-Pastor Melissa Fain-
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;
23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Roman 8:22-23 NRSV
It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second child, that I finally really read Romans 8. Guys out there, do any of you know what labor pains are like, or being pregnant in general? (I know the answer’s no, which is why it’s shocking to see Paul use the analogy so loosely.)
Pregnancy can rip your body apart. Skin pulls in ways it is not used to pulling, and very quickly. Your body swells. You can’t fit into your shoes and your fingers feel like sausages. You want to eat strange things, like a jar of pickles in one sitting. I knew a mom that could only manage to eat fried liver, and she hated every bite. The closer you get to labor, the more uncomfortable it is to sleep, but (at the same time) you are so tired. Those last few weeks, you begin to wonder if God’s actually transforming you into a boat, instead of a mother.
At the event itself, even if you are given an epidural for the labor, there is pain that continues afterwards. There are places that tear with natural pregnancy, and the C-Section wound if you go the other route. The person who did the epidural the second time, did it wrong, and it only worked on the right side of my body. The other half felt everything.
And boys, you need to realize this, that period that didn’t happen for 9 months? Well, after birth it’s back, all 9 months of it, and it can last for weeks. The hospital gives these horrid pads too. If they were a little bit wider, they might as well be called a diaper.
Then there’s the post pregnancy weight. The doctors tell you they want you personally to gain weight during pregnancy. What they don’t tell you is that weight could stay with you for years. Also, when fat cells are created, they never truly go away. That means, for the rest of your life it will be easier to gain back that weight, because those fat cells are just waiting to be filled up again.
What was Paul getting at?
Let me first say, compared to Ancient Rome, I can confidently say my pregnancies were way more comfortable than the women of that time.
I also think this sort of language needs to be used more often in the Church- the language of pregnancy and birth.
Finally, I think it’s super uncomfortable to watch a ministerial man fumble through this text to blurt out at the end, “But I honestly have no idea what that’s like.”
So, let me get to the nuts and bolts of this as a ministerial woman; with a confidence that only comes from being a mom that birthed babies- let me lay it out.
Birthing anything will change you.
The absolute truth of labor is this: When it starts you want it to stop, but you have to literally push through the pain to get to that point. It is the point of no return.
When afterwards, when your very body is a forign object, you are left with someone new who has no way to care for him or herself. You need to process and heal, but they need you now. It is the beginning of a relationship: mother to child. Wanting a baby is one of the most selfish things you can want in this world. Being a parent is one of the most selfless. You begin to understand the world differently, as you see it beyond yourself.
We are the product, not the producer in this scripture. We are the result of the Spirit’s labor pains. This is a very feminine image of God that mostly goes ignored. It’s an image that holds negativity of pain and transforms into something beautiful. A God that rips herself apart, and dies to her old self, to be something new for us: A Mom. God isn’t asking us to birth creation, or re-birth humanity. God is asking us to process the brokenness and heal from the deep woundedness of the Church. The issue has already been engaged, so it can’t be stopped. We have to literally push through the pain. It’s the point of no return. If we don’t, we die from it. If we do, we are reborn through that death, made something new as God holds us close.