Her fate seizes her and brings her down. She is heavy with it. It wrings her. The great weight is heaved out of her. It eases. She moves into what she has become sure in her fate now as a fish free in the current. She turns to the calf who has broken out of the womb’s water and its veil. He breathes. She licks his wet hair. He gathers his legs under him and rises. He stands, and his legs wobble. After the months of his pursuit of her now they meet face to face. From the beginnings of the world his arrival and her welcome have been prepared. They have always known each other. ~Wendell Berry “Her First Calf”
Seized, brought down, wrung from, heaved out, pursued, then eased:
there is nothing gentle in what it takes to be birthed a mother;
once emptied, mothering becomes sweetness
as never tasted before,
a filling back up
in a face to face meeting
destined from the beginnings of time.
I have known you,
I knew each of you,
you have known me all along,
born in covenant promise
and set free at birth.
Your rolling and stretching had grown quieter that stormy winter night
twenty three years ago, but no labor came as it should.
A week overdue post-Christmas,
you clung to amnion and womb, not yet ready.
Then the wind blew more wicked
and snow flew sideways, landing in piling drifts,
the roads becoming impassable, nearly impossible to traverse.
So your dad and I tried,
worried about being stranded on the farm far from town.
Our little car got stuck in a snowpile in the deep darkness,
our tires spinning, whining against the snow.
A nearby neighbor’s bulldozer dug us out to freedom.
You floated silent and still, knowing your time was not yet.
Creeping slowly through the dark night blizzard,
we arrived to the warm glow of the hospital.
I, not at all.
Morning sun glistened off sculptured snow outside our window,
and your heart had ominously slowed in the night.
We both were jostled, turned, oxygenated, but nothing changed.
You beat even more slowly, letting loose your tenuous grip on life.
The nurses’ eyes told me we had trouble.
The doctor, grim faced, announced
delivery must happen quickly,
taking you now, hoping we were not too late.
I was rolled, numbed, stunned,
clasping your father’s hand, closing my eyes,
not wanting to see the bustle around me,
trying not to hear the shouted orders,
the tension in the voices,
the quiet at the moment of opening
when it was unknown what would be found.
And then you cried. A hearty healthy husky cry, a welcomed song.
Perturbed and disturbed from the warmth of womb,
to the cold shock of a bright lit operating room,
your first vocal solo brought applause
from the surrounding audience who admired your pink skin,
your shock of damp red hair, your blue eyes squeezed tight,
then blinking open, wondering and wondrous,
emerging saved from the storm within and without.
You were brought wrapped for me to see and touch
before you were whisked away to be checked over thoroughly,
your father trailing behind the parade to the nursery.
I closed my eyes, swirling in a brain blizzard of what-ifs.
If no snow storm had come,
you would have fallen asleep forever within my womb,
no longer nurtured by my aging placenta,
cut off from what you needed to stay alive.
There would have been only our soft weeping,
knowing what could have been if we had only known,
if God provided a sign to go for help.
Saved by a storm and dug out from a drift:
I celebrate each time I hear your voice singing.
*my annual “happy birthday” to Lea,
now a college graduate and school teacher*
The bridge of grace will bear your weight. Charles Spurgeon
When considering the paradox of a holy infant born in a dingy barn, so weak and helpless, completely dependent on others for His care and safety, it seems impossible that such frailty was meant to hold the weight of a struggling drowning humanity in His hands. No sin is too great and nothing too heavy a load for Him to bear.
Advent is a time to reflect on such mysteries, deepening our understanding of the remarkable gift we were given the night God came to earth as one of us, to dwell among us, and now through the person of His Spirit, remains at home in our hearts.
The bridge built that night continues to bear the awful load that we alone could not manage without being lost forever.
A baby becomes our bridge to grace and we have been offered safe passage.
Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.
The natural wonders are called that for a reason–we are awed and diminished by them. They rightfully deserve our reverence and respect.
So why does the image of God Himself not call us to wonder? Each cell, each organ, each movement, each thought, each breath a miracle of creation far beyond the wonders of the mountains, the heavens and the seas. Yet every day we throw these away as inconvenient, ill-timed, and unvalued.
We were created to look like Him. And He came among us to be with us, walk with us, weep with us, love us, and save our rebellious ungrateful hides.
No wonder we’re such a mess, in need of salvage. No wonder at all.