There’s a verse in the Book of Isaiah that has lately struck me — a verse that sums up the indirect (though certainly powerful) way God often works in the world. In context, the passage is about forging swords for wreaking havoc, but I think it applies to midwives, maternity nurses, and you.
Here’s what the verse says:
See, it is I [the Lord] who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
— Isaiah 54:16 (TNIV)
What’s striking is that it doesn’t say God makes the sword but rather makes the blacksmith who makes the sword.
Photo: Tina Compton, R.N., bathing Lucy in the dim light of the delivery room.
Can God make swords himself, without human assistance? Undoubtedly; it can’t be much harder than turning water into wine. But more typically in his economy, God makes blacksmiths. And Isaiah isn’t saying God simply created the people who become blacksmiths — but that he makes them into blacksmiths. These are accomplished professionals who build up a lifetime of knowledge (itself built on previous generations’ discoveries in metalworking technology and traditions in the art) and set their hands to the task with dedication and attentiveness. So there’s human agency all over the place here, but Isaiah is saying that God is behind it. This is a subtle but compelling vision of the divine energy within vocation.
In Isaiah’s prophecy, these sword-making blacksmiths are making weapons for judgment, but I think the principle seen here applies to many of God’s purposes in the world — not only justice, in other words, but also mercy, healing, and providence, for example. (In fact, this principle underlies all my ministry with InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministries, and the Following Christ 2008 conference that I’m directing in particular. But that’s another story.)
Photo: Nurse Jenny with Rosie.
God loves to bring babies into the world, and one of the very cool ways he does that is by creating the midwives, nurses, and doctors who help deliver infants. We are so thankful for the skill, professional dedication, and loving service provided by the people who have helped us bring our two daughters out of the womb and get a good start on life. In the case of most of the nurses, we don’t even know their last names:
Jenny Carney, midwife (at right, with Ann and Dora)
Dora Winchester, doula
Jelena, a nursing student
and one or two others whose names we didn’t record
And these are just the professionals whose names we learned! There are countless others working the maternity ward with various titles (or no titles at all), and all of them blessed us, too.
Photo: Ann with the lactation consultant Karen and our nurse Nicole during Lucy’s hearing test.
Knowing that it’s God who makes the midwives and all these folks, we’re thankful not only to these people but also for them, an added dimension that we think enriches our understanding of the world and the people at work in it.
And you, too, are part of this work, because the ways you’ve been caring for us are part of God’s work in the world. Good job!