Does it hurt, God? Preggo Pastor Post

I’ve been thinking a lot about creation the past few months. At first, it was the obvious, how can a church-nerd not think about creation while she is growing a life? I mean, I’m actually creating life, with my husband, out of what seems like nothing, the miniscule elements of a single cell egg and a single cell sperm. There is another element that cannot be seen, only felt. The third element is the drive to create, the deep ache of desire to enter into the holy act of creating, growing, and nurturing life. It seems to me that while that part cannot be seen, the deep ache is the greatest of the three for me.

We’ve been watching Cosmos, enjoying greatly the vast amount of information about our universe, it’s nuances, complexities and patterns. With the beginning of all coming from nothing and expanding into the beyond that is our universe, I come back to that deep ache that I imagine prompted God to create. Was God so deeply overcome by desire for creation that a dream became real from nothing? Did the first dreamer create the dream from nothing except desire?

God as first dreamer is an image discovered this week from a workshop with J. Philip Newell, a theologian and Celtic Christianity expert. Boston Avenue United Methodist Church hosted him this week with a public lecture and a workshop. It was a mighty blessing to attend. His first prayer was so outstanding that I was moved to purchase a couple of his prayer books to use in worship at Bethany. Newell’s work focuses on re-connecting with creation. God is seen as the great dreamer and creator whose character is to seek relationship with all creation, not just humanity. Prior to my being there (I was sadly late), he spoke of the womb of God. I’ve got some investigating to do around that image, but just like God as first dreamer, it got me wondering.

I want so deeply to ask God, did it hurt? Or, as we know creation continues to expand, literally with the universe getting bigger, and as creation continues in its cycles, I want to ask, does it hurt? Maybe it’s an unfair anthropomorphizing, but I’m going there anyway. Pregnancy hurts. It hurts emotionally because there are so many emotions experienced, not to mention how the hormone fluctuations affect you. It hurts physically because my body is expanding. I knew it would be uncomfortable, but -y’all- this HURTS. I won’t go into the details, but there are lots of strange pains that I could not have anticipated. It hurts spiritually because there is so much dreaming that happens held in tension with the hope that because of and in spite of my dreaming this baby will thrive in her very own way.

Did it hurt, God? Were you aching for creation as you dreamed? At the moment of the big bang, where your dream began to take shape and life, did you know the physicality of what was happening? As the atoms moved outward, could you feel yourself expand into all that is and yet being uncontained by any of it?[1] Did it hurt, God? When your dream-made-real began and morphed into its own self-perpetuating expression and self-destroying tendencies, what brought your first tear? Does it hurt, God? As the reverberations (newly confirmed) of our expanding creation move ever outward, does it feel like the rip in my abdominal wall where growth has to happen in order to make room for what is so good and so scary at the same time? Does it hurt, God? When we hear Paul in Romans talking about the groaning of creation, is it creation that groans or your voice reverberating in creation through the ages? (Romans 8:22)

Does it hurt, God? Did you know, as you dreamt the very first dream, that what would come would be so hard, so beautiful, so wondrously chaotic and so simple, all at the same time?

Does it hurt?

As I went up to J. Philip Newell afterward to get my books signed, I was strangely quiet. He has this quality of soft beauty that is difficult to explain. The woman helping him with the line asked me when I was due. As I replied, mumbling almost, Newell said, “the shape of a pregnant woman is the most beautiful shape in the universe.” If you couldn’t see me after he said that it was because I melted into the floor. I said thank you and he replied with “Blessings for your baby.” Without knowing what to say, I touched his arm and said thank you again. All the while, diligently controlling the tears welling up in my eyes. This man so clearly in relationship with the divine blessed our baby. I was awe-struck with thankfulness. It may have well have been Pope Francis.

When reflecting on his sense of the pregnant shape, I think it is beautiful because it is the shape of a dream’s first blossoming. It’s like the bud of the flower that lasts just a day too long, granting us, in the moment, more anticipation than satisfaction at it’s bloom.

[1] Language borrowed from Newell’s prayer that got to me.

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I love her. Preggo Pastor Post.

Around 19 weeks, I started feeling the quickening, the butterfly kisses, the tickling that a growing baby first makes as they move inside. We didn’t know yet that the creature was a she. I called her the creature until about 22 weeks. (Nick hated it, but I meant it in kind of a Dobby-the-house-elf endearment and oddity way. On really sick days I may have meant it in a Gollum way. Whatever.) On the first day of 22 weeks, I made my way to the Pearl district to enjoy lunch with a pastor friend.  I rapped and sang along with the Warren G and Nate Dogg as the radio played Regulators. It’s a pretty consistent habit to jam in the car and that morning the pregnancy app on my phone alerted me to the fact that her ears were really able to hear me at that point. She’s starting out with some classics. Upon getting out of the car, I patted my belly and said without thinking, “Mama loves you.”

That moment stopped me in my tracks. I literally halted walking and teared up. It hadn’t occurred to me until that moment that I love her. It had noticed that I had friends who loved their baby-in-the-making and said it even before they were pregnant. I felt guilt about not feeling that way. Nick would talk to my belly and tell her I love you. But, I couldn’t. And then, without even knowing how it happened, I loved her.

Perhaps it’s my tendency to be so afraid of the worst-case scenario that kept me from investing like others. Maybe it’s my deep trust issues around allowing myself to be hurt. Maybe it was just my path to loving her. But, it came about without intentionality. I love this little bit growing. I love that her femur measures long, with my deep hope that she has Nick’s arms and legs. I love that she has the hiccups these days and I can tell the difference between a kick and the hiccups. I love that on the ultrasound she has her hand on her face, saying, with one small sign, ‘don’t look – I’m growing in here.” I love that there is the holy community of faith that already prays for her and will love her at first breath, maybe even before then. I love that she has pastor-aunties who field my weird text messages about pregnancy and will soon enough get way too many photos of her via viber. I love that Nick’s family and my family love her and are ready to be grandparents, aunts, uncles, and all.

I love her.

My Statements about Marriage Equality

The first time I was asked to make a public statement in support of marriage equality was for the Engagement Party for Same Gender Couples that All Souls Unitarian Church threw. To be honest, it was a complete surprise to be asked by Rev. Marlin Lavanhar. I’m still pretty new to town and just honored to be the Pastor in an Open and Affirming church, Bethany Christian. I get to be a part of a community that shares the good news that God loves everyone just as they are, inviting us into deeper relationship with God and one another. Could it get any better than that? Here’s the statement I made at the engagement party that took place February 12, 2014.

“First, I’d like to thank Marlin Lavanhar and Tamara Lebak for the invitation to be a part of this holy event. It is an honor to lend my voice to fight for marriage equality.

“In the first creation story in Genesis, when God ventures to create humanity, we hear these words ‘let us make humankind in our image.’ I hear in these words God’s deep desire for relationship with humanity. It is so deep that we are made in God’s image with the same inescapable desire for relationship, whether that be friendships, families, or marriage. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he too responded out of that inescapable desire for relationship: love God, love your neighbor, love yourself.

“The fight for marriage equality is coming to a legal head. We will soon discover legally what so many faithful people have already discovered, that marriage is a right for all who choose to enter into that adventure. When we deny the right to live in relationship, to be married to a certain group of humans, we are not simply denying them a legal formality, we are denying the image of God within them, the inescapable desire to live in relationship. When we deny the right of marriage to a certain group of humans, we are denying the very spark of God within them and the will of God for all to thrive in loving relationship.

“Therefore, I stand for marriage equality. Will you join me?”

The second time I was asked to make a statement was the the announcement of the filing of an amicus brief of which I had become a signatory. The amicus brief is in favor of moving forward to open marriage for all people, regardless of orientation. The press conference was yesterday, March 17, 2014. My statement is below. You can see a segment from the local news about it here.

“It is my honor to be here, invited by Toby Jenkins and Oklahomans for Equality, to give a Christian voice to the fight for marriage equality. I am in awe of Sue, Gay, Mary and Sharon in their continuing bravery and commitment to move our state and country forward.

“Today, we celebrate another step in the journey toward marriage equality. Some might say that this is a civil issue, asking why the church would get involved. Others, seemingly loud voices, say marriage is a religious sacrament that should stay the way it is in Oklahoma and the broader United States. For myself, and many other faithful, religious people, we support marriage equality for both civil and religious reasons. Like the Civil Rights movement of the last century, marriage equality needs the voice of the church because this is a justice issue. God’s justice, often referred to in the Bible as shalom, is God’s effort to make sure the needs of all people are met, leading to the thriving of life in love.

“As people of faith, we are called to work along side the Spirit of God, making sure every person has what they need to thrive, including access to basic civil rights like marriage. Marriage’s modern purpose is to bind legally, and when people choose to do so, before God, two individuals who have become interwoven by the loom of love. All those woven together in loving commitment should be able to enter unencumbered into the adventure of marriage with its joy, challenges and blessings.”

 

I wrote it; I really did. Preggo Pastor Post

As a last minute Christmas gift, I bought us tickets to see Aziz Ansari. Nick and I enjoy live comedy in general, but to see someone so utterly gifted, who isn’t afraid of taking on racism, heterosexism and how people seem to be the rudest ever these days; well, we can’t pass that up. His show was fantastic. Yet, the good word I needed to hear came from his opening act, Jerrod Carmichael. Both single guys, they talked about dating woes. Jerrod said one thing that struck home. He said that he still considers pregnancy as a consequence.  I laughed because in many ways there is still a part of me functioning with that mentality.

For those outside ministry-as-profession, it seems like (from my grass-is-greener-over-there mentality) that it may be easier to talk about sexuality. Although, that is probably just an illusion. I’ve talked with dear clergy girlfriends about this weird transition from pregnancy-as-consequence to trying to being pregnant. It’s a touchy subject to talk about because it intrinsically brings up one’s sex life. And talking about that as a clergy person, well, that’s a level of vulnerability about which even I wasn’t sure. I feel like it’s time to talk and be honest about this transition because if a comic can, so can I. Deeper than that, it’s inescapable in the emotional sense. It’s healthy to talk about this. It’s healthy to write about this, if for nothing else, for me. And pregnancy is helping me remember that “for me” is enough. That’s a lesson the little one growing inside will be taught over and over again: you are enough.

As a teenager, the idea of being intimate with someone usually threw me into fits of anxiety. Suffice it to say, those years were single and celibate. Sex was something people did when they were making bad decisions. Those among my peers who were sexually active kind of mystified me. Weren’t they afraid? What about the diseases? What about the baby that could come? Sex, in my upbringing, was by its very nature dirty and shame inducing. Thankfully, in college, my eyes were opened about what intimacy can mean, a little. There was a developing freedom to be truly educated around sexuality.  My twenties were sexually active and very safe. No diseases. No pregnancy. Successful for this type A overachiever! The physical consequences I’d been threatened with as a teen proved to be avoidable. The emotional consequences connected to not truly understanding what healthy relationships were like and what the fullness of intimacy could be, well, those came. I had those consequences in spades. (Oddly enough, nobody really focused on those consequences.) I didn’t face them until my late twenties after two unhealthy relationships that made up most of that decade. I shifted to really consider that I was enough, enough for something that mattered.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was never that person who wanted to be a parent as a defining characteristic. Once Nick and I fell in love, that urge started. At first, it was as simple as this: he will be an amazing dad. Then, it became: I ache for a baby with Nick’s face. (Go ahead and laugh; I don’t know another way to explain it.) Eventually, it was: my heart breaks that we aren’t parents. That was the moment when we starting considering adoption after a year and a half of trying. That also seemed to be the moment that our bodies did the thing we wanted most, fertilizing and implanting this little bit that is growing now.

I’m writing all this to say that I still get fits of anxiety about this consequence of sex.  My mind, due to unhealthy teachings in adolescence by the church, family and society about sex, still panics that I’m showing the world what I’ve been up to!  I wonder what decisions we will make about teaching little one about sex, sexuality and the gift it is from God. How will we honor it by acknowledging special things need rules around them? What will we do to connect physical and emotional intimacy in a way that is healthy for our daughter? I want for her an approach to life that doesn’t induce shame. Am I bold enough to build that for her?