Without tension there is no birth. To feel the waves of pain is to know you are on the precipice of a miracle. Pushing and screaming, there comes a moment in every woman’s labor where she silently breaks from her loving companions and must travel alone.
You are the only one who can do this, Charissa. Go and get your baby. My midwife prompts me to move.
My face contorts, my body shakes. I fall headlong into the deep waters, splashing into the surges. Sputtering and gasping for air. One after another, I let them pummel me.
Suffering becomes a guide, leading me to my first-born son. I walk with it. I give myself over to the piercing pain. I notice its directions and movement through my body. I grunt and bellow as I follow it close. In the end, I know it holds the secret to meeting my baby.
The tear is ugly, and the blood runs hot and fast through layers of sheets, but finally he is in my arms! Without even a hesitation, my midwife asks, “Would you like some tea?”
My husband, white with fear, finds it unthinkable to drink a cup until his wife’s body is stitched up and the blood stops gushing.
My midwife though, she didn’t mind having both. Tea and stitches. Six years later, her offering of tea in the midst of a bloody mess still echoes in my mind.
We experience abundant life and real adventure when we learn to stay in this awkward tension of life. Holding both the sweet baby and the cup of something delicious, while simultaneously letting a doctor sew our wounded, broken parts back together with a sharp needle and thread.
It takes trust to dwell in the tension. Holding both extremes is foreign to us.
Like my midwife, God invites us to relax during the turbulence. He makes a hearty feast in the middle of a heated war zone. Life is a wild labor, there are times when kindred spirits hold our hands and times when we need to embark into darkness no matter who’s with us. The contractions, the ebbs and flows, are real and relentless.
We are constantly swaying. Back and forth, back and forth. Between extremes and what we assume to be contradictions. Of course, we secretly hope to land firmly on one side. We strive to maintain a perfect balance. All we want is for the motion to stop.
As sea-sick travelers, we find our firm land in black and white, yes or no, in-or-out-kind of living.
We want to drink our tea in peace or mend our bloody wounds, but please don’t give us both at once.
Have you noticed there’s never a day without tragedy and triumph? We go between churning waves and sunny shorelines more than once in our waking hours. This can rock some of us (raising my hand here!) straight into insanity.
I wonder if we can learn to sway back and forth, comfortable with the movement within our own days, our lives, our souls, our views of God, and perceptions of people.
The invitation to sway is everywhere, do you feel it?
Yet we’re forever reaching for the clean-cut answers, the certainty of either-or, where everything feels crisp and ironed flat.
Contrary to what we’ve always envisioned, I think God dances freely, wisely between the extremes. He never picks sides like we do. Well-meaning teachers have told us compromise is of the devil, and sitting on the fence is for the mediocre, luke-warm lovers.
We grip tightly to our opinionated, hard beliefs, refusing to be swayed to the other side even just a little, and we call this love, or passion, or radical faith.
But it is only fear.
And we are stuck. Hostile toward any movement into the unknown.
To enter into the tension, the muddied up middle, to sway somewhere in between extremes, is to find life, an endless, extravagant love, a God whose arms embrace and hold together ALL things.
Back and forth, up and down, it’s time to head out to the fringes, explore the valleys and mountaintops, and learn to sway between them all with God.
Over the next few months, I am writing about living in the tension. The sway. About taking selfies and being selfless, eating cookies and flossing at the same time, knowing when to slow down and run like the wind, being both a rebel and a rule follower, boarding planes and staying bored, finding God in another country and across the street, meeting Him as a Father and a Mother, praying for healing and also for a new house.
I promise you won’t become a bland, tasteless version of yourself, nor will you start settling for a water-downed form of faith. It is my prayer we will learn how to welcome both sides of everything, seeing the array of colors and beauty that exist when we sway.