I wasn’t really a good candidate for hypnosis. A girl who grows up churchy, with its attendant fears of the dangers of immodesty and television and martial arts, can often find herself suspicious of those Age of Aquarius types of things.
But my friend and I had traded birth stories after our daughters were born, and while pregnant with our second little ones, she told me about this course she was doing on CD with its promises of complete relaxation and full empowerment. After the screaming-banshee-moments I’d had in my first labor, relaxed and empowered were sounding pretty good.
I was intrigued: my growing conviction that God had made our bodies able to bear and birth children was already speaking directly to the fears of pain and panic I’d absorbed over the years. “All truth is God’s truth,” my friend reminded me: perhaps there was some of God’s truth to be found in these visualization exercises (really, a more accurate description than hypnosis, she said). Not everything in it might be true, but that which was true was surely for the benefit of God’s people? Did He not make the whole world? And besides which: did I not have the Holy Spirit? The One in me is greater than the One in the world—or on the CD recording—and so I prayerfully asked God to give me discernment as I listened.
And so it was that, three weeks later, I found myself sitting in a recliner with earphones mediating a gentle voice inviting me to be still. to breathe. to imagine.
Picture yourself walking in a safe place, where everything is calm and beautiful around you. You feel completely secure. You are at rest. It is quiet. An image of verdant green pastures and sparkling, still waters flashed into my mind. My soul whispered a thank you, knowing in that moment that the Shepherd was with me, restoring my soul (Psalm 23:1-3).
Picture yourself flying up, up, up, out of your house and above your home, above the trees, and higher still: up into the clouds! You are free, you are weightless, the view is spectacular. You go still higher, you can see the planets, you can see the stars, you are one with creation. I breathed deeply and saw the stars whizzing by. “You know each one by name,” I thought. I am not one with creation, but I am one with the Creator, in whom are all treasures and wisdom (Colossians 2:8-10).
Imagine you are lying on top of the softest of feather beds: your limbs are heavy and deeply relaxed, and you are sinking deeper and deeper into the warmth and welcome of the bed. You are going deeper, and with each breath you take in and out, you rest even deeper into a place of absolute security and love. You are safe. You are loved. With a deep breath, my wariness gave way to worship. I remembered that strange wording in the King James Version, describing Jesus as the one who had been in the bosom of the Father, but who had now come to explain and reveal him (1 John 1:18).
“This is me,” I thought, “nestling deep in the bosom of the Father.” Deeper, resting, trusting in His absolute security and love.
Two months later, fully dilated and about to give birth to a nearly 11-pound baby, I mentally made my bed in the Father’s bosom. As the contractions surged and my body called forth its innate wisdom to finish that miraculous journey of birth, I breathed deeply and imagined myself loved. Safe. Held in the deep, warm embrace of my Father’s arms.
Moments later, I pulled my baby to my own bosom, the held one now holding. Together we sat a while, resting in His presence. Secure. Loved. Flesh breathing His breath in our nostrils: in. out. in. out. in. out.
This, then, is how I want to live: listening to the gentle voice leading me to still waters and green pastures, finding rest in His bosom. No matter how intense the circumstances or how distracting the pain, I want to pay attention to the voice that reminds me to whom I belong: that the hands which flung stars into space are also the hands that stretched out and surrendered to cruel nails out of love for us.
These are the hands that hold me.
These are the hands that hold you.
We are safe. We are loved. We are held.