Birth has always been perilous. For most of our history, conceiving meant reconciling oneself with the possibility of death, even in the act of bringing forth new life. Death and life sat very close together on the birthing bed. Midwives, or wise women, would accompany women in labor into that liminal space between life and death, and would guide them through it with their rituals and plant lore and coaxing hands. They have always been the ones who ensured the human future.
The midwives in Exodus have names, Shiphrah and Puah. Pharaoh is known only by his position, not by his name. His dominance would suppress life and bring about death. He is the opposite of a midwife. When the midwives oppose him, it is life opposing death, the named and specific opposing the general and indifferent.
The spiritual life is about putting away the old and welcoming the new. It is about coming through death into new life. It is about discovering ourselves – finding our true names. And it is about standing with God in opposition to dominance and indifference. This is a journey we undertake many times. Again and again, old selves die so that new selves can be born. It is always perilous. And it is when we are faced with this peril that we might cry out for a midwife. We might hope for someone wise to come and aid us with rituals and lore and kindness.
What has died in you? Do you feel the empty spaces where the dead thing used to be?
What has been trying to be born in you? Are you struggling with a new birth of self?
Who are the midwives in your life right now? Who is helping you?