Word of the Week

Waiting With Hope- Day 6: Susan Smartt Cook

The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst. Luke 17:20b-21

For hours, years, I’ve waited for babies and hoped with mamas, first as a doula, now as a midwife. It’s wonderful, waiting for the miracle of life to announce itself through a mother’s midnight phone call, “I … think it’s time.”

A first time mother frets about the unknown, a third time mother demands that she should have had her baby by now, if history holds. I listen closely, check that all are waiting safely, and reassure each woman that her time will come and she is fully equipped for the hard work.

I wait with near strangers and with dear friends, holding a safe space for the hard and holy work of new life: the gritty, glorious grace of birthing. I string beads at mothers’ blessings, reminders that each is encircled, supported, and loved. I give out candles, mail them to a mama’s far-flung friends so that when the good work begins, the candles are lit, day or night, rippling across the states. I keep vigil. I wait. I hope.

On call, each night I charge my phone, turn up the ringer, and fall asleep thinking of babies, mamas, and middle-of-the-night births. I wake, jolted by the call, or gently in the morning, surprised: no baby yet. It’s an exercise in patience, letting go. We talk about this early lesson in parenting: releasing control, trusting, hoping. She can’t decide when the work will begin or what it will look like, but she is an integral part of the process, a key ingredient in the concoction. The nuance of mother-baby communication is shrouded in mystery: some part hormone, some part divine wisdom, then the work begins.

I marvel at the miracle in the waiting: there’s a secret conversation between mama-body and baby-body, “Are we ready yet? Baked, prepped, fueled?” Until then, we wait, nourish, and prepare.

This time I’m waiting and preparing in a different way. My sister is adopting a little boy from Uganda, and I will join her for the journey across the ocean to meet a new nephew and bring him to his new home. There are no Braxton Hicks this time, no back pain, cramps, or leaking fluid to signal a slow and steady start. There’s just a cold, quiet phone. She turns up the ringer, goes to bed, and wakes up hoping for the call. The watched pot never boiling, she stokes the flame of her hope for a child not yet her own. She waits with agony and disbelief that these wheels will grind into motion, the court date will be set, and the final stretch of the journey will begin. She waits with grace and patience, recognizing the cry of the orphan reverberating in her own heart. Compassion wells up within, and her heart expands.

My heart expands with hers, and in this waiting, I glimpse God’s upside-down Kingdom in which peace is power and cast-offs are treasured above all. I taste the redemptive power of love and humility, the courage of stepping out to answer God’s call.

Each day without a baby is another day brimming with agonizing hope. Wait. Hold space. The child will come. Searching for God in the space, I notice the trust that can grow in the soft soil of surrender. I tune into the mysterious communication between God and our everyday lives.

God, the midwife, holding space, reassuring us that we are safe and equipped for hard work: to live in love and wait with hope as we allow our lives to unfold into new life.

I am humbled by the unknown, the mysteries, and I hope toward redemption and abiding love. I light a candle, string a bead, and hope for God’s unlikely Kingdom brought full into this moment through my watchfulness, my faithfulness.
And in waiting, hoping, catching my breath, I see how very honored I am to live within a Kingdom of Hope.

Let us pray:

God, please give me eyes to see your Kingdom of Hope, your promise of new life and abiding love, even as I surrender to waiting and holding space for the unknown.

SusanSmarttCookSusan currently lives with her dear husband and black lab in Edmond, OK where she attends St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. On any given day you will find Susan nurturing her small midwifery practice, her kitchen, and next year’s garden. Her hope for this advent is to be quiet, to reach deep into the soil of her soul with the tangled roots of her faith, and to find there the living water that nourishes new hope, love, joy, and peace into bloom.