Friday, January 18, 2013

Love was born

{a story of Khesed's birth}

Falling in love with my husband was not part of the birth plan.

For months, I have been praying that I would love Hans more, and more truly. Six and a half years of marriage taught me just how bound I am to self-love. Praying for divine intervention seemed like a sensible thing to do. I knew God answers prayers. God might even answer this one. Slowly and subtly, perhaps? I expected nothing fancy. But I was wrong.

Hans was the keynote speaker for a conference two weeks before the baby's due date. We had agreed to serve at this event months before we found out we were pregnant. We were really excited though we knew there was a risk that I might go into early labor while he was gone.

Hans was worried, understandably. But I insisted that he must go. I somehow managed to convince myself that I would be fine without him. After all, I've given birth twice. We made arrangements for family and friends to be here in case I do go into labor while he was away. The conference came and gone. And I did not go into labor. For this and so much more, I give thanks.

In the history of Biblical interpretation, many referred to the pain of childbearing as "the woman's curse." However, God himself never said this, not really. God cursed the serpent, and God cursed the ground. But never did he curse Adam and Eve, whom he made in his own image.

Instead, God gave his children pain. It would serve us well to remember that God gives only good gifts to his children. As a consequence of their rebellion, they shall have pain in their fruit bearing and child bearing years.

I had not shed a tear during my first two labors. They were undoubtedly painful, but I did not cry. By the third hour of this third labor, however, my face was wet with weeping. I heard groans unfamiliar to my own ears. Apparently, not all labor pains were created equal.

Pain can be such a cold, lonely thing. I saw myself as I truly was, weak and insufficient. Pain stripped away any delusion that I could manage life alone. I needed my husband. And my God, in his grace, gave him to me, for this hour, until death do us part.

In my delirium, I heard his voice reading Psalms 136, 137, 138, 139. By the waters of Babylon, there I wept, and he pointed me to Zion. I was so very glad I was not alone. As the labor escalated, he pulled me out of despair. His voice instructed me to recite Psalm 8, again and again and again, the way I would instruct the boys at the breakfast table every morning.

I saw my husband, as though for the first time. I saw how he pours himself out for his family and his church. I saw how he serves, how he loves. And there, in the labor and delivery room, God answered my prayer, though his way was neither slow nor subtle. I fell in love, again.

Therefore, I shall give thanks for the pain of childbearing,
for the pain that unveiled my eyes.
In the mess of blood and water,
love met me.

Khesed, Hebrew for Yahweh's covenantal, forever love. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

For this waiting

Waiting is hard.

Time is like a prison. I feel simultaneously confined and stretched (in terms of my patience, as well as around my abdomen). I long to behold his face, to smell him, to feel his baby breath on my neck.

Fact: I am one of those women who have many, many false labors before the real one. If my waiting period is an end-time movie, a whole slew of crazy-weirdo people would have to give all kinds of false alarms before the end actually comes. I don't know why they bother because Christ himself said that no one knows the hour. It will come like a thief in the night. Seriously, people.

OK, fine. Perhaps waiting for my labor has very little to do with the end of the world. But you know what I mean, right?

So, we shall continue to watch, and I am trying to pray.

Recently, I stumbled across a story from the Holocaust. It's taken from a book I read a long time ago, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. In it, two young Dutch sisters, Corrie (the author) and Betsie, were imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. At one point of the story, they wondered how they should pray after learning that their barracks were infested with fleas:
"That's it, Corrie! That's [God's] answer. 'Give thanks in all circumstances!' That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!" I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

"Such as?" I said.

"Such as being assigned here together."

I bit my lip. "Oh yes, Lord Jesus!"
"Such as what you're holding in your hands." I looked down at the Bible.

"Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages."

"Yes," said Betsie, "Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear!" She looked at me expectantly. "Corrie!" she prodded.

"Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds."

"Thank You," Betsie went on serenely, "for the fleas and for—"
The fleas! This was too much. "Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea."

"Give thanks in all circumstances," she quoted. "It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are part of this place where God has put us."

And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.
As the story unfolds, they later found out that the flea-infestation was the only reason for their brief moments of freedom. They were able to read the Bible and talk openly to other women in the barracks because the guards refused to enter their flea-infested quarters. Betsie was absolutely right to give thanks in the midst of the fleas and for the fleas.

Hans thinks that waiting for my labor is nothing like people dying and starving in a Nazi concentration camp. He has a point. And I agree, with all my heart. But you know what I mean, right?

So, I shall give thanks in the waiting and for the waiting.

Photo credit: Our favorite photographer, Auntie Cat