Now I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant. (Isaiah 42:14)
Birth is paradox. Tears of joy fall in tandem with tears of pain. One moment, the room is sterile, and moments later, it looks like a crime scene. There is stillness, and there is chaos. Whispers, and screams. This is the moment we have all been waiting for months on end, the very same moment we cannot wait to have behind us, the moment we would trade anything to not have to go through — the suffering that leads to smiles.
There is, honestly, no human event that compares to witnessing the birth of your child. I hope you get to experience it one day if you haven’t. My wife recently gave birth to our son, Haddon, our second child. Every birth story is unique, and yet, they all share a common bond. And each one points us to a truth deeper than the growth of our family.
The day came when I needed to leave work early. We timed contractions. We called our midwife, who advised us to head her way. We arrived at the birthing center we used late Monday afternoon. 7 centimeters. We took vitals and headed to the delivery room.
Four hours passed. They were much longer than that sentence made it seem. 8 centimeters. I knew that was discouraging news to Hannah. She thought she would be holding her boy by now.
Four (even longer) hours passed. His birthday wasn’t going to be the 12th after all. We checked progress again. About 8.5 centimeters.We’re moving even slower. It felt like a flight that had landed, rode on the taxiway, and was now sitting in the Apron, waiting to de-board.
Our midwife advised that she could break Hannah’s water for her. She warned that it would be more painful labor from here on, but it could make things begin to move. It was a gamble Hannah was not willing to play earlier, but now well over eight hours in, in her words, “something had to change.” We made the call to move forward.
Immediately, everything was different. The intensity in the room was like taking a car from 0-100mph. Before, there was pain, but now, there was agony. Before, she held my hand, but now, she about cut its circulation off with her own. I saw despair in my wife’s eyes. She couldn’t catch her breath. She could only scream. In thirty minutes, we held our son for the first time.
In those moments, I began to feel sorrow. I was sad that such a beautiful, life-changing event is ushered to us by excruciating pain; sad that my wife had to endure it in order to meet her son…to bring me this joy.
It wasn’t always this way. Our mandate to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” follows God’s blessing us (Gen. 1:28). But our sin made keeping this mandate much more complicated and difficult. Impossible, even, without suffering. Pain in childbirth is the first consequence of the curse that God hands down to Eve. It is significant enough that he repeats the consequence. Labor pain was a product of our curse, not our creation (Gen. 3:16).
But more than I was reminded of God’s curse on man and woman, I was reminded of God’s redemption of man and woman. As I watched my wife writhe and cry and sweat, I saw more than the gravity of our sin — I saw the gravity of a Savior.
The crucifixion is difficult for us to reflect on, mainly because we are detached from the reality of it. Even our own nation’s take on the execution of criminals tries to downplay what’s happening. We call it “capital punishment” and offer the more humane and dignifying “lethal injection.” Crucifixion, however, is extremely foreign to us.
Perhaps it’s unintentional, but our distance from the actual horror of the cross leads to a sort of “lightness” in how we often talk and think about it. We use the cross as wall décor. We sing about the cross. But does the cross break our hearts, the way it broke the heart of God?
God gives us the reminders we need in the places we don’t expect them.
In that delivery room, with fresh eyes, I saw more than my wife suffering for the sake of Haddon and I; I saw Jesus suffering for the sake of you and I.
I saw how his pain was the only way to deliver me joy.
I saw how he must have pleaded for the pain to stop.
I saw God Incarnate groan and gasp and pant.
I saw that new birth required having his body broken.
I saw my helplessness in bringing this miracle to pass.
I saw how he would only endure such a pain if for the joy set before him on the other side. What does that say about you and I?
Perhaps it is that we are loved