So, in case you didn’t catch the news…I had a baby.
You’re probably wondering how I’m going to put a Jesus-spin on the fact that another human being emerged from me.
Well, here we go.
I was never going to be one of those women having contractions to worship tunes or praying my baby into the world. I opted for more of a horrifying, primal experience because I am wise and zen that way.
So understand the places that I am NOT coming from when I say that in spite of the extremely difficult labor – or perhaps because of it – giving birth turned out to be one of the most worshipful experiences of my life.
Let me explain:
As most of you know, I used to edit Religion and Philosophy textbooks for a living.
There are five major world religions and all of them – Christianity in particular- were founded around an overwhelming sense of mystery. A humility and even a fear in the presence of Something bigger than us. Religions were born out a need for this -to use a sociological term- “cosmic grounding”.
Something about labor and giving birth reminded me of those deep, simple roots of true religion – reverence for something so far beyond us. The holy fear and gratefulness.
Without going into all of the gory details, I started off with a natural water birth and ended up wheeling into the emergency wing through a snowstorm amidst full-on convulsions… needless to say, I felt very human and very small and very fragile. For 45 hours, I felt the fullness of my humanity as every cell, sinew and nerve tested its limits. (Nothing makes a girl feel more human than pushing another human out of her, am I right? )
I felt the awe and terror of being at the mercy of a process bigger than me, out of my control, beyond my prediction or explanation….and my quivering humanity felt so helpless in the face of it.
I felt so much wonder. It’s hard to describe. God was so thickly present – not in the churchy, spiritual way I’ve heard described – but in the jaw-droppage of it all. The helplessness and the horror. Feeling all at once fiercely powerful and heartbreakingly fragile at the mercy of forces outside of my control.
There’s a rightness in the terror of feeling so small. Of being put in my cosmic place. I recognized that right there – right in that exact experience – is where true worship, true religion, was born. And I felt all at once sad and grateful that I so rarely visit that place.
I’ll never be someone who waxes wistfully about the good old days. No way. I like things the way they are. I like my indoor plumbing and my toaster streudels and my penicillin way too much. But I do think that as a modern person, we often miss out on a certain facet of the worship experience that our ancestors had more ready access to.
Maybe it’s tragedy, maybe it’s triumph, but I can’t help but feel sometimes that Medicine and Science and Progress and Technology have caused this slow erosion of opportunity. There are less frontiers, less surprises, less mystery, less unknown. We are rich in control and explanation and cure – but lousy when it comes to wonder.
I’m not painting Science or Knowledge or Progress as the enemy of God. No, no, no. These things are part of God’s creation too. In fact, the gift and mark of humanity is that we are able to develop in these areas.
But I can’t help but feel like there was something special there in that delivery room – a part of the worship experience that I want to keep chasing. That feeling of natsukashii . I think it’s important. I think it will dig deep wells in my soul. I think it will clear space for reverence. I think it will give more and better reasons to tell God just how majestic He is.
So that’s been my 2015 resolution and my tiny mission these past 4 months postpartum: to chase wonder wherever I can. To endeavor to feel small. To stand as often as I can in crystallized awe. Yes, at the sunsets and the stargazing and the a capella and the beauty of my baby girl’s eyelashes. Yes, yes, of course. But also the moments I tend to skim through with a “wow, that’s cool.” I want to backpedal and marinate and marvel. Just because I can explain it, doesn’t make it less amazing. The Creator is there, in the miracles and the science and the technology and the heartfelt moments and I want to appreciate it all.
I think one of the problems with modern religion is that we remembered all the rules and forgot about awe. In 2015, I want to chase it again – I want to find worship in wonder.