In Romans 8 we learn how we share in the birth pangs of a pregnant creation. “All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That’s is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting” (Romans 8:22-24 – Message). We all have experienced times when we want these inner birth pangs to cease.
As a man I can only identify with birth pain as an analogy to my spiritual journey. Judy and I are in the 4th quarter, getting settled in among folks at a senior living complex in Brainerd. The move has brought me into one of those “in-between times,” when I feel the pain of birth pangs. It often happens in the major transitions on the journey. I want it to be over. I don’t like my feeling of abandonment The unknown, uncertainty and being out of control is not easy. I would like to go back to the old familiar. But I know I can’t. My wife and I knew this move was God’s plan for us. But I feel insecure.
Richard Rohr calls this a liminial space. It is a process of dying to the old so that the new can come forth. Native American Indians called it a “crazy time.” It is a time when we seem to be losing our spiritual bearing. We can’t find true north. Each of us have different reactions depending on our season of life and the unique of our spiritual journey. This is the work of the Spirit bringing forth something new. Our part is to surrender to the process. Above all, it is a matter of keeping our eyes on Jesus, not becoming turned in on self.
Thomas Keating has observed, “Surrender to the unknown marks the great transition of the spiritual journey. On the brink of each new breakthrough there is a crisis of trust and love.” Can we trust the lord in the process knowing that God is loving us through the experience of birth pangs. It will be painful. You are being enlarged in the waiting.
My strong encouragement is that you have a soul mate, someone who will listen to your angst of being in one of these “in-between times.” I know for me it has been my wife. I have been helped greatly, as she listens and helps clarify for me my struggle. My advice, don’t go through the liminial space alone.
I agree with Stephen Smith when he says, “I have grown tired of people who think and believe that they know the answers to God’s secrets and mysteries.” Don’t let anybody try to figure out what talking place in your soul. You are experiencing birth pains. This is God’s hidden work. Smith quotes Mary Oliver: “Let me keep my distance always, from those who think they have answers. Let me keep company always with those who say, ‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment and bow their heads.”
I am learning to trust Jesus in a deeper way during this turbulent time. I feel like the disciples who cried out to Jesus in the storm, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown” (Matt. 8:25). I hear him say to me, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid” (Matt. 8:26). It’s a moment by moment walk because only He knows the outcome.