and have a bit of an odd smell and have nasty stuff in their hair. They have little scrawny arms and legs and swollen genitalia. They're not terribly happy, being kicked out of their nice warm temporary home where everything was predictable, and dumped out into the big, cold world into the arms of strangers. Never mind they no longer "fit" their former environment. Sometimes their mothers are dismayed that they don't immediately want to love this newborn--sometimes it takes a bit to adjust to the fact this slimy, noisy little alien is not that fantasy baby they imagined.

So it is with our spiritual newborns. We don't always want to acknowledge that "what we got" isn't exactly "what we expected," and we are a little dismayed that we didn't just take right to the business of loving it. Suddenly the harsh realization that it has been born, it will require our constant care, and it WILL turn our world upside down, can frighten us with one of the deepest sorts of fear. We fear we "won't do it right." We fear others will judge our ability to care for it. (Oh, they will, but it really won't matter.) We fear, oddly enough, the selflessness that will emerge from us to care for it--that somehow that might diminish us.

Something usually happens along the way, though, with those real babies, that melts through all that. Eventually, that baby begins to have a need to feed--and it doesn't matter whether you are feeding that baby with a breast or a bottle, there is just...well...this LOOK that comes over a contentedly feeding baby that puts the world totally right. For me, it's the fact that babies, unlike us older folks, can breathe and swallow simultaneously. They can feed and be half asleep. It's a magical window of time where what is impossible for me is possible and overtly visible for them. That simultaneous sound set of a breathing, swallowing, half-snoring, half-snuffling baby cannot be duplicated in any other facet of the universe. It's a moment when "all things are possible." Oh, sure, there will be pee and poop to clean up later, and burping and spit up curdled milk stuck in my hair, but who cares?

We go through the same process with our spiritual newborns. Despite all our trepidation and fear, if we simply consent to the power of our own awareness, a moment will come that will be that mystical "all things are possible" moment. We will see that baby for all it is and all it can be. Cleaning up the poop it generates won't matter.

I have thought many times how existentially hard it must have been for God to consent to give one of the best parts of Himself to the world in the form of a baby--a baby born in a rude barn, with a dirt floor, covered in rags, in dirty straw, laid in a feed trough, to such an ordinary set of parents. But even then, it was only a prelude to allowing that child to grow into a man who would be nailed, bleeding and scorned, to a wooden cross. To give freely and willingly all that that is God's love in that fashion is a form of trust in humanity I'll never have in this life. But the one thing it does do is empower me to eventually trust in all the spiritual births that have happened and have yet to happen in my life. I may not understand them at the time, I may not even like them at the time, but I at least can have the fortitude to wait them out and see how they grow. But I'll be the first to qualify that with "Not without the help of others, and not without God's help." I know I am powerless to handle that one alone.

My wish for all of my blog readers this Christmas season is to simply grow to love those babies destined to be born to you, and to keep feeding them. Merry Christmas!


Well done, Doc. Well done.

Wow - I second that!

Maria - You always give your best and the whole of you in your essays. Thank you for your continuing gifts to us! Blessed Christmastide!

Wonderful sermon. Thank you.

Thanks, all. You are all incredibly kind!

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haha nice, yes when you have a baby It's another chapter of your own story, It's funny in the way, there's no guide to be a mom It's pure instinct.

Good luck

Thanks for sharing this with us! Some really amazing features.
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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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