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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Be with me

It has taken a very long time for me to get my head around the idea of being pregnant. 

I do not think I am even remotely close to being there yet, but I am certainly closer than I was. In my head, pregnancy was equated with a kind of fear of missing out. That is a ridiculous, and horrible, thing to say. Especially in light of many of my friends who long to have a child and cannot. It is an awful thing to think that the gift of a tiny baby would be an inconvenience, but I am trying to be honest, and that is, for a long time, what I thought. I feared that having a baby would be a stop to all kinds of things. No more adventures. No more spontaneity. No more selfishness in being able to decide when and how I do things. If I was going to have a baby then it was going to be entirely on my terms. When I was ready. When I wanted.

I am unbelievably selfish. 

A couple of weeks after I found out I was pregnant, my friends Xanna and Chris came to stay with their beautiful baby, Zephaniah. On the Saturday morning, I got up to look after Zeph so his exhausted parents could have a lie in, and I sat and watched him play and sleep and be. As I looked at him, I prayed that God would prepare my heart to be a Mum. That I would slow down, and stop and be quietened by the gift that He had chosen to give to me.  None of those things come particularly easily to my character. I am not a very slowed down person. Nor am I a very quiet person. Nor do I like to be restricted by someone else's schedule. And yet, as I watched Zeph, I knew that God was asking me to trust him about who I needed to be in order to be a mother. 

As Zeph slept, I read Henry Nouwen, Adam: God's Beloved. Nouwen describes the impact of living in a community of people with severe disabilities, and, in particular, his friendship with a young man called Adam, who he was charged with looking after. Adam could not walk or talk, and initially Nouwen tells of his frustration in not knowing what it meant to even be with this man. What did it mean to have a friendship with someone who couldn't communicate in any of the usual ways? And yet, over months of routine, of washing, and changing, and eating, and sitting, Nouwen started to understand what Adam was trying to say to him:

"Adam was communicating with me, and he was consistent in reminding me that he wanted and needed me to be with him unhurriedly and gently. He was clearly asking me if I was willing to follow his rhythm and adapt my ways to his needs. I found myself beginning to understand a new language, Adam's language." 

As I read these words, listening to Zeph's quiet snuffles and breaths, I sensed something of what God was trying to communicate with me. Adam's need was for Henri to be with him. To simply be present and to so be present that it didn't feel like he secretly wanted to be elsewhere. How many times am I guilty of such behaviour? Guilty of half-listening, half-being present in the midst of a conversation but actually being elsewhere; of rushing a meeting with someone, or mumbling a quick hello in the street because I have somewhere else, a more important somewhere else, that I think I need to be. I do not see this in Jesus. I do see intentionality. I do see deliberateness in knowing where he is going and what His Father is asking of him. But I do not see hurriedness. I do not see a refusal to genuinely engage with people because other people and places are deemed to be more worthy of his time. This is what the disciples expect from him, but time and time again Jesus is the one who stops simply so that he can be with a particular person for a particular moment. And when he is with them you get the impression that, in that moment, there is no one else. In that moment, Jesus exists to love that unique individual, be they an old lady suffering from a chronic illness, a blind beggar cast aside by society, a child seeking to sit on his lap. Jesus knew how to stop. (Matthew 20:32). He calls his followers to do the same. 

John Ortberg recounts a conversation with a wise friend of his who he was asking for some spiritual advice. After describing the somewhat hectic and rushed patterns and rhythms of his life, his friend said, "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life." Ortberg describes wanting some kind of other golden nugget of wisdom but his friend simply repeated the same advice again: "There is nothing else. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life." 

Ruthlessly eliminate hurry. 

Be with me. 

As his relationship with Adam grew, Nouwen realised that Adam was a gift to him much more than he was a gift to Adam: "His life invited me to receive his unique gift, wrapped in weakness but given for my transformation." 

Thus, as I sat and looked at Zeph and thought about the tiny gift wrapped in weakness growing inside me, I started to pray:

Father, I want to receive the gift of our baby, given for my transformation, given that I will know you and encounter you more deeply because I am forced to simply be rather than do, given that I will learn to be selfless, given that I will learn to love and be loved. 

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