Entering the Doorway of Parenthood

As the sun was turning the western sky an unspeakably beautiful shade of rose, my husband and I sat in rush hour traffic. We were on the way to the hospital for the birth of our first child, and fortunately for me, I was not yet in active labor, so I had the luxury of not being bothered as the cars crept along and impatient drivers honked out their frustration. My doctor had called earlier in the day, requesting to induce labor that evening and citing his concern about a deteriorating placenta in my overdue condition as the reason for his call.

On this bitterly cold evening, before going to park our car, my husband dropped me off at the hospital door, knowing that my maternity coat did not button over my swollen belly anymore and that I was in no shape to jog briskly across the parking lot. Alone, I waddled in the front doors, took two right turns, and found myself standing at the locked double doors of the maternity wing. Before pressing the intercom button to announce my desire to enter, I was brought up short by the enormity of this moment. I stood before the doors, rehearsing the list of preparations we had made—reading books, talking to friends, taking classes, purchasing necessary items, painting rooms, setting up furniture, even praying a decade of the rosary daily in the hopes that Mary would hear my prayers in which I laid bare my anxieties about and dreams for motherhood. I considered a world in which maternity wings are locked in order to protect the babies, and I wondered about my ability to keep this child safe. I thought about all my human imperfections and wondered if I would be able to love my child enough or in the ways the child needed. I had a vague sense that life would never be the same once I held this baby in my arms, but I could not possibly anticipate the dramatic identity shift that would occur as I went from being myself to being a mother. Under my breath, I quickly recited a “Hail, Mary,” and then pressed the intercom button. “It’s Claire Bischoff. My doctor called to say I was coming. I am here to have my baby.”

Photo:  Flickr user Nomade Moderne
Photo: Flickr user Nomade Moderne

In this week’s Gospel from Luke, the image of the narrow door looms large. As Sister Joan reminds us in this week’s Sunday by Sunday, doorways often represent liminal spaces, that is, in between spaces or transitional spaces between inside and outside or between before and after. Often crossing over the threshold means leaving behind the world and our lives as we know them and moving toward a promise of a new life. And yet the crossing over may happen much more gradually in our lives than the literal act of walking through a door which transforms our location in seconds flat. Certainly, as the double doors closed behind me that day at the hospital, they also closed on a certain era of my life. When the nurse laid our new son in my arms fifteen hours later, I was a mother, and yet my transformation to motherhood is not yet complete. There is an already and not yet aspect to parenthood, as we are already parents to our children but not yet the parents we are going to become. Parenthood is a continuing journey, one that demands new learning, a renegotiation of roles, and a willingness to change along the way.

In a similar way, when we enter the narrow door of choosing to follow Jesus, we enter into already but not yet territory. By virtue of our baptism, we are already followers of Jesus, but we are not yet the followers of Jesus that we will become. Our conforming ourselves to Christ is a lifelong process, as we continually strive to follow Jesus’ example of self-giving love. So maybe rather than thinking about a one-time movement over the threshold, we need instead to commit ourselves to a lifetime of choosing to step through this narrow doorway, knowing that while we may fall short of the demanding ethic of Jesus’ doorway, what marks us as a Christian is the desire to keep trying to live as Jesus lived.

What have been some crucial doorway or threshold moments or events in your life? How did your life change as you went through the door?

How are you already a follower of Christ? How are you not yet a follower of Christ? What supports you in your commitment to enter through the narrow doorway of Jesus’ example? What makes it hard to enter this doorway?

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