Monday, March 11, 2013

A Birth Experience

When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I’m lost
In wonder, love and praise.

Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart conceived
From Whom those comforts flowed.

--Joseph Addison

Two births took place in my life over the course of this past Autumn and Winter, and these births have altered my physical and spiritual being.

No one can prepare you for both the beauty and the pain of having a baby. And no one but the Holy Spirit can prepare you for some truth of the Living Word to penetrate your heart in an area that has been closed to Him before.

My little Debbie-lamb, sheep of my pasture, sheep of His, came physically from my swollen body into my carefully-organized life on November 1st, 2012. I didn’t know what to expect while I was expecting, but God did, and placed in my arms a warm, wet slippery person before it even registered that the agony of pushing and pain had quieted. My body tore. Through three layers of tissue. Maybe the doctor should have given me an epistiomy, but she didn’t, and the baby’s heart rate was slowing, and so she came.

I wouldn’t ask for it to have happened differently, maybe because I believe that the Lord orders all things, maybe because of the heart-softening lessons that came. At any rate, it happened as it did.

I remember the night in the hospital, the long, sleepless night. I remember the helplessness and the searing pain in the morning, and the nurses helping, and the humbling. I remember how it felt not to be able to pull myself out of the bed to pick up my crying baby. It was too much for me, me with the working arms and the organized, picky nature.

So I cried. And my body ached and the nurses packed me with ice and my Mama comforted in her usual “God will work it out” way.

And I went home and the healing of weeks and then months eventually came, but in that time, the Lord spoke. Through His Word, through His Spirit to my heart, and I was forced through my own physical limitations, to slow down and listen.

I remember holding my baby in the sunlight in my room, the warm heater chasing away the chill and spilling coziness. A baby pressed to my wounded body, I could not busy myself with “doing.” I had to be still and listen, to sing hymns in the quietness of the small place, and thank the Lord for His Father-grace, for His chesed-His lovingkindness. And gratitude spilled out of my heart, gratitude that merely knowing the right theology cannot manufacture. It was His grace. To me, undeserving, to me, the self-sufficient one.

And I began to hear voices around me, voices of sisters and husband and friend and mother and neighbor, and to realize that I was not the only one, my only concern. So He taught me. So He teaches me still, through pain to be sensitive towards those beside me with flesh and feelings and bone.

Another lesson came. Someone asked me what I thought of the writer Ann Voskamp. I had heard her name but never read anything of hers. So I googled her name and found controversy. She was accused of being a mystic, a panentheist, a heretic. I looked at her facebook page and wasn’t convinced one way or the other. So I decided to read her book, One Thousand Gifts.

I have never been so moved or challenged by a modern writer. Mystical; yes, if you call it that, but sound, careful doctrine beautifully dressed in poetical language and sensitivity.

I began to read the book in a quest to challenge her theological accuracy. I came away questioning the authenticity of my own heart, and the extent to which I live out the Word in my own life. Because it is a living Word; He is the living Word, and He dwells within me, His temple, transforming me, enlarging my heart to the extent that I yield to Him. Not merely know about Him, but know Him, in spirit and in truth.

Something had become lost to me through the busy-ness of life, the quiet joy of yielding and listening and waiting upon God. Something of anxiety and fear and of worrying about tomorrow had wreaked havoc on my soul, and I realized that I missed the simplicity of living by faith alone, trusting in the promises, yielding to Him.

And so the Lord shook me, quieted me, turned my eyes to the cross and then handed me a book that opened my hungry soul to the loveliness of Jesus Christ, revealed through creation, manifested in His beloved people.

And I thank Him, Him alone:

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." (Luke 10:21).

Two births, a sweet baby to me, and another, the fresh birth of a childlike heart . . . for so it pleased Him.

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