|James Laing/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0|
Back in the beginning of the North American pandemic shutdown, author and historian Kate Bowler used the occasion of Easter to reflect on the subject of "setting horizons while dealing with precarity." Basically, the pandemic's indefinite nature was threatening our human capacity to understand and work within limits; all of a sudden, we were operating without bounds. Bowler counseled at the time, "If the world can't set a horizon for you, then we need to set it for ourselves ... because there's so many choices we have to make, especially when we're fragile."
I have thought of her insight and of my own horizons every month, every week, every day since, but especially in the past few days as we passed the one-year anniversary (and god willing the only-year anniversary) of living strictly within the confines of our homes and immediate households. This time last year I was unmoored—balancing remote work and safe childcare and all our newly overturned routines, foregoing in-person church services during the holiest Christian liturgical season, and grasping for any available horizon. First came Easter. Then Pentecost. Then my first COVID-era in-person visit with my parents. Return to daycare. End of summer. End of autumn. End of 2020. Vaccination. And yet the horizon continues to extend and blur.
What I have now that I didn't have 12 months ago, however, is literal hope growing inside me. I am pregnant with my second child, halfway to my summer due date, and my horizon is the sharpest it's been in quite some time. Incredible how the awesomeness of new life helps me put everything else in perspective. Where before my mind, spirit, and body were yanked in different directions, now they have united in common purpose to bring this human safely into the world and keep me healthy and whole, too.
On Ash Wednesday last month, my pastor turned the usual "lament-repent-remember you'll die" message on its ear (probably because everyone's been stuck in a mortality-reminding Lenten world for the past 52 weeks, but I digress). Instead, he spoke of Lent as "full of possibilities, if only we choose to see it that way."
The minute he said that, my weary heart leapt and said, "I choose it! I choose to see it that way!" For how I can not see possibility when I imagine all the shapes, traits, and paths of a new child? How can I not see possibility when daylight lengthens again without my doing anything? How can I not see possibility when I tell my son that when the tomatoes are ready in the garden, so will his little sibling be ready in Mommy's body, and in speaking these words of life I feel the summer heat again, smell the vine-green scent on my fingertips, and taste dribbling juice on my tongue?
This path toward the new horizon is not only full of possibilities but also full of wonder, and here I experience the tension between the two concepts. I need the horizon for definition and certitude; I need the wonder for hope and awe. The first requires me to process and conclude, while the second asks me to dream and stay tender. Both states are necessary right now, and the gift of my pregnancy places me squarely at their intersection.
When I shared the news about my previous pregnancy, I was agog at the miracle of it all. Every experience was fresh, a first. I had all the time and room in the world to contemplate our family's future and our connection to the divine mystery. Three years later and older, as a working parent of a chatty toddler during a global pandemic, I look back with wry laughter at the luxury of that space, and I place my hands on my basketball belly and think, "Poor kid. Already such a second child."
But this child will benefit from a reality their brother did not immediately face: heightened stakes. They will arrive in an exhausted, frightened, and grieving world, yet they will seek exactly what every baby before them has sought—warmth, safety, food, love. The past year has driven home for me how interconnected and interdependent our planet is, how essential and shared our humanity, and here comes an adorably tangible, loudly vocal reminder of that cohesion, straight to the bassinet in my bedroom.
How full of possibilities are the next four months. How full of possibilities is this new small person. How full of possibilities is our world beyond this cataclysm. May we see and hold them all.
Prayer #366: Stretch Marks
Horizons extend, and I stretch with them.
Possibilities abound, and I stretch toward them.
I am sore some days from the effort. The steady trudge taxes my ankles. My back groans with the weight of the undertaking. But my soul remains energetic and eager; delight in discovery gives it wings.
Lead me—lead us—toward the destination my soul so easily recognizes, even when my body protests and my mind cannot comprehend. For in the end we shall have each other to hold, and we will rest, beloved, with You.