Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

She's gone and gotten herself pregnant

The Readings: Matthew 1:18-25; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 5:30-32; John 15:4-5

"Every birth is a cause for celebration." I remember hearing the words from the mouth of a 50 something woman when on her peers shared that her unmarried daughter was pregnant. Yes. This is surely a truth for the ages - life is a blessing!

Yet it's also true that, even in the best of times, carrying new life also requires pain and sacrifice on the part of the life givers. There's that pesky child birth pain, followed by sleep deprivation, hormonal fallout, curtailment of sexual intimacy, stinking diapers, and an exponential increase in the amount of time it takes to go anywhere outside the house.

Why bother? Because life is a blessing: a blessing to nurture in the womb, bring into the world, share with serve, suffer with, rejoice with, love. A bother? Sometimes, for certain, but more so a blessing. Pain and priceless asset. Source of grief and gladness.

Of course, we're not just talking about babies. Paul's passion for the church is that Christ would be 'formed in us' and he uses a word picture to describe this that indicates our spiritual formation is like childbirth. Jesus Himself uses the similar imagery when He calls His church the "bride of Christ" and invites us to be fruitful (read, "give birth") by living in union with Him. Allowing jesus to fill us with His life will no doubt have the effect of disrupting our lives in some very big ways.

There are two important reasons that I won't whine about all this disruption. First, the joys of fruitfulness outweigh the burdens every time. My children, now grown, plaster the walls of wherever it is that I study, write, live, because they are my great joy. And so it is with the fruit that comes about in our lives by virtue of union with Christ. Such union has meant travail, interruption, frustration, conviction, and the loss of my isolated, autonomous self. It's also meant meals, laughter, tears, and prayers, shared with new friends in far flung places around the world. It's meant healing where there was only ugliness and self-pity before. It's mean a whole new set of eyes, helping me to find joy in simple things like a sunrise, candlelight, fresh fish, a good sweater from the thrift store, and merlot with Vivaldi or Cold Play. Best of all, it's meant participating in God's story and seeing lives become more like Jesus in ways large and small. Fruit is disruptive, there's no doubt about it. Intimacy works that way. Union with Christ means the Jesus will challenge my tiny, fearful, indulgent life, asking more of me than I think I'm capable of. And this fruitful life is costly. People die every day because they love Jesus. But even those who die young would never trade a second of life united with Christ for decades of the barren altrernative.

The second, more important reason to enjoy spriritual maternity as the bride of Christ is because Jesus 'broke trial', (if you'll forgive my shift to different metaphor for a moment) by allowing Himself to be disrupted. He's the one who had the most to lose: heaven, status as deity, perfect union with God, freedom from guilt, all were tossed aside because of love, in the pursuit of intimacy with us, precisely so that His bride, the church, could become the bearer of fruit in our desparately barren world. He was disrupted first. Now it's our turn.

Does Christ live in you? How awesome is that! This is, after all, the mystery of the ages. If it's true in your life, congratulations! You're pregnant. Maybe hand out a few cigars. Throw a party. And prepare for the glorious disruption that inevitably comes as Jesus expresses life through you.


At 22/10/08 16:07, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard Gloria Gaither say in a speech she gave at Warner Pacific College in Portland that "God is in the interruptions of our lives as we go about trying get through it without any.
Wayne Bays.

At 22/10/08 16:56, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not understand the continued need I see in these posts to assert your views on pregnancy and birth.
Every birth is not a celebration. In some cultures it can get a woman killed. It could be the horrible reminder of a rape or incest that the woman will have to deal with for the rest of her life. It could be a major financial strain that leads to stress, choices between feeding your family or getting necessary medical care. It can cause so much strain on a relationship that it leads to divorce. It can lead a confused teenager to abandon her baby where it could suffer and die. It could lead to an unhappy parent abusing an innocent child. It could lead to depression, and even suicide in the mother.
I respect your views and the views of pro-lifers, even though I may disagree. I accept that many of these things are symptoms of a society that does not provide important freedoms and help to its citizens. I understand that in the right circumstances, with the right support, a birth is a wonderful occasion to be celebrated.
What I do not understand is this apparent soap box that you have crawled up on and inserted into so many posts. I do not understand why I have not seen or heard from you an acceptance of the fact that sometimes the birth of a child does realistically lead to awful things.
I will not be returning to read responses, so I'm not aiming to re-open a discussion. I have kept quiet until now, but this post made me feel that I needed to point out how your posts have been coming across.

At 22/10/08 17:36, Blogger Outish said...

For myself, I see this metaphor as a difficult one. Challenging to me and people of my age. I've never had children, not to say I won't I just haven't, and the joys of children do still escape me. Not so far removed from my own childhood to forget it I see some of the joys that you speak of.

But I do love my control, I do love my independance. I have struggled for a long time with the issue of control between me and God. I want it, He seems to take it anyway. I use it and see the way i have squandered it in hindsight.

Control control control. If I'm going to give it away easily it will be for something very, very worth it.

Giving it up on both accounts, children and faith, seems terrifying! I have what I need, right? The joys I find in friendship, the challenges of my new career, the sense of wholeness I feel with my family even from hundreds of miles away. And for the first time, a real feeling of independance!

And the challenges work both ways. We've all heard the stories, good and bad, of raising children. But many of us have never experienced it, even as a sibling. We hear about the joy, but it does not fill us, we hear about the sorrow and we understand. We understand disappointment, we understand interruption, inconvenience, frustration.

I feel the joy of parenting is a very nuanced and peripheral joy, and some of these joys are the most pleasing, but they are very difficult to describe. The taste of good whisky, what mountains really look like from the top, bad movies with good friends. Pictures and words are simply unable to capture it.

Heaven and Christianity are like that I think. We hear about heaven, we see the lives of our mentors and heroes of the Faith. But the joy eludes the inexperienced, like me. We see it in their faces but we do not KNOW it. We hear how wonderful it will all be but all we understand are the pains. Like the cold climb to the top, all we really understand are the sacrifices we have to make.

I guess that's just the way of faith isn't it?

At 25/10/08 10:14, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally like this post, but am still pro-choice. The freedom to choose what we believe is what we should all be happy about, whether it is pro-life, or pro-choice.

I possibly would have been pro-life, and enjoy discussing the topic. As a father, there has been nothing more rewarding when our son came into this world, and I can even say HE saved my life when times became unbearable a few years ago. He is now why I live a good and decent life, and why I have come back to find God.

So I completely get what Richard is saying.

However, when I was in college, I was fortunate enough to meet multiple women(who did not know eachother) who were the survivors of rape and incest. This included women pregnant from their fathers, followed by sacrifice(women now impaired with multiple personalities), women tortured...The first few I just thought were a little crazy, but when I heard the repetetive and consistant accounts as we became closer, I know God would forgive these women for any choices they made.

It is an absolute falsehood to believe that every life is a blessing. Just go visit an orphange in any Eastern European country, or talk to the women who have experienced the torture I described above, and you might have a different light shed on things.

Keeping a faith in God was tough enough when you start to acknowledge what really goes on in the world.

NOT acknowledging it and NOT changing your belief system after knowing these survivors is the biggest sin I know of.


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