Caveat (because I know it's needed based on all the comments I get in response to almost anything I say these days): Yes. I know the baby is not late. I know babies come when they are supposed to. I know 40 weeks is arbitrary. I know this. Don't worry.
Just as I got to experience pregnancy during Advent and have that nourishing meeting of metaphor and reality, I guess in Lent I get to experience the meeting of metaphor and reality waiting and wander (taking looong walks every day to help encourage kiddo to come). Waiting is hard. Waiting for something you can't see is hard. Waiting for the things you most want in the world but can just barely believe in is hard. Waiting and wondering if it's okay. Waiting and feeling like there is nothing you can do about the wait. Waiting and knowing there is little you can do for this yet-unborn thing other than take a prenatal and wander around the neighborhood...it's hard work this waiting thing.
We rehearse. We practice breathing. Put together a play list - or two playlists: One with the slower more mature music - soothing - I listen to now that I'm older. One with the loud angsty punk rock from when I was younger that I'm discovering I still kind of prefer but that might not be best for getting through labor. Watch videos about helping baby cope with new realities. Read books. Pack and re-pack bags. Write up a 6 page - I kid you not - 6 page small font birth plan that answers questions about our preferences in almost every situation. Buy more clothes for this kid even though we have enough. Luke has a sticky note on his desk with a todo list for early labor. We rehearse and we get ready. But ultimately, we just wait.
And unfortunately, everyone has advice for the wait. And a lot of people have judgement for the wait. Here's a sample of things I've heard or experienced in the three days since my due date:
- EVERYONE I see asking: Weren't you due Sunday? Why hasn't the baby come?
- If I respond with: I know! I'm ready to be done and meet this little one! I get: "Oh, let the little one stay in there as long as they need. You can't rush them. Be patient. I loved being pregnant! Don't induce. You're not thinking of inducing are you? DON'T INDUCE!"
- If I respond with: We'll see. The baby will come when the baby comes. I'm trying not to worry about it. I get: "Well, I mean, you'll have to do something at some point. Have you thought about inducing. You should induce. Ask your midwife about induction! Let me tell you the story of the horrible thing that happened to my cousin's cousin when the baby stayed in too long..."
- Somehow reaching the 40 weeks mark has lifted any pretenses that my body is mine and now it's open season to touch my stomach without asking. One woman I had never met even stepped closer when she touched my stomach and I stepped back.
- I've heard that I should eat spicy food, go for a long walk, get some exercise (note: I've exercised almost every day of this pregnancy. Ask the folks at the Y. They can't believe I'm still there every day). I've heard that I should have sex. Seriously, when else will acquaintances and neighbors tell a pastor she should go have sex?!
- I've heard: "Baby still hasn't dropped"
- And the next person: "Baby's definitely dropped. It will be soon."
Mostly, I'm learning to laugh at all of this. But also, I'm learning to become an extraverted hermit and stay home. Still, even at home, I actually get a lot of emails asking if the baby has come yet and suggesting various means to coax the kiddo.
I'm digressing. I hope you can laugh along with that list. But it's a digression.
The point is: waiting is hard. And when you are waiting, you are in this vulnerable space. This liminal space. And some neighbors walk well with you in that space. And some neighbors are so excited for what is next for you that they can't hold back from dispensing advice and sometimes judgement.
This is true for 40 weeks + 3 days pregnancy. But it's also true for a job search. For applying to schools. For changing careers. For looking for a long term home. For waiting to hear about that dream job. For waiting to know what is that next thing that God is calling you to. For...waiting....for...God.
Maybe God is silent in a season and you are waiting to know if you can keep following a deity you can neither see nor hear.
Maybe God is softly calling you to something new but you have no idea what on earth it might be.
Maybe God is just painfully slow in bringing that Kingdom of liberating love and justice that we're all doing our best to wait patiently for. But we've been waiting for millennia and if there was some way to induce, we'd be at the midwife right now asking for the strongest dose of pitocin ever!
And maybe when friends, family, church community, neighbors etc hear us say "God is silent" or "I just can't go to church right now." ...maybe they are similar to the never-ending panel of advice givers I encounter around every corner. Where someone asks me if I've tried spicy food, they might say: "Well, have you tried x church? It's actually a good one." Or where someone tells me under no circumstances to induce they might say: "Why would you go to church anyway? God's silent because God's not there." Or where someone insists I should induce: "Just go to church. Just read your Bible. You're not waiting for a God who is a no show - you're just not doing the right things."
Or, as we're waiting for the fullness of God's Kingdom of liberating love and justice for all people and all things - of course we actively wait! of course we work toward it! - but it can be tempting for us and for those around us to say that if we worked hard enough, we'd see it.
Like this baby, we cannot coax God and God's Kingdom. We can prepare the best and easiest path and prepare to usher it more and more into existence. But like this baby, God decides when God and God's Kingdom comes and we will be utterly surprised when the long awaited birth finally comes.
So, we rehearse love and justice. We research it. We debate and give advice to others about what love and justice means in the Jesus story. We fight over what it is. We write up birth plans for love and justice. We do everything we can to coax it into it's fullest coming. We watch for every little sign that there might be a contraction and love and justice might just be ready to be born. We worry that is is not coming. That something went wrong an it is stillborn. We wonder if we did something wrong and harmed it an now it's lost to us amid a broken system marked more by hate, greed, and misdirected best intentions. Like a stranger with an expectant mother, we put our hand on this pregnant earth and even if she pulls away, we step in and press in further hoping against hope to feel a little kick and know that, even if it's late, this Kingdom of liberating love and justice we've been waiting for for 2000 years is coming!
Waiting is hard.
At our church, Our Common Table, we're slowing down with some more simple liturgy and some lectio divina this season. In part because our pastors are supposed to have a kid...last Sunday! But in part because it's what we need in Lent. To slow down. Listen deeply. Sit in a small room together on some uncomfortable couches and just listen and be together. In the waiting room. As we twiddle our collective hopes about like anxious thumbs and support one another in the wait.
Love and justice are coming. Resurrection is coming. Alleluias are coming. This baby is coming. And the wait feels impossible. But there is beauty in the wait when we can wait and listen together.