I decided to give birth naturally (no anesthesia, epidural, etc) for a variety of reasons. This meant pain. Now most of what I remember was no worse for me than my normal that-time-of-the-month cramping, but of course it intensified over time. I prayed a lot through my pain. In fact that's apparently all I did for the last few hours of labor.
I remember that it hurt - quite a lot actually. And I remember thinking about Adam and Eve, and what birth could have been like before the fall.
I imagine Eve laying in a meadow of flowers calmly sipping refreshing tea and nibbling on some fresh fruit with the honey the bees delivered to her. Adam and her talk about their future. They know their baby is on the way because Eve's abdomen is contracting, but of course it doesn't hurt. (They don't know what pain is.) Then, her face lights up and she pushes a few a times. Adam catches the baby as he slides out. They sit and stare at him for awhile and smile at each other. Then Adam helps Eve up and they start walking around the garden showing their newborn off to all of their animal friends.
Quick. Easy. Painless.
We aren't told if Adam and Eve had children before the fall or not. I like to think she did since God told her there would be pain in childbirth now as a part of the punishment for their disobedience. Why would she know that was punishment unless she had experienced birth as it should be first? But I wouldn't stake anything on that theory.
Now there's pain in childbirth? There wasn't before? Curse you, Adam and Eve!
Wait. That's the problem.
Funny thing. I remember that labor hurt - quite a lot, actually, but I don't actually remember the pain. It's like God has grace even in his punishment...he erases the memory of the pain. And in the end you're just left with a beautiful gift.
But even if I didn't forget my pain, my daughter is absolutely worth every second of pain I was in. That was what motivated me to continue. I knew the outcome. I knew I would be bringing my child into the world. So I labored on.
The pain brought new meaning to many passages of Scripture, too. While I was in labor, I kept thinking about the last days, and times when God would bring his judgement on the nations. One of the most common and vivid descriptions of what folks feel during that time is pains as of a woman in labor.
Now, before I gave birth of course I knew the birthing process was painful. I was not fooled in that regard. Still, the head knowledge is totally different from personally experiencing birth.
In my case, I knew I had a beautiful blessing waiting for me at the end of the pain. With God's judgement? There's no happy ending. It's just pain. Pain like you can't imagine (please don't let that scare you if you're wanting a natural birth. The pain's totally worth it in that case, and, yes, I plan on doing natural birth for any future children I have.), but there's no blessing. Only wrath.
That's a terrifying position to be in.
But nature is also groaning like a woman in labor. Why? Because its waiting. It's waiting to be redeemed like humanity. It's waiting for it's rebirth - for Christ to return. For the new heavens and the new earth to be born. For nature to be restored to how it should've been - a prefall state. And these labor pains are much longer than any we experience in childbirth.
They're longer, and, I daresay, more intense. For if childbirth is a beautiful blessing (and it is) how much more so the restoring of the world to how it should be? For the final stage of redemption? For Christ's return and reign? If childbirth is worth the pain and time, how much more so is this?
And this is grace. For we ought to be groaning in those pains waiting for wrath. No hope. Just pain.
Just pain, and knowing it's only going to get worse.
Instead, we're given the blessing of childbirth - the earth waits through it's pain, groaning. But redemption has come. Restoration is coming. And then there will be no more pain, and our tears will be wiped away.
All of creation deserves the pain with no blessing and all wrath. And instead we're given grace. We're given blessing after blessing. Hallelu Yah.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.