Groaning as in Labor

Posted: October 21, 2019 in Uncategorized
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As a recent addict to the series Call the Midwife, I believe I have witnessed more life-like portrayals of labor and childbirth in several seasons than all the combined moments of  my entire life. We are spared no details – the breaking of the water, the long, often racking labor pains, impasses along the way, the final moments of exit, the arrival, cutting the cord, and if healthy a joyful entrance into the waiting arms of mother. The Midwife is combination cheerleader, steady presence, diagnostician, and giver of physical aid. We might have three full deliveries in one episode.

This brought to mind the apostle Paul’s use of the birth process to describe the becoming, the unfolding of the universe. He writes in his most mature and latest letter to the  Romans:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time. Not only that, but we ourselves who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the our adoption … (Romans 8:22-23)

Though Paul was speaking in a universal, cosmic sense – the entire cosmos would be redeemed and made whole through a great birth – it applies, I believe, on the micro level as well.

Isn’t it true that we all come to powerful junctures of new birthing, a pregnancy of the spirit preceded by a long period of gestation and then an arduous labor? Not one of us have missed the opportunity for these transitions, often rocky transitions, that cause us to outwardly and inwardly groan, waiting for the new to come. These births come in many forms and they comprise the terrain of our life stories. The pregnancies have sometimes surprised us. And the labor is frequently long and excruciating. If we were so blessed, we were assisted by midwives who accompanied us through the passage.

I believe that we have collective, social experiences of pregnancy, labor and new birth as well. We stand in a juncture between the known and familiar and unknown and sometimes terrifying. These are turning point moments and destiny is written with them.

Since the election of 2016, the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States, and the succession of national events that have transpired as a result, we have been in the throes of a powerful labor. What is at stake is no less than democracy itself, something that is always very fragile. Many of the hard-won accomplishments of the past have been jeopardized. An already polarized and divided social fabric has been torn all the more. Fear has stalked our nation’s highways and byways. We have groaned inwardly and outwardly waiting for redemption.

The labor pains have been intense in what has become perhaps the most defining era since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It is easy to lose heart in such a moment, to give up hope, to be overwhelmed by the uncertainty and pain. But now may be the groaning of hope, of waiting for redemption, and the last gasp of mighty forces that want to drag us back into the womb of the bad old days.

This has been a long pregnancy. We experienced some false labor pains along the way. Our patience wore thin and the birth couldn’t come soon enough.  Nevertheless, we live in hope. We hope we will emerge alive and with all our parts working. We hope that the new collective body of our country will be equipped – after enduring the trauma of the birth canal – for the challenges of a new day, not an old day. Our groaning will turn into rejoicing, the celebration of a new day, a day full of new challenges, hard work and a backward glance toward the waters through which we passed that more than once threatened to drown us.


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