As many of you know, Christopher and I are expecting our first child, a little girl, on February 28, 2014 (give or take a few weeks at providence’s discretion). I find my thoughts often wandering to the coming birth and parenthood beyond. It is tempting to fear the unknown for which one can never truly be fully prepared. There is one particular passage that has spoken to me.
In John 16 when Jesus predicts his death, resurrection and second coming, the disciples are visibly confused. He uses the following words to help them understand, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for the joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:20-22).
What does this passage tell me about birth and Christ? First, it tells me that the pangs of childbirth may feel like they will last a lifetime, but they are finite even negligible in comparison to the life ahead of the child I am laboring to birth. What is one day or even nine months in light of a lifetime? It is a stark reminder that this earth with all of its pain and sorrow is one drop compared to the ocean of eternity which we will get to spend with our Savior.
Secondly, not only is labor and this life nothing in comparison to the length of what is coming, but we will also forget the pain. I don’t think this is in the sense where we will have no recollection of how we acquired the child in our home, but rather it will utterly lose its importance and oppressiveness. The kind of forgetfulness that allows moms to say yes to baby number two! Part of birth that is daunting for me is the knowledge that it will most likely be the most excruciating experience of my life and I have no idea how I will handle it. This passage reminds us that the pain of labor will fade and even enrich the joy of parenthood, just as knowing what we’ve been freed from will increase and enliven the enjoyment of eternity.
There are, of course, many places where this analogy breaks down. This passage is not a guarantee that my child will live a long and happy life, that my joy in her life won’t be cut short by unexpected death or that parenthood will only be living in that praise for life. However, I still find the comparison poignant, possibly most because of where it falters. “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). This statement is no longer an explanation, it is a promise. Even now we can begin to claim the emotional state of eternity, an everlasting joy in the presence of Christ.