It was hot that day. 100 degrees, 87% humidity, and you needed a shower before you ever made it from your front door to your car. This kind of heat shows up in Houston in the late summer.
I woke up nauseated and tried to eat a saltine cracker to calm down my stomach. It refused to be calm.
My husband and I both rushed through getting ready on that September day as we were trying to time our departure with traffic patterns. It was a silent dance of stress as we dressed and prepared to leave. It felt like this moment was the single most important time so far in our young three years of marriage. We were on our way to hear if our eight-week pregnancy was viable. After a miscarriage just a few months before, we were both a bundle of fearful nerves.
He backed the car out of the garage without turning the station on the radio, and a news report interrupted the music. An airplane had flown into a building in New York City. Throughout our 40-minute drive, weaving in and out of rush hour traffic on our way to the Medical Center in Houston, my fear turned outward as reports continued to come in from New York.
We drove past an airport on our way and every time an airplane flew over the highway, traffic would stop as people looked up in fear. Would this one come down on us?
There was no way to know yet how many had lost their lives, but my assumption was that the loss would be catastrophic. And I mourned every life cut short. Life leaves a mark.
And, selfishly, all the while, I longed to hear a tiny, Doppler-amplified heartbeat. Proof of life.
We heard that heartbeat on September 11, 2001, and it still beats today in our daughter. That day felt like the official beginning of our journey toward parenthood. Life leaves its mark.
Life over death.
Hope in loss.
Joy for sorrow.
One of the many strange phenomena of early pregnancy is that you begin to gain weight long before your belly swells. I was only 11 weeks along when I asked the doctor why in the world I was gaining weight already. The baby was only the size of a fig, for heaven’s sake!
My patient, kind physician informed me that my body was producing 30% more blood than it had 11 weeks ago, and it was the increase in fluid that explained the weight gain. 30% more blood coursing through my veins so that a baby could be nourished and grow. Life leaves a mark.
A new year leads us all to think about new life and maybe even a new life of deeper discipleship. What would this new life look like? Perhaps it would look like a new dedication to loving people where they are, with what you have. Perhaps it would like boldly challenging lifelong assumptions you have held about God. Perhaps it would look like trusting the tongue of flame that lives in your soul.
This new life requires an increase in supplies: an increase of faith, an increase of action, an increase of love. Humans are not capable of supplying all those demands on our own.
Instead, we humbly gather around a table to receive our daily bread and a blood transfusion. These prenatal vitamins feed the increasing life that courses through our body. We increase the volume of life in our veins so that we have the ability to nurture new life.
Life over death.
Hope in loss.
Joy for sorrow.
Life leaves a mark. Are you willing to be uncomfortable as this new life swells? Are you willing bear stretch marks on your soul? Are you willing to birth this new way of life? Are you willing to give yourself away?
If your answer is yes, remember: you are not required to do this alone. You are saying yes to your own human weakness and yes to God’s quiet strength. Yes, I am unable to sustain this life on my own. Yes, I will receive life to give life. Yes, I choose to be bound by blood to all who gather at this table. Yes, I choose the marks that life leaves.
Loving God, we gratefully receive your gift of life. Mysterious Spirit, we welcome the new life you are growing in us. Brother Jesus, we choose life with you alongside your bride, the church. Amen.
Rhesa Higgins is a spiritual director and experienced retreat leader. She holds a B.S. from ACU in youth and family ministry and is a graduate of HeartPaths, a three-year program in spiritual formation and direction. Rhesa serves as the founding Director for eleven:28 ministries (www.eleven28ministries.org) in Dallas, Texas, a non-profit dedicated to supporting the spiritual vitality of ministers. Rhesa is also a partner with Hope Network. She is married to Chad and together they are raising their three kids. Rhesa loves good coffee, dark chocolate, baseball, theatre, and most any good book.