I remember stories about when my mom became pregnant with me. My dad was worried sick. Because she was sick. And he didn't know what was happening to her. He was worried she was dying.
Again, if I didn't know I was pregnant, I would be positive I was dying. And again, this is only the beginning.
But pregnancy is this weird thing where some crazy mystery is happening inside a woman. Something unexpected. Something that cannot be really truly known until it is born. And on its way to being born, it is messy and seems to resemble death.
Folks in the church talk a lot about dying. Not about the entrance from one life into the mysterious next that we mostly believe in - but, if we are honest, most of us are somewhat scared and unsure about. It's a mystery. Shouldn't be something we're completely sure of. But that's not the death folks in the church talk a lot about.
We talk a lot about the church dying.
She is ill. She aches. She is struggling with needing and hating nourishment. Her body is fighting itself. She's all stopped up with rich parts of the body holding on to resources and not sharing them with those in need and she doesn't even realize she's constipated herself with greed. She is sluggish toward justice and often blind to inequality. Like my sweet grandmother on her way to the next life, she's shrunk almost beyond recognition and the things of God that used to set her singing fall on deaf or distracted ears. It looks like she is dying.
Progressive folks talk more and more about the earth dying. She, too, is ill. Running a fever. Hot and cold spells. Rainforests on fire. Snow storms in Atlanta. Islands retreating to the sea. Species disappearing. Food chains broken. Her respiratory system is all clogged up. It looks like she is dying.
A resident of Everett (Everett pride baby!) and one of my favorite musicians, Jason Webley has a song called Last Song. It is my favorite song. It stops my heart then gently sets it beating with hope again. The chorus is "We say that the world isn't dying. We pray that the world isn't dying. Just maybe the world isn't dying. Maybe she's heavy with child." And in the last line he says "I've looking at the symptoms for a while. Maybe she's heavy with child." Just typing it I tear up a bit. (Could be because I'm pregnant...but it also made me cry over a decade ago, so I doubt it.)
What would it look like for the citizens of earth to believe that even amid the mess we've made of everything, there may be a grace gestating - like a child in a young Palestinian's uterus - to bring a type of salvation we never would have guessed to ask for?
There was a group of wise folks the last time the world was unexpectedly heavy with child. Not three wisemen. They were likely Persian religious leaders (my best guess would be zoroastrian priests) but we don't know that there were three. And we don't know that they were all men. But, based on their actions, we can assert they were wise. They watched the sky for signs. They took great risks to pursue the new hope the signs spoke to. They saw something from afar that those near by missed and continued to miss throughout the life of the new hope being born. They were wise.
Like Jason Webley and those wise folks from the east, are we looking at the symptoms? Are we watching for signs? Are we curious about every person we meet, every struggling aspect of the natural world God crafted for us all to share - wondering, how do you fit in the puzzle that is the improbable hope of a world who appears to be dying but juuust maaaaybe, instead, is heavy with child?
Most days, I find myself too scheduled, rushed, tired, set on goals etc. to have the time to watch the symptoms, look for signs, or wonder how each person I encounter might be a co-conspirator in this new birth we just might all be pregnant with. I'm too busy to be a midwife for the age to come. Or maybe I'm too cynical - too sure the world and the church are dying - so I keep myself busy to avoid the fear and grief. That's probably the heart of it.
But as a newly expectant mother, I'm learning cynicism and business turned to ignorance of the symptoms is not an option. I have no choice but to slow down and give hope another look. I'm learning to track the symptoms. (I actually have a smart phone app for that). Mull them over with others. Consult my midwife when I grow concerned. Dream dreams for this new life that currently feels more like decay.
If I didn't know better, I'd assume I am dying. I'd assume we're all dying. But, as Webley says, "Maybe [we're] heavy with child." And if the church - and if the world - are expectant mothers, we too have no choice but to slow down, give hope another look, and scour the face of the planet for our co-conspirators in this improbable new life growing inside us.
(Stop and Listen).