Thursday, January 20, 2011

Theology and Childbirth?

I once heard a rumor that Katie Holmes wasn't allowed to scream during childbirth because it was against her and Tom Cruise's religion...

I don't know if that is true, but if it is true, and if I were Katie Holmes, I'd be in big big trouble.  

Apparently there is such thing as a painless childbirth.  Mine wasn't one of those.  I experienced a lot of pain, both during and after the birth itself.  Now, granted, a lot of that pain was what I'd label "manageable".  Some people look at me in disbelief at the fact that I was in labor for 16 hours sans medication.  I can't really toot my own horn over that fact.  The first 14 hours were very much manageable and simply could be controlled with a mind over matter mentality (it reminded me a lot of my years as a dancer.  There were plenty of times where I didn't get that lambs wool in my pointe shoe just right and suffered the consequences of my toes scraping against the side of my shoe as I balanced my 120 lbs on top of it.  Alas, the show must go on, despite bloody, blistery toes...that's mind over matter for you.).  

But...those last two hours were unprecedented pain in my book.  Mind over matter went out the window at that point and it just became survival mode.  I mean, I seriously thought it would never end.  I felt like I was at the end of my rope and that I just couldn't go on.  

When all was said and done and Hope was here with us on the outside, my thoughts immediately gravitated towards the spiritual aspect of childbirth.  The Bible talks about childbirth and uses it to paint a picture for its readers.  Now, don't ask me how Paul was fully acquainted with the pains of birthing children when he wrote this, but now that I've experienced it first hand, the following verses take on a fresh perspective for me.  

...that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies...

There's very few times where life is painless.  There always seems to be something, doesn't there?  You can call it life, you can call it bad karma, or anything else you'd like.  I call it sin.  We live in a broken world run by broken people.  We can literally feel in our bones (more often than not) that something just isn't right.  And like childbirth, we try to numb the pain (but talk to any mother who has had a medicated birth, and she won't tell you that it was painless, either).  No matter how hard we try, we can't get away from the pain.  We'll never be able to numb it enough, ignore it enough, or tell ourselves enough that it's just mind over matter.  At some point in our lives, we'll sit where I sat in those last 2 hours, wondering if the pain will ever end.  

I think that's why this picture in the Bible is so encouraging now being on the other side of birth.  Because I know...the pain does end.  And when it ends, nothing else matters.  

You see, the beauty of childbirth, which can't often be said for other painful experiences in life, is that the reward after the pain is instantaneous.  I sit in pain for 2 hours, wondering if I will survive, and then a miracle is placed on my chest.  I forget the pain and it's all a dream.  My life that was completely entrenched in this pain is but a vapor, and my new life with this beautiful gift is here.  

I imagine that is what it will be like when we meet Jesus.  The pain in our lives, in our bodies, and in our souls will be like a dream.  It won't matter anymore.  The pain that so often defines our lives, the pain that we spend so much time trying to drown or numb or ignore will mean nothing anymore.  

So...what have I learned from all of this? 

I don't want to spend my life trying to numb the pain life will inevitably bring.  I don't want to try and drown it out with money or entertainment or stature.  It's not worth it because I know that while it's not as immediate as the gift of a child, there is a great miracle waiting on the other side of this life.  

Rather, what I want to do with my life is embrace the fact that there is pain and trust that God has given me the grace to endure it.  

My pain is gone and my reward is here...Hope.  But maybe if you're reading this, the pain of life is still here and there's no light at the end of the tunnel.  If you're of the persuasion that there's anything to who Jesus said he was, then I hope you remember that there is a miracle waiting for you, and it very well may not come in this lifetime, but when it does come, all that pain will be but a distant memory.