Childbirth

I find myself praying today for a friend’s imminent childbirth. Giving birth is such a thin place, where we join in creation and fall simultaneously. It’s a miraculous space: liminal—in-between. The father, mother, and child, pass through a limen—a doorway—from unknown to known and from known to unknown. There is a change in “I am-ness” to each participant—even for every sibling and every grandparent.

When my first grandchild was born, I stood at the head of the bed and experienced the miracle unfolding. I saw my dear daughter rock in pain with contractions and reach in joy for her new writhing, crying, little human-gift. I observed the furrowed brow, outstretched hand, and deep concern of my son-in-law at bedside; then the outrageous excitement of seeing the emergence from dark to light of his firstborn, Hazel—with a holy hush followed by one last push.

When my second grandchild, Julian, was born, I stayed at home with Hazel. It was a different kind of vigil—from far away. It was hard not being present and I was grateful to God and His sure presence with me and with my daughter simultaneously, and His constant bent-ear, listening for our intercessions and supplications. I wrestled with the thought that my daughter would need to struggle with pain, maybe blood, and difficulty for this birth, and I recalled the reason that the Bible gives to aid in answering all, no, most, of my questions.

The night before Julian’s entrance, I birthed the following thoughts. I pray they might help you or your loved one in grappling with, and entering past the veil into, this angel-filled, Trinity-immersed, Cloud of unknowing which we encounter at the emergence of every new life…if we have eyes to see.

Julian’s Exodus

And now

As we turn toward this event

This liminal passage—

A new life liminal passage—

We remember that You Lord, are a Parent

A Father and “Mother” to a boy, Adam and girl, Eve

Formed long ago in the womb of your garden,

“born” into your household.

And even before that

(really not before, but always)

Your only Son—begotten, not made—of one Being with You.

 

But there came a fall—

Jack and Jill tumbled

And pain in childbirth came,

Not the original plan,

But a consequence.

 

So now we embark on a new in-between space

One that, despite our knowledge and advancements, will likely bring some

Pain

Squeezing

Peril

Need

Perhaps groaning.

 

“Like the pains of childbirth,” we often say:

A groaning of earth in an Eve-like form.

 

We come here through remembering also that you overshadowed blessed Mary—

Dripping in Eve-ness—

To bring hope and healing

To bring back full joy and to ease the pain of Eden’s losses.

 

And with your Husband eyes[i]

And Father eyes

And Maternal eyes[ii]

You oversaw it all:

The angelic visitation,

The miraculous implantation,

The weaving together of God and man

Who would be Adam 2

Adam Jr.

Who would be Your precious, deeply-loved Son.

 

You watched the journey,

The uprooting,

The placenta pulling away

In the birthing room

That was a stable.

You sent shepherds and wise men for the baby shower.

You watched as the wet, crying and cooing boy emerged from the nine-month hiddenness.

You sent angels to say,

“Do not be afraid!”

You said, “My peace I give to you.”

And, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

 

 

And so we pray to You—

Who are a Father

And a Son

And have a maternal heart

And are a great Physician

And a Summoner of angels.

 

We look to You

To bring the Light –Da la Luz!

Of Your presence

Your face

Your touch

Your attention.

 

We ask for safety for all during labor and journey through the underwater tangles, the unknown, the Red Sea’s partings, little Julian’s exodus into this world.

 

We look to You.

We trust in Your great love,

In Your deep knowing—conocimiento—that is owned by a Parent’s heart and soul and body.

 

In Your Son Jesus’, name,

Amen


[i] Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is His bride.

[ii] Many places in the Bible God is portrayed as having motherly affection and care:

God: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Is. 66:13

God: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?  Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” Is. 49:15

God: “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself, now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.”  Is. 42:14

Jesus said, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matt. 23:37 and Luke 13:34

Happy Mother’s Day!

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I was born into motherhood nearly 39 years ago. It is one of the highest privileges and deepest mysteries I’ve ever encountered. Birthing and Mothering allows women to participate in Sacrament—in unconditional Love, Creation, Christ-mas, Baptism, and Communion.

I’ve written a poem for all mothers and their children, for my daughters, granddaughter, and for my mother. It only scratches the surface of this unfathomable mystery. I share it with you here:

I am Mother

by Loretta Goddard

I lie down and surrender to love and risk.

Protection withdrawn, my womb opens to receive another.

My fertile bed prepared by God opens its lips to the seed.

The race is on—unpredictable and exciting—one possibility meets thousands and chooses one.

A match is made

A fire strikes

Burning and burrowing beneath the soil of blood and mystery.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

 

We test “waste” to know your presence. We listen and peer in with sound waves.

I lie down once again and look to screen and risk seeing you and falling madly,

deeply,

forever in love.

I carry you around in my purse and pouch and put you on my refrigerator and marvel at the blurry, fuzzy jelly bean sized person in me,

Who is you.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

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I begin to pant and feel squeezing—tightness

Yes—pain

Intense—severe

I risk death with joy and moaning, for you.

You have kicked in me, punched my ribs, rolled like a bowling ball inside me.

How I have longed to see you and touch you and now it is immanent and I am scared.

As you emerge I am born.

I am mother.

I hold you.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

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I give my days and nights to you.

I give my body once again—my rest and food, vitamins and drink all churn inside me until milk comes flowing through my chest to nourish you…sustain you.

My hours are yours, my body is given—scarred, stretched, engorged.

This is my body, broken for you. Take and eat.

You snort and grunt, draw near to suckle, your hands knead like a cat on a blanket, like a baker with his dough.

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I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. We lie still.

Selah

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A Good Friday Reflection

As the rain comes down today and I see my packages of seeds awaiting the earth of my garden, being prepared for the death of a seed in the soil, to bring up the resurrection of something new and green–with the un-watering of the sky above; I see the correlation of Jesus’ death on the cross–to bring about a resurrection of hope and redemption offered to us all.

Today our church had a good Friday service in which we contemplate the last 7 words of Christ from the cross. I was asked to participate and I chose Jesus’ words “I thirst” as the focus of my sharing:

I Thirst

By Loretta Goddard, Good Friday 2019

“Jesus, seeing that everything had been completed so that the Scripture record might also be complete, then said, ‘I’m thirsty.’ A jug of sour wine was standing by, someone put a sponge soaked with wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth.” John 19:28, 29 (The Msg)

I have been with three people as they died. One, we were trying to keep alive. I gave CPR to him as we awaited an ambulance. The other two were in hospice—one a friend, the other, my father. There were distinct differences in the death we were fighting and the others we were resigned to accept—even welcome.

Jesus’ death was one of acceptance at this point. Those who had eyes to see would even have welcomed it—for it was bringing about their way to redemption! To the Romans and most Jews at the crucifixion, Jesus was the “Dead Man Walking”* —the death row inmate already in the electric chair. To the disciples, the dismayed disciples, it was a horror they were resigned to accept. To Jesus it was the completion of something that began in the garden of Eden when Love, Who wouldn’t let go, began to formulate this plan. Moses wrote about it—the serpent’s head crushed by this woman’s seed* ; as did David, in Psalm 69*, prophesying of this very moment when Jesus would thirst and be offered sour wine.

When I sat with my friend and my father, as they lay dying, I observed that death is:
• an un-breath-ing and
• an un-water-ing.

When we fight death, we start IV lines and push fluids—we know that dehydration is part of dying. When we receive death, ice chips only are offered—or very small sips. Every breath “un-waters.” We offer moistened cotton swabs to cracked lips.

So here on the cross, Living Water was being poured out.

Just a few years prior to this, Jesus sat near a well and told a Samaritan woman: “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.” He said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”*

So now, on the cross, the Giver of Living Water Himself is thirsting. He is dry—parched—poured out—in order to quench our thirst. To bring us the living, gushing waters of saving grace, He is being un-watered with every breath.

Since this “Rock of Ages” gave water for the Israelites in the wilderness* —
Since this God-baby was birthed from amniotic fluid in a stable—
Since coming up from the waters of His baptism* —
Since that day with the woman at the watering well—
Since the dehydrated, un-watered, bleeding woman’s touch of the hem of His garment*-Since the moisture of a kiss of betrayal from Judas to His cheek—
Living, Loving, Water was being poured out.

This Word of God who formed the earth “out of water and through water,”* now allowed Himself, to be un-watered.
Life Himself became “Dead Man Walking.”
The Healer, the Great Physician, was passive. This is the “passion” of the Christ*:                 He became a patient—a hospice patient—submitting to death —
Allowing the un-breath-ing, the un-water-ing, of His death;
to bring us—
to offer us—
fresh living water.

Jesus said, “I thirst” so that we, can be filled with poured out Living Water, and “will never thirst—not ever.”

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*Footnotes:
1. Dead man walking definition: a condemned man walking from his prison cell to a place of execution. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/dead-man-walking
2. Gen 3:15
3. “They gave me poison for food and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” Ps. 69:2
4. John 4:10 Message, John 4:13/14 Message, italics mine
5. “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them and the Rock was Christ.” 1 Cor. 10:4
6. Matthew 3:16
7. Matthew 9:20
8. “…the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God….” 2 Peter 3:5b.
9. “The English word passion takes it root in the Latin, passio, meaning passivity, and that’s its real connotation here. The word “patient” also derives from this. Hence what the Passion narratives describe is Jesus’ passivity, his becoming a “patient”. He gives his death to us through his passivity, just as he had previously given his life to us through his activity.” http://ronrolheiser.com/the-passion-of-jesus/