On Birth…


Behold the first moments of the life of my grandson, Jameson Walker. April 10, 2015. I was there. I took this picture. It remains one of the most prominent and precious moments of my life and, arguably, his.

My own children were born via C-Section, but had they been born naturally without intervention by the medical team, I would not have been able to witness the event like I was with JW. I wasn’t screaming in pain like his mother. I wasn’t anxious like his father. I was simply in the moment and, as my daughter mentioned later “all up in her stuff!”

While this picture isn’t one I normally show people; I don’t have it framed or anything, I think it is beautiful and it causes me to pause and ponder the universe.

The process of birth for a baby seems terrifying. For 9 months he is growing inside a controlled environment. It is warm and soft and for much of the time roomy and comfortable. He is fed continuously, so he never experiences hunger. Toward the end of his time inside, things start to get a little crowded. He twists and turns in his space and eventually ends up head down. Soon, the walls of his cocoon start to shift and spasm, forcing him downward into a tunnel so tight that the bones in his skull move and collapse to make room for it in the tight space. He has no choice in the matter. If mother’s body cooperates and the tunnel expands the way it is supposed to, he is going through all the way to… what?

I am reminded of one of my most harrowing spelunking adventures while in my early twenties. I was in a tunnel in a dark wet cave in Arkansas. The tunnel was so tight that my progression through was accomplished only by shifts in my shoulders and wiggles in my hips. With my arms pinned at my sides, my heels found minuscule purchase pushing my body through in tiny increments that seemed to take forever. Crawling face up through most of the earthen tube, water dripping on my face from a place I could not see, I made my way inch by inch. Like JW in the birth canal, I didn’t know how long it would take or what would be on the other side. I didn’t even know if there was another side; I could have come to a dead end. Eventually, the black tunnel turned downward and there was light. I emerged head down into the world falling into the warm arms of mother earth, just like JW fell into the arms of the medical team.

Thirty years later, as I think about that time in the tunnel, I’m experiencing a little panic. In fact, writing the above paragraph, I had to pause several times, put my face in my hands and calm my heart palpitations. Had I experienced panic inside that tunnel that day, I would likely have died. I could not have turned back. The panic would have caused my body to expand in a place where there was no room for expansion. I would have asphyxiated in the struggle and the tunnel would have turned into my tomb. Jesus, Lord, what was I thinking? I wasn’t thinking. I was young, adventurous and, if I am to be honest, I had something to prove that day.

I am grateful that God watches over babies and stupid people.

This morning’s devotional brought these memories to the surface. The memory of JW’s birth and the memory of the tunnel. The devotional described the process of a chick hatching. The chick becomes uncomfortable and hungry, and stretches and eats its way out of the egg. The egg becomes too confining to stay, but the chick has no way of understanding what is on the outside, it simply knows that it must get out or die.

But, I wonder about a baby during his birth. Have you ever noticed how wise and amused newborns look? Did he truly enter the world completely ignorant of what was happening without words to describe his experience, without a point of reference or means of expectation? Or has he just left the presence of his Creator in full knowledge of everything, with optimism and acceptance? Is he complicit in the process or merely an unwilling and insecure participant?

I’ve often entertained the idea of the “hall of souls” where we stay until God decides it is our time to go on stage and give it our best performance. Are our souls sitting in the celestial dugout, watching the game, until it is our time at bat or another player has been taken out? The Creator says “Hey, Soul #23, I need you to play the position of affluent American white kid in the year 1982. Your parents? Well, they are young and naive, but are eager and have good intentions. Don’t smoke, don’t marry your first love, and you’ll do just fine. Make us proud, son” Then, off you go to some suburb for the next 70 years so. After which our souls return to the dugout to wait for the next assignment.

That would certainly explain reincarnation or past life memories. It just makes me wonder.

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