I am a mom of three. I still remember being stunned by how much work it was to give birth. There is a reason they call it labor. As a Hospice Chaplain, I observed the same thing about death. It too was a struggle.
Both birth and death became similar to me. Both took longer than it seemed they should. Both were agonizing. In both, the body took over and did what it needed to do. In both, if you actually pay attention to it, the sounds, the sweat, the tears, the blood, the bodily fluids and even the breathing are similar.
This past couple of weeks has felt like the same kind of work to me: in our streets as people protest, in our hearts as we each survey what prejudices we carrying and are a part of still, in our conversations, in our social media feeds, on the news. The struggle is brushing up against all our cities, even in the smallest of towns. No one is immune from this messiness. It seems we are in the last difficult stages of labor and now there is no turning back.
There’s talk about breathing. It is hot. There are tears. There are people clashing and hugging. There are beatings and shared prayers. There is my side and your side, fences and walls and tear gas to keep others at bay. There is blood. There is mess. How can this be? What kind of birth and death are going on in our world right now?
The daughter of one of my good friends posted on Facebook: I am not the same person I was on Monday. Who else feels the same? Many of us chimed in I’m sure not, Yes, For sure this is changing me.
I pray to God this is true. I pray that this struggle will result in the birth of some things and the death of others. I pray this struggle moves us to a worldwide conversation we’ve been needing to have.
Why is being a human family so laborious? So painful? Such a struggle? I look at my own family and see ones I struggle to love, understand and talk to. Why is community so hard? Why do we go so quickly to what divides us?
Richard Rohr writes, Sin is closing our eyes to our mutality. (The Divine Dance) Why do we see differences first and not how we are alike? Mother Teresa reminded us once that the world is a hard place because we’ve just forgotten that we belong to each other.
Jan Johnson wrote, If community was based on whether or not we like each other, we are in trouble. Community is based on love. Turns out really loving is as big a struggle as birth and death. Wow.
Every time I gave birth, it resulted in the most peculiar messy bundle of a human I could ever imagine. Every time, that person came with a different set of traits, hopes and dreams. I had to dig down deep and pour myself into to being able to love them into fullness. It definitely was not easy. Each time, the one I was called to love was dependent, demanding, flawed and developed even more issues as time went by. They kept changing on me, challenging me and questioning me. Sometimes they lashed out at me and made fun of me. They disagreed with me. I did a mediumly human job of loving them. I had my own issues and baggage and distractions too. Love is hard. It is daily. It comes from a deep place within us.
Loving is a struggle. It is the hardest thing we will ever do. God calls us to do it over and over. God calls us to love everyone. God designed this whole world with diversity in mind and set it up to not be easy. I do not know why.
What I do know is holy work is being done right now in our world. The struggle is about love and right now it is laced with blood, sweat, tears and every kind of emotion. It is happening in the streets, our hearts, our homes, our churches and in every single one of our communities.
As a mom and a pastor my prayer has always been, God let me not be afraid to go all in, to get messy, to be present for the birth or the death or the struggle. Guide my words, guide my heart. And, let it change me. Let the mess of it get me dirty for you. Amen
Love. It is the hardest, messiest, most human thing we’ve ever been called to do.
If it weren’t for God’s help, I’m sure I could not do it.
I believe this struggle is real. We are in labor. The old is dying away and the new will come. I am praying for the new shared life that will emerge. God, let it be so. Amen.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. See http://www.drcindyryanblog.com for more about Cindy, sermons, upcoming speaking events, blogs on other topics and to learn about how to hear Cindy each Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. CST live on the Jesus Calling Prayer Call she co-hosts. Sign up there for Cindy’s Inner Circle emails as well.