A Stretch Marked Soul by Robynn
When I was pregnant with my first child, my beloved grandmother instructed me to get some coconut oil based cream and apply it to my enlarged belly. She claimed, with conviction, that it was a way to prevent stretch marks. I followed her instructions that first pregnancy. To be honest I’m not sure if that particular round of baby-growing produced stretch marks or not. I don’t remember. I do know that in the next two pregnancies I neglected to use the miracle coconut oil goo and I do know that I now boast a delightful map of markings all across my abdomen.
C’est la vie!
Now I’m wondering if there’s a similar preventative ointment to be applied to the soul. Or is there something that can be soothed into the stretched soul retroactively to minimize the lines?
My friend Rachel is a doula. She’s also studying and apprenticing to be a midwife. Several times a week she meets with women whose bodies are morphing, changing, growing. They are stretched–magnificently –to accommodate the most amazing, yet common, miracle: birth! These women are willing to undergo this bizarre bulking in order to participate in the birthing of life. Astounding yet glorious.
The word stretch actually implies resilience. One definition suggests expanding or extending or enlarging as if by physical force. Another definition of the intransitive verb, according to Merriam Webster, says, to become extended in length or breadth or both; to become extended without breaking. As an adjective it means, the ability to revert to original size and shape after being stretched, squeezed and twisted as in stretch fabric that doesn’t wrinkle or sag.
The soul that’s been stretched by personal agony, by family disasters, by community devastations is forcefully extended and consequently exhausted. (Coconut oil doesn’t seep that deep). I am beginning to see that perhaps we have a choice in the outcome of such circumstances. We can choose to be brittle and bitter. We can cross our arms, stamp our feet and refuse to give. We can choose to be unyielding, unresponsive, inelastic, inflexible. The soul can abort the lessons of loss and tragedy.
Or, and I’m only just now catching glimpses of this, we can choose to stretch. Our souls can give into the pulling and protruding. We can participate in what is being birthed in us. Something must come from the near-breaking misshaping.
What feels like it’s killing us might actually bring life. What seems like death might result later in birth.
The soul can be as pliable as the uterus but it takes time to regain its original shape. And even then it’s never really the same. The stretches produce marks that proclaim the story. They outline the ways we’ve been converted. Our souls are transformed in to deeper and wider vessels to contain more of the Presence, more of the Mystery. We learn and grow and we are ever changed, from glory to glory. Would we want to undo that? We don’t want to be who we were. Our lives, our spirits, our souls are made over by our sorrows, our griefs, our calamities.
Stretch marked souls are souls that have leaned into the Holy Midwife. They’ve worked together to endure for the joy set before them. There is birth, messy and marvelous. There is life, bloodied and born.
Like my grandma, my friend Susanne, has an age-old treatment for my stretch marked soul that she texted me early this morning, “REST. (God) isn’t going anywhere, and you’re actually still going through a huge transition. In time, your new normal will allow routine time with (Jesus) again. For now, just let (Him) minister to your soul in rest and recuperation without you having to “do” something…(unless it’s fun, life-giving and restorative)!”
I’m going to try massaging that in to my spirit for a long while. I suspect I’ll always bear the stretch marks. The Rest Remedy will surely help them fade. But I choose resilience. I choose to cooperate with what’s been going on. The labour has been long and at times arduous but something mysterious is being birthed in me!
Picture Credit: http://unsplash.com/