Spiritual Midwives by Kathy Escobar

by Christine Sine

Touch of love

midwife [noun, mid-wahyv]: A person or thing who aids in producing something new.

For most of us, when we think of midwife, we think of birth. I delivered 4 of my 5 children with a midwife, and there’s no question that they were the exact right companions for me for that difficult journey. If I compare my midwife births to the one with a doctor (when I had my only daughter), there is no comparison in terms of the love, care, nurturing, and support that I received. My midwives were gentle, strong, challenging, present, wise, compassionate, and patient in a time of extreme pain.

When our faith shifts and we lose so much of what we once held dear, it hurts. When we move out of the comforts of certainty, conformity, and affiliation toward a faith filled with more freedom, mystery, and diversity, we don’t get there quickly. It’s often a very difficult process where we not only lose beliefs but also often structures and relationships, even sometimes our identity.

We need patient guides, people to hold our hands and remind us to breathe, people who recognize and respect the process, and who don’t try to rush it or make us numb it out.

We need spiritual midwives who will help us give birth to something new and help us find life on the other side of a transforming faith.

When it comes to changing beliefs about God, life, the church, the typical western-doctor-medical model often fits with so many of our Christian experiences. The “you just need to take this or stop doing that or believe this” mantra is the response that many of us get when we start to question, doubt, shift, or end up in a weird fork in the road in our spiritual journey. Often, many of us gut it out alone, feeling lost and tired with no one there who understands.

Midwives understand the process of giving birth.

So many people I know are shifting in their faith, longing to give birth to something new but not knowing what’s going to emerge. There can be an incredible amount of fear, confusion, loneliness, and pain in this season of a changing faith. While no one can do the work for us it is so much better when there are others along the way who can help guide, nurture, and remind us that it won’t be like this forever and that something beautiful & wonderful can, indeed, emerge from the pain.

Just like I am passionate about the need for more advocates in the body of Christ to help cultivate justice and mercy on behalf of others, I also think we need more spiritual midwives, companions for the journey of a changing faith.

We need spiritual midwives–patient, wise and safe men and women–who:

  • Remind us not to rush the spiritual transformation process.I have seen so many people who want to move quickly through the pain of a shifting faith or a hard story and get to a new place too quick. It just doesn’t seem to work that way for most people; faith shifting can be long, agonizing, tiring. Midwives remind us we can’t hurry the process.
  • Let us express our pain rather than numb it.They will listen to our anger, fear, venting, hurt, and angst toward church or/and God and not expect it to go away right away. They understand that raw honesty is helpful instead of pretending or numbing out and losing touch with what’s really going on inside. They trust at some point we’ll stop yelling and crying and aren’t afraid of our big feelings.
  • Hold our hand and remind us to breathe. I have some amazing friends in my life who really have stuck with me through all the dark valleys of my journey. They won’t let go of me. They return my phone calls and hold me when I cry. They gently point me toward what’s good, beautiful, and hopeful without telling me what I should do related to faith and how I should do it.
  • Help us see the beauty in the process even when we aren’t looking so beautiful. Giving birth, while lovely in so many ways, also can be fairly rough, hard, messy, and ugly. It doesn’t seem like it’s us at our best, although maybe it actually really is. When it comes to the spiritual things being born and re-born in us, we need midwives who help celebrate the beauty of the moment, of what’s developing, of what God is doing in us in the midst regardless of what it might look like at the moment.

I firmly believe that when Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3 that we must be “born again” that there’s much more to it than just eternal salvation. I think our faith will need to be reborn again and again over the course of our journey.  As I reflect on the need for spiritual midwives, I am reminded again how wild and beautiful and scary “giving birth” to a renewed faith really is. There’s no question it is full of paradoxes: pain and joy, hope and fear, pretty and ugly.

It’s why we need companions and guides along the way who will help us see the beauty, hope, life, light, and possibility that can emerge if we bravely stay with it and trust that something new, something good is coming even when we can’t believe it.


Today’s post is written by Kathy Escobar as part of the series Finding Faith Through the Faith Shifting Processwhich was in fact inspired by posts on Kathy Escobar’s blog and her series on Spiritual Midwives.

Kathy co-pastors The Refuge  a mission center and Christian community in North Denver dedicated to helping hurting and hungry people find faith, hope and dignity alongside each other. An advocate, spiritual director, and speaker,  Kathy has written several books, including Down We Go: Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus and the newest, Faith Shift: How to Find Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart (releasing October 21st). She blogs regularly about life and faith at www.kathyescobar.com.

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Mark Votava October 7, 2014 - 9:11 am

Great thoughts Kathy! I couldn’t agree more that our journey in embracing a faith shift is painful, difficult and lonely at times. Men and women need spiritual midwives to birth something new within us. It seems to me that when life is born into the world it is through a lot of struggle and pain. I have learned this from my three sisters who have children and they have grown and changed so much over the years, but it is a part of the development process. My five nephews and three nieces all contribute to the world in their own ways as they have been nurtured and cared for. Can’t wait for your new book to come out!

Becky October 7, 2014 - 3:28 pm

I just wrote something on my Facebook community page Grit & Grace about a shifting, though I didn’t name it there. It’s about hell. Then I read this. Very good. And then I see you’re from Denver. I live in west Denver, near Red Rocks. Also very good. Maybe I should take some time to come check out The Refuge.

kathyescobar October 8, 2014 - 5:22 am

that’s so fun, that you live in denver. thank you for sharing and hope that our paths cross sometime here. that would be great. i love the words “grit and grace”!

kathyescobar October 8, 2014 - 5:23 am

thanks, mark. it’s always awesome to hear from you and always appreciate your perspectives and sharing.

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