Losing Everything Might Be The Path To Finding It All

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F_ClaireD

Recently my son celebrated his 8th birthday. As always on this day, I think back to the hours before he entered this world—all 9lbs of him, full head of jet-black hair, tight little pink fists.

He was my second birth, and the one I remember more clearly.

I couldn’t tell you much about the birth of my daughter two years earlier, except that it was an induction, and I made sure to request my epidural soon after the Pitocin was administered. I wanted to be certain I would feel as little as possible.

But my son, he came when the hospital was full, and I had a sense of how Mary felt when there was no room at the inn. All the birthing rooms were full, so most of that labour took place in the hallway, where there was a “policy” against giving epidurals.

This was not part of the plan. I wanted the second birth to go like the first: a push here and there when the nurses gave the heads up, a minute or so of sleep in between. And at least a room.

No deal.

When my son decided it was time he took his first breath of air, I was standing in the hallway, while the nurse-on-call frantically tried to find a birthing room.

I thought I would die.

I remember a deep moan emitting from some unfamiliar place inside me, and the ensuing stares of the staff at the nursing station. I thought that baby might drop right out of me and pictured, with angst, his newborn head hitting the shiny birch wood floors.

When eventually a room was found, my baby decided to take his time after all. For three hours the labour didn’t progress and I lay tense and fearful, dreading the next contraction.

Tense and fearful. This is my memory of labour. With every contraction I pushed against the pain instead of allowing it to do its work. I don’t doubt that this is the reason why the labour took so long to progress. What might it have been like if I had leaned into the pain, embracing its purpose?

Instead I wrapped myself in resistance, like a tight little ball bouncing off the pain.

And for a while after, I was just glad the whole thing was behind me, and vowed to not land myself in the same painful predicament a third time.

But as the years have passed I have wondered if childbirth might have been a more powerful experience if I had worked with my body instead of against it.

The question seems ever more pertinent to me right now as I navigate the breakdown of my marriage and family. Over the last few weeks I have curled into that tight little ball again, bouncing away from the hurt instead of leaning right into it.

Oh I know it’s natural. I know humans aren’t geared to open their arms to pain and discomfort. Most of the time we run from it as fast and as hard as we can. That’s if we acknowledge its existence at all.

But pain seems to be hounding me down the years until I can look it in the eye and stop resisting. I’m beginning to realize that the key to finding joy and being my whole self—and the self God has called me to be—lies in walking through the heartache and surrendering it all to God. Until I can do that, I think pain will always find me.

So in this new season I am learning to lean. On God. On my emotions. On faith and hope. And on love, in all its fractured tenderness. In allowing myself to feel everything, and to surrender all, each day brings with it an opportunity for curiosity and deep reflection. And this new way of being—alone, rather than part of a family unit—is the place where I’m drinking from the well that is Jesus.

I have a book of quotes by my bedside called “Brave Enough,” written by author Cheryl Strayed. Right now I’m trying to be brave, so every single quote anchors me and pulls me forward. This one is not one of the most inspiring, yet the image seems to be present with me throughout these difficult days:

“Walk without a stick into the darkest woods.”

I’ve been in the woods before. But my tendency has been to high-tail it out of there pretty quickly, just as I did during child birth. And I’ve certainly never been in without a stick.

But this time around, as I face the new, the painful and the unknown, I want to keep my eyes open. I don’t want to hold tight against the pain, I want to break open in the face of it. I want God to show me the purpose for all of it—His purpose.

If that means being lost in the woods for a while, so be it. Yes the woods are dark, sometimes terrifying, but when the time is right, I do believe God will light the path that leads to freedom. And then, is there anything left to fear?

And so I surrender to being lost, until God is ready to show me the way.

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