My pregnancy app told me I should start putting together a birth bag - with all the things I'll need. So I googled for a checklist.
Here are some of the things I found that should be included. Notice an almost liturgical refrain:
- Socks that can be ruined.
- A sweater that can be ruined.
- Pajamas that can be ruined.
- A change of clothes for your partner or support person that can be ruined.
- A pillow and pillow case that can be ruined.
It's almost like a call and response from prayers of the people.
Basically, everything present at the birth of my child will be ruined.
In many ways, I will be ruined.
Caveat: After my last blog post, I heard from a few angry women who told me childbirth is wonderful. Painful, yes. But wonderful. They said that they were overwhelmed with a sense of peace the whole time. They were upset - upset might be a gentle word for several of them - that I insinuated that Mary might not have had that peace. Or that Mary would have shouted expletives in the heat of the painful moment.
1) I am so glad for all those who were overwhelmed by a sense of peace in childbirth. That is wonderful! I hope that for myself.
2) I know plenty of wonderful women of God who did not have that sense of peace. And they are not less because of it. Their birth stories are not less because of it. I know women who, years later, are still recovering mentally from the trauma of it. I'm not okay with saying that their experience was less Christian because it was less peaceful. I'm not okay with saying Mary was good and Jesus was good, so probably Jesus' birth story was one of those peaceful stories. Because that inherently infers that my friends with traumatic stories are not good. And they are. They and the children they traumatically birthed are equally created in the image of the God who birthed us all. I reject this concept.
3) However, I still think childbirth will be wonderful. I think it will be painful. Chaotic. Beyond my control. Possibly traumatizing. In many ways destructive to my body. But I do think it will still be wonderful.
So much of life that is wonderful is also destructive. Let's not try to separate these often wedded experiences - pain and wonder - with a false dichotomy that makes other women feel less. That would be the bad kind of ruin.
In a couple of months when I meet this kiddo face to face, in many ways, I will be ruined. And it will be good. And as I am ruined I will be made new.
As we are working to bring a new church that is a place of welcome and justice into the world, as daily we are working to join in God's work of bringing liberating love and justice into the world, we could have the same refrain....that can be ruined.
A few days ago, as we were packing up for the day at Our Common Ground, a woman from our host church asked me to examine the toilet. Some neighbor who I love and who I am so happy we could welcome had left some waste on - not in - the toilet. So, I took my pregnant tired body and cleaned up poop. Today, as we were leaving, I went to do my day-end tidy of the women's restroom. There was a man in there. He was entirely unresponsive to me telling him to leave. He eventually did leave without event - but in the mean time, I was, honestly, a little scared. When he did leave, I went into the stall he had been camped out in for over and hour and cleaned it.
And then there is the time spent listening to heartbreaking stories and being with people in the pain they've experienced and are experiencing in life. Everything on the outside of me may still be clean and in-tact. But, walking with these friends and neighbors, my soul is in the delivery room and things are getting messy.
This is what being a pastor looks like.
This is what being a neighbor looks like.
This is the Gospel.
Whatever we bring along with us in this work of seeking God's Kingdom of liberating love and justice must be something that can be ruined.
To participate in the coming of God's kingdom is to, like every item in that birth bag, be prepared to be ruined...
...And saved all at once.
I struggle with Paul saying that women will be saved through childbirth. But, I do believe the church will be saved as we give birth. Allowing glory and goodness to utterly ruin us. Allowing pain and wonder to hold hands. Allowing ourselves, our buildings, our possessions, our clean little lives to be ruined by love of God and of neighbor and by welcoming the mess our neighbors always bring along with them...not to mention the mess we are always carting along with ourselves!
Let's get messy and be a part of this birth!
...and bring along only things that can be ruined.