There is a new world being birthed. Can you sense it? As we move farther into the Covid-19 pandemic, carrying our griefs and pain at a variety of losses, a glimmer of hope shines. The signpost ahead reads: This too will pass and relatively soon we will emerge from a collective tunnel. But it will not be a normal world we will return to, but a new normal. Some jobs will end, some careers derailed. Some mission priorities will change, some relationships newly formed.
Births are some of the most beautiful events known to humankind, yet also some of the messiest. They also involve extreme pain for the mother, yet the resulting joy makes the pain worth it. (so I’m told!) The new world emerging also requires a lot of pain, but if listening closely we will hear the cries of the newborn. These wails mean there is new life, signifying the completed journey through the valley of the shadow of death.
Thinking about this image of the world being born in new ways out of this global pandemic, I’m drawn to one of my favorite images: that of the midwife. I have never been present when a midwife is assisting in a new birth. The closest I came was being present for the birth of our second daughter, when a very capable nurse and doctor were at my wife’s side. (I had to wait outside the room for our first daughter’s birth.) But I have heard many stories, and read books and seen movies about midwives. Their hearts of skilled service, often assisting in many rural situations and sometimes extreme need, are inspiring.
To see the new births ahead, we need many spiritual and relational midwives. This is a role of loving service, not the domination of power. It is the willingness to get out of the way, to be available to help in the birth but not have to be the one in charge. The midwife role is a bridge from what has existed before to what is coming anew. It is a facilitator of renewal. When a midwife arrives at a house or clinic, there is a sense of hope, of courage strengthened. And how we need courage and hope today.
So how can we be midwives to the new birthings? Here are a few ways, and I’m sure you can think of more from your unique situation:
1) Be attentive to what is changing around you, even now. Be ready to provide support to that change, to midwife it into existence. If you are listening to yourself and to those around you, you may hear already now the whispers of something new. Maybe a new job, a new gift to steward, a new relationship to explore. Be attentive to how you can step out into that new thing in the coming months as the world returns to a new ‘normal’.
2) Allow patience to find a place of rest in you. The labor pains are not over, but they have begun. Many of us right now around the world are getting very weary with these restrictions on our freedoms and movement in many cases. The birthing process can be very long sometimes, and the midwife needs to help the mother with a strength of patience. Be someone in your world that offers your loved ones a spirit of patience, knowing that ‘this too will pass’. And this too will be born.
3) Delight in a world that is finding healing, with skies more free of pollution. Be open to see the little things to be grateful for. A midwife helps the mother and father to find a gratefulness in the process of birth, however difficult and messy it is. I have been thinking again how important in this season gratefulness is. Like you, I’ve been tempted to grumble at times, and been very ‘zoomed-out’ like at the end of last week with 10 hours of zoom and Skype calls. I was reminded in my snarky mood that I needed to be grateful, and for the little things especially.
4) We midwife best when we provide courage to those around us. In the stories and movies I have seen about midwives, one of the things that always stands out to me is their courage. Of course I have never been a physical midwife, but I have in my life helped bring to birth new projects, new ministries. Any new birth, of whatever kind, requires a cost and hence courage. There is so much courage required for what is before us. Some things will die, and there will be a courage needed to see where the new life is growing. We all need to be saying in these days to each other, ‘you will get through this, we will get through this, our nation will get through this.’
5) Finally, a midwife brings hope. As with courage, so much hope is needed in the months ahead. Lives have been shattered, jobs gone, careers disrupted. The hope is needed as the labor pains get worse and worse. The midwife encourages the mother to ‘push’ while providing the hope that there will be an end to the pain. There is much uncertainty in our world today, we don’t know when these labor pains will end. But in our world, we need to seek to bring hope in that uncertainty. To cry to a world suffering the agony of labor ‘push’ and provide that encouragement to not give up.
How are you being called to the ministry and role of a midwife? It is not just for women, but also for men. It is a role that comes out of love, of compassion. Many are hurting right now, many need that person to stand with them in the labor pains. And it is not only at a personal level. How can we stand with our nations right now, providing not partisan rancor but compassionate kindness? It is so easy to get pulled into the social media partisan battles, and that includes me. But to be midwives is to be above politics, at least in our relationships, and to dwell in the relational spaces of new birth.
The new birth is coming. There will not be a return to normal. We continue now in the uncertainty of extended labor pains. Midwives are needed for what is ahead. Will you answer that invitation?