Tuesday, December 23, 2014

On Another Night


“I don’t know if I want to go through this ever again.”
I understand. I felt like she did. Twice. Some women feel like that a dozen times, depending on how things turn out. And some would do whatever it takes to go through it at least once, but they never have the chance.
There’s enough sorrow on all sides to make us wonder why it has to be this way.
It’s a consequence, I guess. We can trace it back to that unfortunate snack attack of the first Mr. and Mrs. If only they’d been happy with plums and bananas, instead of acting like chocoholics on a midnight binge. Then maybe the ‘fruitful multiplying’ that followed would have been as easy as an apple falling from a tree.
I guess we’ll never know.
But sometimes I wonder—why did birth pains have to be the price for the woman’s sin? Why must something so miraculous cast such a fearful shadow? “I will greatly multiply your grief and your suffering in pregnancy and the pangs of childbearing,” He told her, as she listened in dread. “With spasms of distress you will bring forth children.” (Gen. 3:16)
Every mother does. And that’s only the beginning.
As if parenting challenges aren’t enough, we’re never the same after childbirth—even our psychology changes. For example, to the best of my postnatal memory, I was once an adventurous girl. I dreamed of going to France as an exchange student. I wanted to jump out of airplanes and ride horses wildly across a ranch. Somewhere. Not on the same afternoon, of course. I didn’t get a chance to do any of those things, but I did eat a homemade pizza covered in sautéed rattlesnake—once. And I waded through an alligator-infested river beside my damaged canoe while I was pregnant. Actually, that one might have been kind of stupid.
But once I gave birth, everything changed. I gave up serpent chow for meatloaf and threw away my oars. Because now I wasn’t living for myself—a couple of helpless little someones depended on me for their very life.
It’s not just a woman’s psyche that changes in motherhood—she pays a price with her body to bring a new life into the world. Girlish figures change forever—hips get wider, boobs get longer. We all have scars, inside and out.  Listen, getting that kid out can leave a mark. The pain we each undergo is unimaginable, known only to other women who have endured the same thing. But ask any mother you know and she’ll tell you it’s absolutely worth it.
Men have no idea.
No, there is one Man Who understands.
He also suffered unimaginably so He could give us Life. Agonizing alone, he literally sweated drops of blood in His distress. Ironically, all these years after His resurrection, His imperishable body is still scarred from His ordeal.
God sent His Son, but where was He while His Son suffered? He was right there, “in Christ Jesus, reconciling the world unto Himself.” That’s not the picture most of us have of Him, is it?  God is not a Punisher Who stands at a distance, reveling in the miseries we bring upon ourselves. He stepped down into our dimension and experienced, in flesh like ours, the distresses of our lives.
Why did He do it? “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2) What joy? How could there be joy in such suffering?
Maybe the clue lies in another night, thirty-three years earlier. Remember? A young woman, virtually alone, endured childbirth’s spasms of distress in the worst of circumstances. But for the joy set before her, she endured. And the world has never been the same.
I am amazed by that courageous young mother, as I am amazed by every woman’s courage in her uniquely painful circumstances. But it is the extravagant love of God that makes me catch my breath. He took on Himself the curse of our sin so we could become His very own children.
Maybe the shadow that fell across childbirth was a foreshadowing of the pain God Himself would experience one day so we can have new life. No wonder Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be born again.
There is no life without birth. And no matter what it costs, it is absolutely worth it.

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