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A Midwife of Ideas

Giving birth should be your greatest achievement not your greatest fear.” -Jane Weideman

I’m a bit perplexed — perhaps even unsettled — about why the word picture of a midwife remains so striking to me. I’m not even the right gender, nor do I have any children. Yet for some reason the metaphor has stuck ever since first hearing it on a road trip.

My wife Lindsay and I recently set out to join the extended family for a weekend of fishing, boating, and swimming. With several hours to pass, my wife hit up the local library for a few audio books and started with Discover Your Genius by Michael J. Gelb. It’s a book intended to motivate the creative drive of the listener/reader by pulling out insights from some of the greatest “geniuses” in history.

In the very beginning, as Gelb is describing Socrates and Plato and their continuing influence on the world, a passage jumped out at me and has remained with me ever since. Gelb says that that Socrates thought of himself as “a midwife of ideas.”

Amazing. A midwife of ideas.

I created a mental bookmark knowing that I would need to reflect on and eventually flesh out why the phrase was so compelling to me. Yet it remained an incomplete word picture until speaking with a friend who actually works as a midwife herself. I was so driven by the phrase that I asked her for some perspective on the beauty of her job and why she chose the profession.

“The word ‘midwife’ actually means ‘with woman’,” she explained. “For me that sums it up. I am able to come alongside a family in the most beautiful yet fragile moments and be a part of a major point of transformation in their lives. I can speak to their physical, emotional, and spiritual health in those moments and encourage the birth of something beautiful. I love my job!”

Not only did I leave the conversation with a deeper appreciation for the role of a midwife, but I suddenly understood with much greater clarity why my heart leaped when I first heard that phrase from the audiobook. While an actual midwife is gender-specific, tied to a particular life-stage, the analogy fits for everyone with a dream that’s yet to become an expressed reality, an idea without proper formation, or potential not quite realized. Within a few words, Socrates states with simple accuracy the role we all play as co-creators calling forth a good creation from the void.

It is my role to play midwife to the God-given ideas that come to me. It is my role to speak life to them, to create an atmosphere where transformation can take place and where the birth of a new thing is the end result. Entrusted to me, and to the community I am a part of, is the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of the idea that I am pregnant with.

I’ve recently switched jobs, stepping down from a long-term ministry position to enter into a time of writing. It was purposeful, coming after years of telling close friends and family members of the numerous ideas I felt brewing inside me. These were the folks cheering me on as we made the transition that allowed me to write full-time. Yet, I’ve quickly realized that making such a transition doesn’t ensure that the idea will come to fruition.

Instead the shift in vocation was only the beginning of a long series of moves I must continue to make. Attending to the physical, spiritual, and emotional health of my own self and those closest to me will help to facilitate the writing before me. I must attend to the discipline of the craft, write when I do not feel like it, and nourish my understanding by taking in the beautiful words of others, all of which were once unborn ideas.


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