Call Of The {Spiritual} Midwife

{By Holly Smothers Grantham} (There’s something about a poet and a wordsmith who can shape thoughts which mesmerize a reader. This is what Holly’s writing does to us and we’ve admired her words both afar and near. Her presence may seem a bit quieter in this season of life, but it’s all the more reason to cherish her appearance whenever we find her. So it is, we are coveting her words today as she graciously weaves some of her gentle, searching thoughts on community.)


When I was being formed in the swirling place, where there is neither up nor down, nor left or right, that which came together to form my beating pulse created a somewhat vacillating heart. I am a rule follower and authority questioner, an obedient student and rebellious prodigal. I love rules because they help me know what is expected but I simultaneously hate those very same rules because they tell me what to do. This phenomena is why I did all I could to please my parents but eventually grew to thumb my nose at the ways of the Establishment. I was a straight-A student that drove the speed limit and ordered straight off of the menu only to grow up to live in a commune, have my babies outside of the hospital and homeschool my kids.

There are many folks that would say that these two aspects of my personality are not opposing forces but, rather, are rooted in the same manure pile—my sinful nature. They might point to my desire to please All The People as an outward manifestation of a works mentality and that, at its heart, I really just don’t want to go to hell. While the other side of my fallen self, the one that wants to stick it to The Man and give away my money and call the shots regarding my birthing body and my children’s minds…well, that is just me being prideful and stubborn and unteachable.

Honestly, it’s all of that and none of that.

It’s true that I don’t want to slide into heaven on the tails of someone else’s greatness. I want to be welcomed gregariously with pats on the back and celestial murmurings of all I did to bring God’s kingdom right on down to Earth. I really like being noticed. One of my love languages is words of praise and my hungry heart feeds on every scrap and morsel passed my way. And I get that Jesus is not exactly thrilled with my need for illustriousness.

It’s also true that just because a whole lot of people, who speak louder than I tend to, believe things should happen a particular way doesn’t mean that said way is The Way. Even when their words are wrapped in onion skin or have been gifted from generation to generation I am not fond of institutions that question the Spirit whispers placed in the very core of me.

And so I wander. Or, at least I do these days.

I do not have a church community with whom I regularly worship. My husband and I have different ideas about what doing church might or should look like for our family. My kids are not immersed in a specific church culture that is shaping their hearts in a certain fashion. We are, in a First World way, spiritual nomads.

But I’m beginning to see that the way we are walking this Spirit path is not unlike how I approached having my first two babies. I used a midwife to assist me in delivering those children in my own home. And, although it appeared otherwise to the uninitiated, my husband and I were fully aware of what our choice meant for my two deliveries.

Having my babies at home meant that a great deal of my labor would proceed in the quiet, hidden places. I would not be joining the chorus of other laboring mothers in the expected location or be following the directives of the expected authoritarian voices. I was choosing to walk a lot of this road alone.

But not really.

For you see, my husband was there. My parents were there. My closest and dearest friends were there. And my midwife was there.

Some of these folks had given birth before. Some of them were being introduced to this miracle right alongside me. And my midwife, well she had grabbed the hands of hundreds of women, linked arms to help them stand and squat and push their way through these places, and she had wisdom that spoke strength and hope into my very marrow. Together, all of us stumbled our way towards the ecstasy of life unfurled. Together, we witnessed heaven come down.

And I’m beginning to feel that the community I gather around me these days—the ones with whom I read books and talk deep or the other writers I’ve met online who weave words that enchant and encourage or the folks from all the crazy parts of my life with whom I catch up with when they visit or my very husband and dear children—well, they believe in the same Jesus who woos and wants me and will not let me go, no matter where I might settle on Sunday mornings and they are becoming the midwife my spirit needs.

Although I am not a member of a specific church family right now, my spirit still groans as in childbirth. There are many things that I do not know how to do and roads I don’t know how to navigate. But this community that I have cobbled together to call on when the pains of life come? They come to me in the dark of night and they tell me how fearfully and wonderfully I am made. They remind me that I have strength untapped if I will only let them walk with me. They know how hard it is but still they do not leave me.

And that, my friends, has the power to save.

“All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

photo credit: Sean Molin Photography via photopin cc


Holly Smothers Grantham

Holly is a wife, very relaxed homeschooling mom of three boys, snapper of photos, coming of age writer and a soul drowning in grace. After years in Atlanta where she attended college, married the love of her life and lived in an intentional community, she found her way back to her home state of Missouri. She now lives in an antebellum stone house, raises chickens (sometimes) and pretends that she lives in the country. You can find her quietly weaving here, or part of the community at She Loves’ online magazine here, or on Facebook here.





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28 Comments on “Call Of The {Spiritual} Midwife

  1. Sigh. Another paradox: how your words can be so naked, so vulnerable, and yet so strong and sure and bold. How they can be remarkably personal, and yet reach to my own deep places. How the Spirit, in the perfection of lucidity and all things certain, can speak through a vessel as vacillating and ambiguous as your own. As my own.

    Indeed, we are a bundle of contradictions, my friend. That no longer scares me as it used to. Now I know it for what it is. Evidence of exactly what you said: this Jesus who woos and wants me and will not let me go. Who will not be hindered in his loving and will never be silenced, despite all the ways we judge our lives inconsistent or unworthy.

    A triumph of grace. That’s what this is. Thank you, Holly. Thank you for this.

    • I’m Amen-ing what Kelli said. And that groaning within us is such a familiar ache for those who do not give up on the Spirit, the Same who goes with us as He leads us. We become more dependent on Him as our lives are expanded with the birth of His workings in our bellies. This is when I want to come over to your house, sit on your couch with my feet curled under me, and have a long, long chat about these things. I’m thinking this may need to happen, one day far off yonder, and we’d have to invite friends and have us a good ol’ ragamuffin church service on a couch or ’round a campfire somewhere.

      • Oh yes, Tammy, let us sit and talk and contemplate and muse…for wherever two or more are gathered…
        And isn’t that the beauty of our faith? That we can HAVE and can BE church, together, wherever and whenever we invite the Lord to join us? That the community of believers is here and now, whether we are currently in a congregation or whether our pew is a table in the wilderness?

    • DITTO HOLLY YOUR WRitING IS AMAZING AND SO HEART Felt. I so enjoy reading it. Thank you for sharing yourself.

    • Kelli, I am finding, more and more, that when we step into that place of vulnerability and drop all pretenses of bravado, what remains standing–our true selves–is splayed open to receive strength. Scripture says the truth will set us free. And that, my friend, is the Good News.

  2. Holly, just wow, friend. I really am not sure what to say– this was just that good. Can I tell you something? I see why we easily became friends. The first couple of paragraphs in which you describe yourself? Sounds exactly like me. We are kindred my dear. This touched me so deep, I am finding it impossible to grasp the words and write them down. You, even if your words are less often found these days, are the most amazing writer I know. And Tammy is so right: It is all the more cherished and savored because we get to sample it less. *Thank you* for sharing your beautiful, quaking heart with us today. Your beauty amazes me and I love you, friend. How is that for words of praise? *wink*. You are so loved from Mississippi…..

    • My goodness, Nacole, such generous words! You have always championed my words, wherever they may land and I am beyond grateful for your encouragement. Nothing comforts a heart more than a genuine “Me, too!” Thank you for giving me that and for allowing me to see that I am not alone. You are a beautiful soul, friend. Thank you.

  3. “But this community that I have cobbled together to call on when the pains of life come? They come to me in the dark of night and they tell me how fearfully and wonderfully I am made. They remind me that I have strength untapped if I will only let them walk with me. They know how hard it is but still they do not leave me.” ————–> All kinds of YES, Holly. We find His Spirit in the quiet, unassuming, intimate places. I’m nodding along with you in this and am so very glad you’re here today.

    • Amy, thank you for inviting me into this community to share my bumbling heart. You and Tammy are curating a beautiful space in this gargantuan web of thoughts and ideas and loud voices. We need these quieter spaces so that we can find and hear that Spirit. I am honored to have been given space.

  4. Holly, this speaks so deeply to me, in so many ways. Some of the ways we do life are so similar, and yet I long to hold your hands in mine and say hello face to face. I too am a spiritual nomad right now, although it’s not what I would choose. But so much of life is like that isn’t it? Thank you for acknowledging the spiritual midwives, near and far, that minister to you. I have them too. I need them too.

    And these references to birth? Oh, I’m swooning. My kind of writing. I love your words, my friend, and I love you.

    • Michaela,
      I read your Fear and the Bittersweet piece and it sings glory. Amazing how we both danced with the same concept, each of us interpreting it in our own way. I am so glad to have you in my life, to stand with me, to help me through the swelling and the receding. It is true that we all need each other, is it not? Love you, friend.

  5. Holly, it sounds like you’re following hard after Jesus and listening to the Spirit. That sounds like ‘church’ to me. As someone who got saved in the 70’s (i.e. Jesus People days) and lived to tell it, I am now recognizing how much we have Americanized our faith walks to look like maybe not what Jesus intended…We’ve churchified a lot of stuff.
    Great post (and one of my favorite Tolkien quotes!)

    • Jody,
      I am sure that you have gained a lot of wisdom in the years since you first came to faith. I am thankful for folks like you along the way to speak well earned truths and understandings into my heart. Thank you for being here.

  6. I get this and I love the way your compared it to a midwife. Surrounding yourself with the people who feel the wooing of the one who was outside of typical church community. Beautifully written Holley!

    • Thank you, Diane. Community is such a beautiful thing and can bring so much life to weary hearts and dry bones. I am grateful to know such a soul as yours.

  7. He offers His spirit, a capable midwife, while we wait for the next seasons birth. Our community holds us and catches our babies. Thank god for His “right now” presence and provision.

    • Yes, Lisha, thank God for presence and provision, indeed! I love your image of community catching our babies, whether they be dreams and visions or our bundle of needs and pain. Beautiful!

  8. Holly, this is just so damn good!!! I had to chuckle as I read your first paragraph because every bit of it is my experience too. Your words have a way of connecting people, acknowledging the seemingly contradictory parts of life, and seeing God in it all. I know I wouldn’t make it without Spiritual Midwives to walk through this Wilderness with me, and with their companionship, showing me that God really does love me – and you! Thank you, Holly!

    • Paula,
      As I said to Nacole, there is so much comfort when folks help you realize that you are not alone, especially when your feelings involve so much angst. Did you know that the word midwife means “with woman”? So I can’t think of a better analogy for those who move in and stand with us, whatever our stage of life labor. I am grateful for your encouragement and kind words.

  9. Pingback: What's in Store for Us, 2014 in Review, & Link Ups - outside the city gate

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