- Isaiah (a Hebrew Prophet) 43:19
I love Isaiah. It is possibly the book with in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures I most often quote. It seems like it should be something Jesus said. But [I’m trusting you’ll forgive me Jesus] it’s something an ancient Hebrew prophet says.
And this is possibly one of my favorite verses. God is about to do something new! Even now it is springing up! I spend most of my time believing this. I spend most of my energy investing in this. I spend the majority of my career participating in this. This new thing. And in the end, Jesus says [see, I did squeeze some baby Jesus in there] “Behold, I am making all things new,” (Revelation 21:5).
God is in the business of making new things.
And The Divine asks: “Can you not perceive it?”
My question is: What if - or, what when - because there is no real if to this question...What when the answer is “No.”
“I cannot perceive it. I’m trying, but I can’t. In fact, I am gathering up tattered remains of my faith to muddle through this day because I’m struggling through an enduring drought with not a single nourishing drop - or even a teasingly looming cloud threatening a drop - of perceiving it. Lord, on some scant level, I do still believe. Help my unbelief.” [And I finally got a Gospel reference in there! ...but Isaiah is still my favorite].
Isaiah 43 is among my favorites. But sometimes this new thing eludes me and Isaiah 43 drops to my least favorite. Even factoring several annoying bits of Leviticus and Paul telling me to be quiet in church because of my gender.
Coincidentally, in this season of my life, my body is in the business of making a new thing. Even now he/she/ze springs forth making all my old clothes stop fitting and drawing stretch marks on my stomach. Most of the time, it is impossible not to perceive it.
Most of the time.
At this point in pregnancy, the new thing growing inside me is moving around any time she/ze/he is not taking a nap. There’s a lot of napping. But there’s also a lot of moving. Naps, according to the books I’ve read, should last somewhere around 90 minutes. And outside of nap time, you should feel the holy little parasite moving all the time.
And then there are the times when this new little thing spring up is not perceptible. “Can you not perceive zir/her/him?” And when my baby hasn’t perceptively moved in 12 or more hours, the answer becomes a world-stopping: “No, I cannot perceive my vulnerable child - who still has a 1 in 50 chance of not making it into this world alive.”
I cannot perceive it.
Again, pregnancy is teaching me volumes about this Jesus-following business.
When you cannot perceive that new thing growing inside of you, the advice is not to run around to wake it. The advice is not to shout at your stomach to provoke it. The advice is not to poke and prod and get frantically busy trying to make this new thing happen because you don’t perceive it happening right now. The advice is to find a quiet and comfortable place and lie down quietly for two hours. During those two hours, you don’t multitask making plans for the little one - all you do is concentrate on waiting, feeling, and perceiving movements. You stay still until you feel 10 movements - signs of something new still in the process of springing forth. If you don’t feel those 10 movements, you consult wise people who have dedicated their lives to caring for these new things - tending them, listening for a heartbeat, finding the movements that might be imperceptible to you.
The point is, similar to if you think you are drowning, diving into a frantic attempt to save this new thing doesn’t help. In fact, the more busy you are, the less likely you are to perceive the little one. Similar to if you think you are drowning, laying back restfully and still-ly is the best advice. Stopping - rather than starting or forcing - and employing all your energy on simply listening - or feeling - for signs of life is the way forward.
And so it is with the new thing Creator is making. So often, we do not perceive it. It has been too long since we have perceived it. And we start to wonder: Is it still born? Are my hopes in vain? And everything in us wants to run around trying to make this new thing happen if, as it seems, God has abandoned it. What can we do? How can we provoke it? If God is napping, how do you wake God?!
But sometimes the thing to do is to lie down. Be still. Be quiet. Direct our minds to one. singular. thing: “Do you not perceive it?”
And as for me, after 90 minutes of bone-chilling mutual stillness between me and my child, comes a single kick. A little stirring. Just enough evidence that, yes, Creator is doing something new. Yes, Jesus is making all things new. This new life is on its way. And - maybe just barely and only when we are doing nothing but looking for the signs - we can perceive it.
What stirrings point you toward something new springing forth? And when you do not feel/see them, what are your practices of perceiving?