I was literally doing all I could to not vomit. Somehow I had gotten the idea in my head that being transferred to the hospital during our home-birth meant that my wife and child were almost certainly going to die. I pulled out of the driveway and turned down the most convenient street to get us to the hospital. At that moment a train began to pass by, blocking my route. After uttering a colorful word under my breath I backed up on the one-way street, grateful for the fact that it was 3am and desolate. The second route got us to the hospital a mere 20 minutes before my son was born.
We are entering the 4th and final week of Advent. As we look at the events leading up to the birth of Jesus, the word ‘chaos’ comes to mind. I imagine Joseph filled with terror as Mary uttered the words that informed him the baby was coming. In the story they are in Bethlehem, they apparently don’t have a place to stay, and Joseph is desperately trying to find Mary a place–any place–to experience the miracle of giving birth.
Somehow the desperate couple found their way to a stable where they found shelter. It was in this stable that Mary completed the journey of labor and held her beloved Son for the first time outside of her womb.
Movement 1: Consenting to the Process
My wife works as a Birth Doula, and she has taught me a lot about the importance of consenting to the process of labor. As Mary is in a situation that is anything but ideal for labor, she is faced with the opportunity to consent to the miracle unfolding within her–she is being invited to give up resistance and trust the process (and herself) entirely.
Acceptance is not the same as consent. When a mother doesn’t truly give herself over to the process, labor can come to a stand still. Of course this is only a momentary pause, but it can cause what could otherwise be a beautiful experience to be much more painful and difficult. Either way though, the baby is coming.
It is my prayer that I find the courage within myself to consent to the life unfolding before me–even when that life is filled with sorrow, pain, fear, and disorientation. I pray that I remember that my resistance only stalls the necessary transformation. It doesn’t finally stop it.
Movement 2: Simplicity Through Necessity
Mary certainly had a vision for how her labor would happen. I would be willing to bet money that neither a stable nor a manger factored into that vision. As a poor couple they probably didn’t have expectations of grandeur, but I imagine they had a short list of things/people that they “needed” in order to usher their son into the world. I would also imagine that most (if not all) of those things/people were glaringly absent when labor surprised Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem.
We all have moments when everything comes into perspective. We realize that what we thought we needed, we in fact only found some unnecessary comfort in. Birth and death are particularly powerful examples of this.
It is my prayer that I become aware of what my needs actually are. I pray that as I encounter invitations into the truth of my experience, full of joy or sorrow, I will have enough wisdom to see what can (and maybe should) be let go of as I enter into that moment–as I consent to the transformation happening within me.
May you learn to willingly give yourself over to the experience of transformation in your own life. May you realize that refusing consent will only be a temporary relief–especially if the transformation is born out of a place of deep sorrow. May you find the courage and strength necessary to take the next step on your journey, realizing along the way how much you’re already capable of.