Eyes Wide Open…Come and See
One of the latest Johnson & Johnson commercial is quite an understatement: “Having a baby changes everything.” As exciting, thrilling, and moving it is to bring a baby into this world, the reality is that the birth of a child is an interruption of life extraordinaire.
Parents, perhaps particularly mothers, anticipate this interruption and begin to plan for it in big and small ways weeks before the arrival. I have a running checklist in my mind of what I would prefer to finish before the baby arrives…personal and professional things that I know will be more difficult to do after baby is born. I usually get anxious at some point (ok, at many points!) and wonder how and if it (my checklist) will get finished. I wake up in the middle of the night worried about this or that.
Then I make peace with it and decide that even if I don’t I…we…will be alright. And, of course we are…and of course I do…get everything finished.
As I stare down my fourth due date I recognize that I have gone through much of this same process again…including some of the same self-reminders.
There is no way to plan for everything.
There is no way to make every part of my life perfect for what is about to take place.
Births are interruptions.
Births are opportunities.
Rather than restricting my life each child has exponentially expanded it.
It is true. The old Hebrew word for crisis is the same word as “birth stool”. Crisis, opportunity, interruption, birth…its all the same and it is ok to say that.
The proverbial “they” say you aren’t supposed to live through your children. I am not really sure how that is possible nor do I want to make that my goal. If it were not for my children I can think of countless friends I would not have…friends I met because our children are the same age. The Jenn’s, the Karly’s, the Ashley’s, the Megen’s, the Beth’s, the Deana’s. That list doesn’t include the many teachers and other caregivers that come alongside the way, too.
Every birth brings new life…literally a whole new world of possibilities, relationships, dreams, connections.
Something that big…a whole new LIFE…for the baby AND YOU…how do you ever plan for it?
It is an illusion to think that we can.
In many ways it happens best when you just let it come.
So, yes, birth is an interruption of life as it is presently known.
A messy, painful, interruption that becomes the very purpose of our lives.
I’m not just talking about physical births…the births of a baby.
I am talking about the many, many birthing experiences we encounter…big and small…every single day.
The births we miss because we are so rigidly opposed to life interruptions.
I heard a story one time about a westerner watching a group of tribal people somewhere in Africa preparing to cross the river.
As he watched he was perplexed to see the people put large stones on their heads. He thought that this choice was odd considering the waters they were about to navigate
When he asked why they were carrying such large stones on their heads he was told: “We put the stones on our heads because we need the extra weight to keep us grounded. Without the weight of the stones the waters would wash us away.”
So often it is the interruptions in our lives that are the weights that keep us grounded.
In the end, it is the weights, the interruptions that become the very purpose of our lives.
We can’t expect others to always watch the interruptions and be ok with them. The interruptions in our lives…even having babies…can make others uncomfortable. They can get nervous about what these “births”…these opportunities could mean. They can get caught up in the “what if’s”, too.
A new baby requires extra time, more planning, and means more expenses. When our life was “interrupted” and we moved back to Cleveland not everyone close to us understood. When those we loved knew we wanted another baby it probably made some people anxious about what that change would mean for us!
You can’t manage your births, your life interruptions, your opportunities to assuage the anxieties of others…even your own.
Births happen. Life interruptions are a given.
What I am concerned about is how often we miss these opportunities.
How often we manage our anxieties in the midst of these interruptions rather than appreciating the illumination they bring to our lives.
I would have never experienced graduate school the way I did without being the mother of Eloise.
I would have never seen Prague the same way if I had not had my second child, Lillian, among its people.
I would have never grown as a therapist without the experience of being Emmett’s mother.
Now I am staring down another due date…another life interruption and I found myself last month a little panicky about what this next year would look like. It took me a while, but I was finally able to process through those feelings and remember this truth:
My year WON’T be the same because of Hillary…and THANK GOD.
I don’t have to explain or contend or defend my position as a new mother…as someone who just gave birth. I will not be able to keep everyone ok and anxiety free with my new life and all of the daily interruptions this birth will bring. It WILL change my life personally and professionally.
You know what? The proverbial “they” will deal with it.
And, I will, too
Life will be richer, better, more ALIVE because of a birth…because of an interruption.
I intend to live it with an eyes wide-open awareness.
I encourage you to do the same.
What? You aren’t pregnant?
I beg to differ.
Every single encounter you experience is an opportunity to be Mary in this world…to be a Christ carrier…to birth His love, His joy, His presence into a world starving for new LIFE.
Are you willing to tolerate the mess, the pain…the interruption of a birth?
In big and small ways births happen every day. The young person at the check out who is short with you…how do you respond? What do you “carry”, what do you “birth” into that moment?
The person who seems down and out at work that day: How do you respond? What do you “carry”? What do you “birth” into that moment?
I’m telling you…this is a challenge to me. I am a get there, do it, and get back home kind of person. I do not like group projects. I do not like side stops. I want to GET. IT. DONE.
I was in that mode when I started school last year and one day I noticed a new classmate I barely knew was on her phone a lot between classes and looked stressed. Part of me wanted to ignore what I saw. I wanted simple to go to class, get my work done, and get back home to my family, my life, my plans. Then, I felt that familiar tug at my heart, that sometimes inconvenient leading of the Holy Spirit.
I approached my new classmate that I barely new and simply said: “You seem upset. Is everything ok?”
It turned out everything was not ok. She had a family member who was about to die back home, which was up north. She was torn between wanting to focus on her studies and dealing with her own interruption hundreds of miles away.
Today that student and I are friends. She is a precious person in my life and the birth of that friendship started with an interruption that I chose to heed by choosing to live with an eyes wide-open awareness.
I heard one time that the actress Jody Foster said that she chooses not to pay people to check her mail, do her grocery shopping, etc. She said in the interview that paying someone to do these things, these nuisances, these interruptions, was like paying someone to live her life for her.
Life interruptions…big and small… are the very purpose of our lives.
No other interruption is probably greater than the interruption of choosing to follow Jesus.
So often in the book of John when people asked Jesus who He was or what He was all about He or one of His disciples responded simply: “Come and see.”
God wants to birth things in your life and in mine…big and small…daily. He wants new births to bring new life, new connections, new relationships, new opportunities.
However, we have to open our eyes. We have to come…and see.
I can promise you this. It will be messy. Sometimes it will be painful. Your life will never look the same.
Are you willing to open your eyes? Are you willing to tolerate the sights, the sounds, the smells of birth? Are you willing to come and see?
Are you willing to live with an eyes wide-open awareness?
Are you willing to be present…REALLY present…for the births?
Open your eyes.
Come. And see.
What a great comment on life. I had one of those “life interruptions” on October 1, 2010-three days after my 80th birthday. I had a stroke. Life’s never been the same since that time. I still can’t do everything I used to. But, as my writing teacher says, “God’s not through with you yet.”
I can’t remember as quickly as I used to, and I’m still not able to physically do some of the things I formerly did, but I’m still writing. Some people tell me my writing has improved since then: I write with more feeling.
On a different note: I remember, with pleasure, when you were at the Life Cathedral church.
We miss you.
Loran H. Parker
Loran, I was moved by what you shared here. Thank you for reading and taking time to connect. Certainly your writing teacher is correct! Keep writing. Our God is a creative God and I like to think we are partaking in that creative nature doing this thing with words.
I have such fond memories of Fresno, too. It was such a meaningful time in my life and in the life of my family. I miss you all, too.
I’ve been wondering where you were and if everything was ok… and if maybe Hillary had arrived early!
I’m glad to hear that she hasn’t – and can very much relate to that sense of near-panic as the birth date draws closer. How will we fit Another Person into our lives? What if the other kids get jealous? What if this time I really can’t cope and we all fall apart at the seams?
And yet, each time, we have all been fine. Sometimes it required some time and reflux medication but each time our lives have expanded to fit the new reality.
I will be thinking for a while about ‘birthing’ in all the situations that fill my days… thank you!
[…] know, I know…I shouldn’t live through my children and all that jazz. Blah, blah, blah. See this post for more on what I think on that […]