The Story of the human race has cycled through numerous apocalyptic ages throughout our history and when we are there, it feels like the end of the world. Our current Living in The Story texts lead us readers into Exile with Israel; their previous world has ended and things will never be the same.
At the same time, we encounter the experience of first century Christians after the destruction of the Temple and the defeat of Jerusalem; their world also had come to an end. During both these epochal ages, Judaism and Christianity evolved into something completely different. Something old died and something brand new emerged. A new creation was birthed into the world.
This image of birthing is helpful as we consider how to respond to apocalyptic times. When everything we know, everything we are is in transition, it can feel as if the whole earth is in labor. As I wrote during the traumatic summer of 2020, our world was embroiled in tumult with a deadly global pandemic, threats of economic collapse, climate crises, constant war, rising violence, ethnic conflicts, class divides, and waves of authoritarianism.
As I struggled to understand this societal chaos, I kept reminding myself, as bad as all this is, this is not the worst things have ever been. And I wondered, are we also in labor? Will something completely different be birthed into the world as we make our way through this painful birth canal?
During the first several years of my adult life, I worked as a labor and delivery nurse. Fresh out of nursing school with no children of my own, I coached and encouraged mothers going through labor. The experience deepened me and opened me up to the mysteries of life and death as I had never known them before. As a pastor, I saw myself as a kind of midwife, coaching and encouraging those who found themselves in some turmoil or another. All of us have been there, and most of us recognize how trauma and crisis provide fertile ground for growth.
As a matter of fact (according to the popular example), the Chinese character for “crisis” brings together the two symbols for “danger” and “opportunity;” both realities are present but it is up to us to choose our response. We can give in to the dangers with confusion and panic, or we can focus, breathe, and push through that which is beyond our control.
I believe we need more wise spiritual midwives helping us through these hard times. I believe more of us need to become wise spiritual midwives: grounded, calm, and focused.
If I am right—that we are living in apocalypse in the twenty-first century—then how do we live faithfully?
Read more at Charlotte Vaughan Coyle, Living in The Story: A Year to Read the Bible and Ponder God’s Story of Love and Grace, (Resource Publications)