She stared back at me from the mirror this morning. Her eyes peered through acrylic bi-focals, through amber frames, the color of her eyes.
The forty-nine year old woman with hair wild from the pillow, wrapped in a white chenille robe looked strangely familiar. I wonder if I know her?
She is writer and she is not. She’s been filling yellow pads and tapping on a laptop for a couple of years trying to figure that one out. At the least, she had hoped in all those words there might fall out of them her purpose, the one for the middle of her life.
She’s closing out the last chapter of parenting, the greatest story she ever wrote. Only she didn’t write it with a pen in hand; the story was not written in words, but on the slates of her children’s lives.
Twenty-five years ago, she began the story when she bore down to give life. The delivery room had emptied except for her nurse. Vivian Becko was a South African nurse/mid-wife who immigrated to the Deep South to work beside a doctor.
The doctor was out with the family, giving an update on a baby stuck high in the birth canal. He prayed with the family while she lay up in the stirrups, Vivian Becko by her side.
With deep passion, Vivian, in accented English, spoke assurance over the young mother’s swollen womb, “We’re gonna have this baby.”
Vivian spoke “words that make souls stronger.” She entered the pain of the twenty-three year old frightened laborer, gathered strength for the young mother by bearing down with her in the midst of the pain. Sliding her beautiful brown arm under her back, she lifted her patient to the rhythm of a line scribbling along a path of hills and valleys etched on paper.
“We are gonna have this baby.”
Vivian seemed determined in hope. It inspired the young mother to believe what she could not see, what might really be happening, that she was really going to “have” the baby.
At forty-nine I look back and I think of Vivian as one of the first women to bear down with me in the midst of incredible pain. But she wasn’t the last.
Vivian joined me in her words, her actions, her intensity that cold December night. She bore down with me, knowing just what was necessary for my small frame to move that baby down, to push that life closer to breathing earth’s air.
They would never call themselves midwives, but God has blessed me with incredible women over a lifetime who have been willing to bear down with me when life was painful, to speak to me words of hope.
I could never do what Vivian did (or what millions of Labor and Delivery nurses and midwives do everyday.) But I can bear down with someone who is hurting. I can speak the “we” into their lives, help them know they aren’t alone in their pain.
So as I have labored these past months searching for my purpose, maybe this is what I am called to do? Maybe I am called to be midwife to hope?
One thing I do know is that women need women to help them believe that they can make it through pain into the broad place of peace. I am made to be a hope-giver and a truth-teller. When my sisters are bearing the weight of depression or heartache, I can hold my arm up under them, bear what pain I can, speak the “we” into the loneliness of pain. I can do this, because by God’s grace, my life has birthed more than babies.
I know there is life, beautiful life, aching life, grace-filled life on the other side of pain.
Real life always comes through the crucible of pain. This is the gospel. It was through pain that Jesus Christ bore our sins and gave us life. And every time we enter into pain, we move close to heart of Jesus who knows pain like no other.
He bore our pain on the cross to give us life.
And it is through this life, that He gives us the opportunity to stand beside someone in pain and say these powerful words---“we can do this.”
We can take no one out of their pain---no more than Vivian Becko could take me out of mine as I was birthing my firstborn. But we can be there with them in the midst of it, stand beside them, remind them they are not alone.
I am a mid-wife to hope---not because I am hope but because I know Hope. All of us, who know Him, have this same opportunity, to believe with others that there is a way through the pain that leads to life.
…but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)It is hardest to see God is good when we are in pain, when we hurt so badly and we are losing our grip on hope. To help someone in the midst of pain isn’t easy. They don’t always accept the pain that inevitably comes with living. They believe their pain is in vain and are sure the death of hope is their destiny.
What about the pain that comes when the womb remains barren? When the baby is stillborn? When the child lives but never speaks a word? When the DNA reads challenged? When the life with a future, dressed up in dreams, ends too soon? When tragedy rips a hole right through a heart and a world is turned upside down? Can they stand as midwives to hope?
Yes, yes, yes. They do stand as midwives to hope. I know these women and they have given birth to both life and pain. Despite the challenges, the suffering, and the pain, they call out to others that God is good. By God's grace, they have found life after pain or in the midst of it. They are midwives to hope and their testimonies bear their sisters up with truth.
Thank you, Vivian Becko and all my sisters, who have encouraged me along the path of life. Directly or indirectly, your lives have often spoken louder than your words. God has used you to help me see my late in life calling--- to be willing to enter another’s pain, to speak words that strengthen souls, to love without condition, and to embrace the privilege of placing the hurting before the throne of Grace--- to become a midwife to hope.