A Labor of Love

Three weeks ago I witnessed the miracle of life first hand. Standing in the delivery room of our small local hospital I held my wife’s hand as she labored over the birth of our second child. Few experiences in my life past, present, and future will hold a candle to that one. It is not that the birth of my older son wasn’t special. It was also one of the most wonderful days of my life, but it was different. When he was born, instead of being in a delivery room, I found myself gowned up in the hospital’s operating room. Due to my son being breach my wife needed to have a cesarean. During that birth a sheet separated me from his arrival into this world and the anticipation of seeing him was almost more than I could bear. This time was different though, and I viewed with my eyes the natural birth of a child, free from any filtration or dilution. It has, for certain,changed my perception of life in many ways. It has also changed my perception of my wife. What she did that day was more than just a natural process or a medical procedure. It was a labor of love. It has fallen to the woman to carry the child, to labor in birth, and even to sustain the child after it is born. As for the man, well, our lot appears to be one of a supportive bystander. I will never forget hearing a comedian declare that the role of the man was kind of “pathetic” in comparison. I of course laughed at the truthfulness of such a statement. However, now that I have seen the birth first hand and with my own eyes, I prefer to see my role as one of a sacred observer.

On that day three weeks ago I witnessed a miracle. In truth I had been observing and witnessing a miracle for the previous nine months, but those moments of labor and birth are different. My wife was doing the difficult work of giving birth, and so observing the event was all but impossible for her. However, to me in those moments watching and absorbing it all was a priority. In my family and in my marriage, I am now the historian of the days that she labored and pushed to bring life into this world. Now I say all that because I have begun to consider more distinctly what the Scripture has to say about birth and labor. There are certainly a number of verses which discuss pregnancy, childbirth, and children. David declared in Psalm 139:13 that God, “covered me in my mother’s womb.” He goes on to praise God in verse fourteen because he is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” How we can live in a world that at times views pregnancy as an unwanted disease which must be cured and unborn children as a tumor which must be extracted is beyond me. I will never forget seeing my oldest son on the little sonogram monitor only ten weeks after conception. Even then I could see him moving his little arms and legs. Life is a gift from God and children are a gift from God. Solomon declared in Psalm 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” Children born and unborn are a to be seen as a “reward”, not as garbage which must be disposed of or as a problem which must be fixed. All these things I was convinced of before, but being a witness to birth has shored up my walls of belief and created a fortress in my heart which will never be besieged or torn down.

As I witnessed the arrival of my son into this world, I kept thinking about my spiritual birth. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3: 3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus confused by Jesus’ statement asks what is meant by this and if he must once again enter into his mother’s womb. Nicodemus’ question seems to be intentionally absurd, and given the effort his mother must have spent in his physical birth, I am sure that she was happy that she did not need to go through it again. Jesus was of course speaking of a spiritual rebirth. I don’t believe it is any coincidence that birth has become an analogy for salvation. It is certainly a perfect analogy if there ever was one. You see our salvation did not come without a cost, just as the birth of a child does not come without a cost. Jesus’ death on the cross was a labor of love. Our salvation comes at the price of his pain and suffering on the cross. In fact in John 16:21, Jesus uses the analogy of labor to describe his departure and the coming of the Holy Spirit. He says, “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” I witnessed the power of labor pains, even though I will never know what they feel like. Yet, for most woman I talk to, they are counted as a small price to pay to bring their children into the world. Many have even indicated to me that in the moment they held their child, all thought of that momentary pain seem to vanish (at least for that glorious moment). To Christ, his painful death was a price worth paying to ensure our forgiveness and salvation, and it was love in it’s truest expression. It is very fitting that the old Lutheran hymn says in questioning adoration, “What wondrous love is this?”

As my son was delivered and I gazed into his eyes for the first time, I was astounded by the brave act of love that had brought him into this world. I believe it has only increased in me the value I see in my children and the love and deep respect I have for my wife to have endured such a trial. It has also reminded me of the sacrifice of Christ my savior who willingly sacrificed himself on my behalf. In fact a study of Scripture reveals much of the paternal role of God in our lives, but that is a discussion for another time. For now I am simply thankful for the physical birth of my second child and for my own spiritual rebirth.

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