I remember my first experience with labor; I remember all 26 hours of it. From the feeling of defeat that came over me, 18 hours into the experience when the doctor broke my water and said I couldn't have an epidural just yet, to the unparalleled joy that was gifted to me on the 26th hour, when I saw the face of the blessing that made it all worth it. The most unspeakable pain gave birth to one of the purest loves I have ever known. And it makes sense, because it fulfills God's promise. Not the promise of pain, that was a consequence, but the promise that we would all be delivered from our pain. It's the symbolic fulfillment of hope that God works all things for our good when we follow him, in spite of and during our inevitable human pain.
But this pure love is so hard to keep, and the thought of it being taken from me in an instant brings a wave of sickness over me like nothing else can; the loss of a child is one of the worst pains, I imagine. In those 26 hours I experienced what I would know for the rest of my life: the constant struggle of how to move forward when I'm not sure how to, the determination to have faith in God's divine strength in my most vulnerable moments, the constant reminder of my human limitations. All of these provide me with the opportunity to restore what Eve destroyed, the possibility of being as close to my God as humanly possible.
Success arises out of these opportunities when I learn to do the very thing she failed to do: Depend on Him for my identity. To not allow sin to define me, whether it's the fear of losing my child, the fear of failing that child, or the fear of not being enough.
I don't believe it was a mistake that the angel Gabriel first appeared to Mary before Joseph, when he announced they would be Christ's earthly parents. I also don't believe it was a coincidence that Jesus first appeared to women when he resurrected. Eve was the first person to bring suffering into the world, and God sent his own son born of a human woman to provide the sacrifice that would end spiritual suffering by enduring and overcoming more physical and spiritual pain than any of us would ever know. The pinnacle was when he announced the end of spiritual pain by first appearing to a woman, Mary Magdalene.
We know that Jesus himself cried out to his father at the crucifixion, much like we do when we feel alone in our struggles. We are also told, in that very moment God turned his face away because Jesus made himself the ultimate offering in our place by representing all the sin of the world. This is something we will never have to know.
As mothers, we would trade places with our children in their moments of suffering if we could, but we cannot. Daily, we lay our lives down for them in various ways, though. We function on little sleep and still love them the best we can, even when we are not at our best. We make financial sacrifices for them. Directly and indirectly, our time becomes their time. Our meals are cold while theirs are warm. We exchange a sneeze in the face for a kiss. And the best part? As it's been said before, only they know what our heartbeat sounds like from the inside. They turn toward our familiar voice when they are just newborns. Even our smell comforts them. We share all of these things and more with our Heavenly Father. He delights in our joy in the same way, too.
We often forget these things, as our children do when they are angry at us. But our Father's voice manifests itself in various ways throughout our day; he whispers to us and we are comforted by his promises. Metaphorically, we know the sound of his heartbeat because we were made in his image.
So, yes, Eve may be the one to blame for our labor pains. But God used that situation to our advantage, and he's made it known in so many obvious ways, these are just a few of them. May 14, 2010 is Mirabel's birthday, but it also marks the day that I began the journey of discovering and depending on God more than ever before.
Christianity is often criticized as being an enemy of feminism. But let me tell you, the most vocal and fair feminist I know is Christ himself. There is greatness in manhood, too, of course--just look at that man's life! But femininity itself is depicted as weakness, and motherhood is sometimes viewed as second-rate, or settling. I believe we all have our calling, but I know I have found mine because everyday I find myself in situations, both unbelievably difficult and wonderful, that allow for a greater understanding of love, or my Creator. Isn't that the reason for our existence, anyway?
God doesn't promise the absence of pain in any situation, but he promises his presence. We decide his proximity, though. I believe that God uses motherhood as a unique vehicle to draw us near. It's an on-going job that offers unending challenges with blessings that only reveal themselves when we allow God to reveal himself during those challenges by depending on him. Eve missed the point. God didn't want her to be him, he wanted her to know him by drawing near so that she would realize she wasn't lacking anything, after all.