Today's reading: Exodus chapter 1, especially Exodus 1:15-21
Their labor was hard (But then, the birthing mothers would chuckle, Isn't it always?).
Their lives were bitter, their backs groaning under the weight of brick and mortar, their knuckles aching from the rigors of the fields. The Pharaoh's demands ruled every day, every night, every waking thought.
In the tents where the women's backs groaned under the weight of the ninth month, where their knuckles ached from gripping supportive hands while they strained to bring forth life. There, too, they received the Pharaoh's commands... but there, the midwives, women whose every day, every night, every waking thought was of babies' first breaths, could not bring themselves to be angels of death.
And when he asked--that high-and-mighty, that thinks-himself-god, that owner-of-lives--when he asked them why they'd dared to disobey, the women shrugged their shoulders, looked at him without guile, cast up their eyes in wonder, and said "Oh, sir, we wanted to do your bidding! But the Hebrew women are just too strong... they gave birth before we could even get there!" And later, no doubt, in their secret rooms, collapsed together in fits of giggles.
Shiphrah and Puah dared to choose, in a life where they ought not to have had choices. They obeyed a Master high above their king, and while the Pharaoh might have demanded their servitude, they instead devoted their service to the beloved people of Yahweh. The midwives--slaves, women, grunt workers (literally!)--heeded a call far beyond their condition: the very salvation of their community.
They seemed to hear through the Pharaoh's command, as if it were inverted, or even an inside-out version of the call they knew to be real. They understood Yahweh's summons to be the exact opposite of the instructions given to them by their worldly "boss": theirs was a call to bring life, not death. To bring to birth not only a few living baby girls, but to midwife all God's precious children--the whole people of Israel. In the face of one who would use them to control and destroy, theirs was a call, simply, to do their job and no other: to live out their training, their caring, their comfort, their hand-holding, their encouraging, their messy screaming hands-on life-bringing joyful vocation.
. . . . . . . .
Am I being dared to choose, though I may feel like I have few choices? Where am I being called to work of messiness and joy? Where is there new life for my community, and how can I help to bring it to birth?