I prepare now to enter into the liminal space where created life moves from the divine unknown into the worn, faulty hands of flesh. They say that you cannot see the face of God and live. To welcome the newly born might be just like that. Just as this baby boy will emerge from this divine-human threshold, we will perish and be born anew. A new me will emerge – born of death and resurrection and heeding the call to go out and embark on a whole new world.
For the ones who receive the newborn into our care, standing in the threshold is a risky place to be. The only way to the threshold is through pregnancy pains or adoption anxieties. The pressure weighs heavy, distorts our very physical bodies, and leaves us trembling before the mystery.
In audacious humility, we hold out our hands to receive the mystery – a movement that defies expectations. It is a moment that can only be remembered viscerally, incapable of ever being replicated by words or images, though we desperately try.
The vulnerability is so very real that one can’t help but feel the impulse to cover up. As the vessel of the created one, I will show up and lay myself bare to the threshold. I will show up for the wreckage, the scars, and the holy fear of letting my body do what it was created to do – for this created creature to create, birth, and feed another one.
If I am not intentional and aware, I will cower at the power of the moment. Fear will signal my arms to tighten, my heart to become encased, and my wonder to only go so far. Fear knows that this is the type of moment where Love’s height, depth, and breadth knows no bound. Fear knows this is Mystery – fathomless depths where limits vanish and where our destination cannot be known, measured, and quantified in advance.
“The existential question for the knower is this: Which does he love more,
the small island of his so-called knowledge or the sea of infinite mystery?” – Karl Rahner
Having passed through this threshold twice before, I remember the impulse to choose the small island. When I encounter that which my mind cannot handle, it can be easier to throw my energies into what I can handle – feeding logs, diaper changes, pain medication, incision pain, and social media sharing. As Jerome Miller writes, “As the wielder of techniques, I wrench the world into obedience… My success is measured by the degree to which I subordinate it to my purposes.”
Before the threshold, can I linger? The impulse to clutch the child and run back towards a controlled, known world is so intense. In The Mystery of the Child, Martin Marty names the reality of the threshold – this newborn life is finite (he will not live forever), contingent (he will be, and already is, subject to an uncontrollable, unpredictable world), and transient (we will never be able to contain and enshrine him). Marty then speaks what we struggle to know – this is not problem. This is mystery. This is the very terms and conditions that come with the awe and fear of the threshold.
In the threshold, medicine will care for these bodies of ours.
Parenting manuals will give instruction.
Family and friends will give support.
But only One Being can hold us together. Only One Being knows the power and possibility born from suffering love that stands in the threshold and refuses to dispel the mystery. Before the threshold, I will seek to linger, to pause, and to give thanks for the Mystery and all its mess.