Yesterday, I received a phone call that I didn’t want to get. It was telling me some news that I dreaded to hear and that, to be honest, I really thought would never come even though I had been waiting for it for the last year and a half. No one was dead or sick or even angry, but there was pain and a person I care about involved. I wish I could be more direct with you about it, but you will just have to trust me.
So, after going through most of yesterday with this on my mind and heart and after sleeping on it, I woke up this morning thinking about labor pains. Yes, as in childbirth. If you have delivered a baby you know what I mean. Every movie scene where a woman is in labor and she wants to rip someone’s head off or she is channeling that chick from The Exorcist? Yes, labor pains. Thanks for that image, Holy Spirit.
It is like running long distances for me (you knew I would throw running in there somewhere, didn’t you?). It totally sucks at mile 11, but I know that it won’t last forever and I WILL cross that finish line even if it means dragging my raggedy-self across it. But for me, labor pains are better than running pains.
In my case, at the end of labor there was something utterly amazing to show for it. At the end of labor there were these amazing people. They changed my life forever. They made me a better person even in the midst of exhausting me, and giving me gray hair, and making me do things I really didn’t want to do otherwise. At the end of labor, I was transformed for the better into someone different than I was when it started.
Now, here is where it gets graphic, but I’m laying it out there. In the middle of the night, I realized that the church I serve is in the midst of labor pains. We have had an interesting last year and a half. There are times when I step back – sort of like when a woman in labor feels as if she is having an out-of-body experience – and wonder if I’m seeing it the way it is or the way I imagine it all to be, but it is often hard to tell.
And just like labor, there are times when the contractions recede, giving you a moment to catch your breath, only to then be flooded by another wave of pain. That phone call yesterday was a wave. But somehow in my heart I know that the gut wrenching pain signals that something is happening and that this whole labor process will soon be over. And when it is, there will be something amazing to show for it.
We don’t necessarily will-fully choose pain in our lives. Sometimes it is given to us by others. Sometimes it looks like divorce or a life threatening illness or an unwelcome job change or perhaps something we can’t name. In whatever way we experience the pain – at the moment when we are certain we can’t push anymore – if we take a deep breath and focus our attention not on the pain itself, but what the pain may bring at the end of it, we just might find ourselves transformed closer to who God is calling us to be.
But let’s be honest. There are moments when we would opt for an epidural. That doesn’t seem to be an option at the moment, so I’m counting on God’s grace to be sufficient.
Thanks for listening.