Faith, redeeming my Pentecostalism, and “trusting birth”.
I am a recovering Protestant.
My pastor calls us “empowered evangelicals.” I like that. Yes, I’m evangelical — I want to tell others about the beauty and love of Jesus — but there’s the power of the Holy Spirit behind it. Or, rather, the Holy Spirit is in all things I do (that’s the goal, anyway). God is the focus, the motivation. His love compels me. In 20ish years of reflection, now, on my childhood church upbringing, I feel that there was too much “show”. In other words, speaking in tongues was THE goal. Prophecy was THE goal. Exuberant worship was THE goal. Faith was THE goal. It very well could have been the immaturity of my perspective; I was 18 when I left my childhood church, never to again return. But, somewhere in the mix there of all the hyperactive religion, the Lord Jesus Himself was lost. I somehow missed that the GOD OF ALL CREATION IS THE GOAL. All that other stuff is a means to that end: Jesus.
So, with that in mind, I have been challenged so far this year, and have felt the breath catch in my throat on more than one occasion in my small group. As a worship leader, I’m assigned a weekly group. I don’t necessarily get to go where my friends are, or get to choose the leader who I feel most speaks to where I’m at, and does so in a way that communicates clearly to me. I go where I’m assigned. So far, that’s been a really good thing. And, only three weeks into the “season” of new small groups, it’s really too early for thorough assessment. But, more than once, the leader has mentioned that faith is going to be a focus of his teaching.
Having grown up in said Pentecostal church, where the idea of “name it and claim it” was (for real) taught, I feel like I have had more than my fill of teaching on faith. And any time someone says that they are going to focus on faith, little warning bells and red flags start chiming and waving in my mind.
“What are you doing, God?” I wonder. “Where is this going? Is my leader really going Pentecostal on me? Because I don’t think I could handle that for nine months. Am I overreacting? Am I here to balance out any ‘name it and claim it’ junk that might crop up? Do you have me here to test me somehow?” Round and round my thoughts have gone. What I have come to, though, after three weeks of concern, prayer, and a wee bit of hyperventilating, is this: God wants to redeem my concept of what faith is. It’s time. It’s time for me to no longer be afraid of the word “faith” and to be rid of the negative connotations it has for me. It’s time for that history to be sifted, and for the good, solid, true, right aspects of it to remain in the sieve, and the chaff and dust to be shaken out and done away with.
Which brings me to, yet again, the idea that one of the best things about God, and one of the most uncomfortable things about Him is that He doesn’t allow me to just stay, if where I’m camped is harmful. He doesn’t allow me to remain in patterns of sin or even thought patterns based on misunderstanding. He, by no means, is a static God. He’s active. He’s methodical, but not in a plodding way; He is purposeful.
(The following kind of jumps around a bit; I hope that, by the end, it’s tied together coherently.)
I’ve been reading the epistle of I John lately, and this morning thought, “You know, I’ll be happy when this book is done. It’s so challenging and meaty, and I really just need some love and comfort, like from the Psalms or the late chapters of Isaiah.” Hahaha! Such maturity. 🙂 Although, the Holy Spirit spoke to me in that time, “Take note. Your children can also only handle so much correction and instruction before they need a serious break filled with love and comfort.” OK, God. Point taken.
Then, I came to this:
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith. I John 5:4
The first thought that came to me, upon reading that verse, was about the process of natural childbirth. Among the natural childbirth community, especially for those espousing unassisted birth (that is, birth at home* with no attending physician, nurse, midwife, etc.) there’s a saying: “Trust birth.” When I read the verse above, I thought, “Rather, I should trust the GOD of birth. Have faith in the God who created birth. He has overcome all the junk in the world — sin and death and pain and crappy doctors (and nurses and even midwives and friends and family and whoever else) who are antagonistic towards the beautiful, arduous process of birth. I must have faith that He’s a good God and that though the path is difficult, His purposes in it are right and true and good.”
I hope that makes sense.
What I’m saying — though it’s kind of tangential to the point of this post — and I realize that this may be a wee bit inflammatory, is that trusting birth is idolatrous. It’s having faith in the creation, instead of the Creator. My faith, and any woman who claims Jesus as Savior, needs to be in the One who originated the process, the God whose infinite mind conceived such an amazing process, and in His goodness and His right-ness in doing it in the way He did.
Those thoughts (faith, birth, Creator) led me, this morning, to progress to one of my favorite concepts EVER, found in Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
In other words, as the songwriter Kevin Prosch coined it, “The natural things speak of the invisible.” I ABSOLUTELY ADORE IT when I gain a better understanding of my God when He reveals more of His character, His heart, His nature, His abilities, His wisdom, et al, through something I can see, touch, or experience.
Birth, clearly, is an experience. However, there are a lot of variables in the process. There are a lot of emotions. There are many unknowables. With every birth, but especially with a first-time mother’s birth, it really is like diving into the unknown: jumping off of a diving board into an empty pool with the hope that it’ll be filled by the time she hits the water. There is a lot of FAITH that needs to be employed.
Backing up just a few verses, Romans 1:17 tells us, “…the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith…” I pondered that for a few minutes. I re-read it, “The right-ness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” We as people, and especially we as Americans, don’t like that concept. We want to try before we buy. We want a test-drive. We are wary of anything that can’t be sampled. However, that’s just not the way of God. He calls me to trust Him, to have faith in His right-ness, and as I do that — after I do that, perhaps even as a result of my faith — His ways are revealed as solid, good, true, and trustworthy.
Does that make sense? I have to have the faith FIRST. It’s only after I’ve gone through that exercise of applying faith, and applying faith, and applying faith, that His ways are revealed as right.
So, getting back to the natural speaking of the invisible… As further pondered where God has me, I realized that as I study my God, and as I study the process of birth, I am ever more convinced that the process of birth is a microcosm of the nature of God. Birth is the marriage of:
- The concrete and the abstract.
- Science and emotions.
- The rational and the transrational**.
- The absolute and faith.
After I recovered from my reverie this morning (well, I’m still not quite recovered; I’m still in awe), I became filled with thankfulness. My God knows that I struggle with the idea of faith. Thankfully, I’ve been a Christian for long enough to see God move in amazing, powerful ways, and in truth, my day-to-day relationship doesn’t require much faith. He is. He is real to me, as real as anything I could hold in my hand and stare at. But, He is also faithful to illustrate to me the value for something that I gaze at, with sidelong suspicion: faith. And He did so in a way that makes sense to me, utilizing something for which I already have value: the process of birth.
God is so good
God is so good
You reign on high in majesty
And the widow’s heart You cause to sing
You hear the cry of the fatherless
And the depth of Your love who can comprehend
For the natural things
Speak of the invisible
Look around and see
Who could deny the wonders of His love
(From God is So Good by Kevin Prosch)
*Well, usually it’s at home. I actually birthed my third child, Wesley, all ten pounds of him, unassisted, because the nurse didn’t believe he was coming, and wouldn’t return to the room when my friend Stephanie called her back, “I just checked her and she was at an 8. I’ll come back in 20 minutes or so…” and when she came back, I’d already pushed Wesley into the world. Unassisted hospital birth: that’s gotta be rare. 😀
**My dictionary is telling me that this isn’t a word. However, I love it as a word-concept, even if it’s not truly a word: “Transrational” is that which is outside of my understanding. It doesn’t mean that it’s irrational or untrue; it’s just something that cannot be quantified by cold, hard facts.