It’s been nearly 14 years since my last maternity leave.
In the traditional sense of the term, new life is practically bursting forth or has just arrived when maternity leave takes place.
Both of my own maternal leave periods were six weeks long. Six weeks of becoming acquainted with a new creation. Six weeks of anticipating, experiencing and recovering from the birth experience itself. Six weeks to make the often awkward and even painful transition between life before and life after this new arrival. Six weeks filled with the full range of emotional responses – tears, laughter, surprise, disappointment – while in the midst of a strangely euphoric period of exhaustion that tends to rattle the DNA.
Six weeks after which nothing will be as it was before.
When I requested a leave of absence from my work in church ministry – a six week leave – some were quick to liken this time-off to a sabbatical. I agreed. After all, after six years in ministry, even a lay person can benefit from a break. A change in scenery. A study leave. An extended ‘vacation’. I’ve done my best during this time to read and rest and catch up on those things I am perpetually, hopelessly behind in and on – all under the generous umbrella of ‘sabbatical’…
And there’s just one week left to go.
Sitting with my calendar in my lap, to-do list at my side, and the Spirit moving restlessly within, I am struck today by the most remarkably random reality: I am on maternity leave.
New life is bursting forth! Can’t see it yet, but I can feel it coming, and the uncomfortable anticipation just might kill me while I wait.
A new creation has already arrived! It looks a bit like I’d imagined it would, but it is wrinkly and fragile and time-consuming and breathtaking in all of its high-maintenance, miraculous beauty.
I’m trying my best to figure it out! I know what I should do with it, but this isn’t any time to be leading with my head – I am intuitively aware of the need to lead with my heart.
What a long time in coming! I’m exhausted by a growth process that has taken (literally) years, yet what is being birthed has arrived well-nourished, perfectly formed and surprisingly health-full considering my own flawed existence and previously failed attempts at creating from my own strengths something that only God can do.
Emotions wash over me in torrents as: Joy! Awe! Fear! Insecurity! Wonder! Apprehension! Amazement! Uncertainty! What I thought was becoming and what has begun to arrive are not exactly the same, and I am caught un-expecting (both the best and the worst) between bouts of laughter and streams of tears.
What I thought was a badly needed vacation has become, under the direction of the Creator, a home-birth instead. The old ways of doing things will no longer do – new life has come! Along with the former commitments and work-of-my-hands comes a new vision requiring fresh energy and shift in focus, because you can’t do same-old, same-old while holding something holy in your arms.
There is no going back to the way things were before.
I may have thought that the years of raising dreams conceived in passion were almost over, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This has been my spiritual maternity leave.
And this little mama’s bundle of joy – though not flesh and blood, but Spirit-born and God-breathed all the same – can now begin to grow.
Like a new mother... my work has just begun.