What I Knew In My Dying Day: a Wild in the Hollow Guest Post by Tara Owens
Please welcome Tara Owens here. This piece of writing is a beautiful honor to have here. Yesterday I shared about my abortion and encouraged you to share your own brokenness, for the health of the church and the world. It’s why I wrote Wild in the Hollow. Tara’s story today is a different kind of peek into the terrified heart of a mother. This is a picture of bravery I hope you’ll share with all your friends.
I remember the way it sucked the air out of my lungs, even as I leaned forward, trying to reassure the one apologizing in front of me. My husband held my hand and I white-knuckled his bones like we’d just been shoved over the edge of a cliff and only his fingers could open the parachute.
Moments before we’d be talking about diet, cutting out salt, me nodding politely but not agreeing inside at all, my free hand on my 22-week belly. I like my bacon.
And then she spoke it, this doctor sitting across the desk in front of us, trying to soften things by saying her sorrys first.
“I have to tell you, that in order to protect your life, I recommend you terminate.”
There are things you hear in the first telling because your soul is thirsty and ready, your soil drinking it up like water. And there are things that you hear only later, after the words are spoken, because the strength of the light in you blazes out, swallowing the dark, refusing to give it quarter.
It took weeks to make sense of it, this pronouncement that the life I carried put mine at risk, this belief that pregnancy might mean the death of me. I walked around dazed, as if desire would have even given me a choice, knowing that the wanting had lead me here, that the wanting would lead me home.
The specialists made no sense of it. Every time I chose risk and desire—the beating heart of the babe within me—instead of safety and the surgical, they shook their heads. Every time I leaned into the possibility of losing my life, they told me to save it, to grasp and control.
It’s false to say it was easy. This wanted one, this child, had come to us after more than a year of trying, of charting and calculation and disappointment drenched in blood. This star coalescing inside of me pulsed with heaven’s light, streaks of white and black etching the ultrasounds with the holy. Sure there was hope, but it called out across the eternity, only faint echoes arriving at my straining ears.
Looking death in the face each day, it makes you want to numb. Living with the possibility of the end in each moment, you want to turn your head away. Giving up your life for a face you’ve never seen; the only thing that makes that possible is desire. The kind of love that reaches not over death but through it; the kind of love that takes your hand and says, “Walk how I’ve walked, beloved. Let the beat of your broken heart sing my story. My love is stronger than death.”
I wanted this child because I had been wanted first. The desire of God for me was a forest fire compared to the spark this girl baby ignited in me. The sacrificial choice made for me made me want to make that same choice. The desire for this life hidden within made me giving up my outward life possible.
So I walked through the valley of the shadow; the unknown, the risk, the pull of safety a siren song that tried to pull me toward destruction. Some days the song of heaven was loud enough to drown out fear’s voice; others the rhythm of the world interrupted my dance with the kingdom and I lost my step.
Sitting on the brittle white paper of another doctor’s office, another specialist listened to my wild desire and looked at me in hollow unbelief. I was telling him I was willing to lay it all down, to risk my life so that another might live.
“I guess you’re just more free than I am,” he said and shook his head.
I shook mine, aware that love compelled me no other way.
And that’s the kingdom I serve, the one that calls me beyond my own life not out of blind duty but out of wild desire, love laying itself down for another. That’s the Jesus I know, who called me out of my own chaotic wanting, even as he had been hovering over me the whole time, called light out of darkness. And then there was the first day.
A friend gave me a necklace to wear during the birthing, the bringing forth. The time they thought might kill me, I draped myself in God’s words and love for this little light within. On the other side of fear lies freedom. Thirty-two hours of laboring through death toward life, I threw up just before those last few pushes, my body emptying of everything within.
In snowed in September on the day she came forth, and I knew it was the world made new once again, covered in white, flakes of manna coming down, pieces of Eden. I held her in my arms and I knew. I knew. It was my dying day, and Love brought me life instead.
Tara M. Owens is a spiritual director with Anam Cara Ministries (anamcara.com) and the author of Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh & Bone published by InterVarsity Press is March 2015. She is the senior editor of Conversations Journal (conversationsjournal.com), a spiritual formation journal that seeks to bring transformation in Christ. She drinks in good words, loves Dr. Who, Jesus and red velvet cupcakes, not necessarily in that order. She lives with her husband and her light-filled daughter in Colorado.