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Birthing Pains

Birthing Pains

It was Sunday afternoon, and we were wrapping up a meeting with a group of church leaders. I was chatting with a young couple, and Miska urgently interrupted: “Winn, we need to go. My water broke.” Wyatt was two weeks early, but he wasn’t concerned with the calendar.

We rushed home, threw our bags together, scurried to make last minute arrangements for our dog, Tucker, and breathed in the last moments in our quiet home. The hospital is a 50-minute drive from our house, and Miska was well into labor by the time she was wheeled into her birthing room. We had decided she would attempt a natural birth, aided only by my warm—though uncertain—encouragement and the gentle massages of her doula (an ancient Greek term for a motherly woman present to aid the family in the birthing process).

As Miska’s body took over, her contractions growing only a minute apart, the pain intensified. Her breathing, while controlled, was heavy. She was courageously committed to this natural process. However, contrary to the overly zealous stories of the “natural birth” gurus who speak of birthing “love sessions” and moms “squealing with delight” during their contractions, this was no giddy affair. Giving birth is painful.

Mark records Jesus’ allusion to the pain of birth. When a couple of His disciples asked how they would know when the end of the age had come, inaugurating God’s ultimate kingdom reign, He didn’t really answer their question. But He did reveal to them the path God’s plan would follow. Jesus said there would be disturbing events—violent wars, chaos, natural disasters and charlatan messengers claiming to be from God. He said all these would come, but they were simply the “beginning of birth pains.” These distress-filled days were necessary to birth a kingdom, one that would be worth all the agony. As severe as it would be, the passing affliction would introduce a far better day: God’s day.

I thought of this path God has carved into our existence as I sat beside Miska’s bed, early in her labor. I wrote a letter to Wyatt, telling him of my hopes, fears and emotions on this life-altering day. Someday I will give him the letter, and he will sense my heart for him as we eagerly awaited his entrance into our life. Without sharing private words between a father and a son, I can offer a glimpse of what I wrote. I expressed my utter delight over him, sheer joy in God’s gift of him to us. But I also shared my fear and sorrow, fear about a suffering world he would soon be entering, fear of the pain I know will greet him in this life—that I can do nothing to protect him from, and sorrow over the many ways I know I will pass my sin on to him.

As much as I grieve over these things, I also rejoice. In these, Wyatt will embrace his own birth pains. These moments of agony will connect him with his brokenness, and he will see His need for a Savior. God will be gracious to wound him—as severe as it may be at times—to allow him to live out the story of the Gospel. Wyatt’s name means “warrior” and these passing wounds will give birth to something far better than a leisurely life: a man deeply connected with his God, intensely aware of his brokenness, and freed to be the warrior God has created him to be.

We cherish the absence of pain and will do much to guard it. However, God invites us to experience pain because God invites us to allow Him to birth in us something far more valuable than pain’s absence: the fruit of pain’s presence. Without pain, we are unable to connect with the depth of our desperation for God. Without pain, we cannot embrace the wonder of the Gospel. Without pain, we cannot see the Kingdom of God fully birthed in our souls.

Miska completed a 10-hour natural birth, and many of the hospital staff were just as amazed as I was. Minutes after Wyatt was born, she grimaced and said, “Can someone please remind me why I didn’t want an epidural?” A few days removed, the memory of those agonizing hours has eased. And each time she cradles Wyatt, she is reminded that through pain we are given a gift that is far more valuable than the incessant, yet shallow, hope to never be touched by the dread of pain. Hope … and grace … and laughter … and life are nurtured in pain.


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