Last week, I received a comment from a passer by that accused me of dwelling needlessly in pain. It was just one stranger’s opinion, and if I took those to heart I’d go crazy.(Your comments do mean so much to me, but I hope you understand that I cannot and do not change my direction because of them). But it did make me stop and think, this comment, “Am I giving the wrong impression? Am I leading people to believe that following God’s voice means life is lesser or more painful than it would otherwise be?” Because I do not believe those things, I thought I’d take a time out and talk a little about [what I think about] pain (and then I still want to tell you what Papa Bear got me for Valentine’s Day!).
When our children are young, we work tirelessly to help them avoid pain. “No! The stove is hot!” “Be careful, you don’t want to fall.” In the end, everyone gets burned and falls down, but we desperately want them to avoid as many hardships and stitches and scars as possible. We love them. And we know that when they do reach out and touch the stove, the pain in that moment will serve no other purpose than to persuade them from ever repeating their mistake.
So, if they’d just listen to us, it’d be easier!
Much of life’s pain is like this, I believe, a warning sign of things to be avoided. Facing this kind of pain head on requires a certain amount of idiocy, or at least adrenaline addiction, I think. There is, though, another kind of pain. There is a pain laced equally with excitement. There is a pain that though deep and intense produces beauty beyond our wildest dreams. I don’t want my children to run from this pain. And I know God will help them discern between the two.
Baby Bear’s birth has been my only natural childbirth experience. I’ve also experienced a cesarean and a vbac with an epidural, and God often uses these three experiences to speak to me (because they are each so personal to me). In labor with Baby Bear, after a relatively smooth zero to seven, I thought transition would rip me feet from shoulders. There is simply no way to describe the intensity of the labor experience. But there’s also no way to describe the excitement. He’s almost here! This is really happening! Everyone who has seen an accurate model of a baby in his mother’s pelvis knows that birth is essentially impossible. God made our bodies to perform miracles before our very eyes. And, sans epidural, we are experiencing every aspect of that miracle (this post isn’t really anti-epidural, it’s just the best analogy I can come up with!).
The moment my second son (first singleton, fifth baby) exited my body, the pain became an immediate memory. A vivid one, mind you, but a memory none the less. The pain itself was gone. And I love to tell about the pain, as all women love to tell their birth stories. But in the telling, I don’t wince or writhe or sweat…I smile and I giggle and I laugh. It’s my badge of honor, my birth story. What I’m showing off isn’t my pain, but what the pain brought me…my baby.
When my husband left last year, it took me a few days to find my path. We’d been blogging about our redeemed marriage for nearly two years, we’d both counseled couples over the phone, and we could both see the path God had laid out for us. I could have never imagined the public and private pain that his leaving would cause me. Of course, I also couldn’t imagine the pain it would cause him, but that’s not my story to tell. In the first twenty four hours after he left, I did nothing right. Nothing. The pain was unbearable, and I clawed at the walls to get out….somewhere that didn’t feel like this.
But then, I looked at my children. I knew I had some decisions to make.
Let me stop there and rewind by about a year. Because, almost a year before, my little sister (not biological, but as close as they come) lost her three week old baby boy. The kids were in bed as the news came in. First, he wasn’t breathing and was being rushed to the hospital. Then, like a nightmare I still shiver when remembering, he was gone. Just, gone. I screamed and I cried in my kitchen, “No! Noo! NOOO!” It was not possible that this was happening. It simply was not possible. I asked God to put him on Elijah’s bed. I paced and prayed till the sun came up, and then I went to cry and be with my family.
It took less than twenty four hours for whispers to make there way around the room. Suprisingly to us, most of us felt led to pray for resurrection instead of immediately beginning to grieve. We met in secret, because only crazy people believe that God raises the dead, and we didn’t want to give false hope to the mother. But who I couldn’t hide my prayers from were my children. They already knew God raised the dead, and they wanted to join in the fight. Sheepishly and hessitantly, I let them pray. But in the back of my mind was always the question, “Is this going to crush their faith? What if God doesn’t answer the way we are hoping?” And in the end, He didn’t. We lowered that missed little baby into the ground, knowing full well his ressurrection was of the permanent kind. And then, we went about our lives as best we could.
At the graveside, my children were there. I didn’t know what to say, and I hoped God would make it all easy. “God didn’t bring him back from the dead.” One of them said matter-of-factly. “I guess He just decided not to,” another replied.
“But God is still good,” I said, somewhat questioningly.
“Oh, yes! And the baby is with Him!” they agreed before asking about lunch.
God does raise the dead, physically, spiritually and emotionally. My children need to know that. If I only allow them to pray for things that I know will come to pass, how will they learn the ways and mysteries of their God? And, silly me, I thought there might me damage done, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Like all things mysterious and holy, their faith was strengthened in those two days. What they learned is that we pray. And even when He doesn’t say “yes,” we truth Him.
Fast forwarding again to last year, bear with me, in that first week Papa Bear was gone…God immediately led me to pray for my husband’s relationship with Him. And because I do not believe that people fall out of love while their eyes are on their Savior, I also felt led to pray that God would bring Him back to me. When my children asked about the change in their lives, I told them nothing new. I respected my husband at every turn, but I refused to alter what their father and I had already taught them, together, throughout the entirely of their lives to that point. They’d been taught that marriage and love were forever. I wasn’t about to answer, “Never mind.”
I refused to raise double-minded children; and, as a result, they were never confused. They weren’t being taught something brand new, now that their parents’ marriage had failed…like their beliefs were built on solid sand. And like they’d said at least once a day from the time they’d been able to voice it, when I told them their father wasn’t sure he wanted to be married, but he absolutely loved them with his whole heart and soul, they simply answered, “Let’s pray, Mommy, let’s pray.” And, yes, I let them.
Oh, how my children pray!
I didn’t go with the epidural. When the pain came, I let it come. And with it I welcomed the excitement. I have a personal relationship with my God, He talks to me. And He told me to pray for a miracle. It didn’t make the pain go away, the holy excitement, but as I went about my life, caring for my children and loving my God, I knew something beautiful was coming, in time. I felt certain that my pains were of the birthing kind. And I also knew that if God didn’t answer in the way I hoped, I would absolutely continue to trust Him. None of this was about my relationship with a man, all of it was about my relationship with the man, Jesus Christ. None, absolutely none of my pain was purposeless or wasted. And after a few months, I was fine, my children were fine. Most days, we danced and were happy (though the absence of a parent in day to day life always makes things harder), but that wasn’t enough for us. We wanted the rightful head of our home to be fine, too. And nothing in Scripture led me to believe that God would lead him away from his family.
This time, God did answer like I believed He would, but that’s never, ever the point.
When pain comes, we want to stop it. But sometimes it’s essential to the process. If we go numb, damage is still being done. And when we finally begin to feel again, we often have more to heal from as as result. My epidural, and the deep scars I still bear from my painless birth, taught me this.
When I write about my past hurts, those who cannot imagine their commitment being worth what I think mine is wonder why I wouldn’t just get the epidural. “Turn it off, stop feeling!” Never mind that I promised to love for better or for worse. But now, I’m once again living in the better, the beautiful, and when I write about my pain, I’m giggling as I write. I’m only here to talk about my baby. We’re not seven miserable people trapped in a prison of religion, we’re seven people who together survived a birth. We might be keeping our baby safe and protected instead of fully showing it off to the world, but that doesn’t mean we’re not thrilled. Eight months after God began to once again piece back together my family, if you still hear pain in what I write, understand that it’s purely from memory.
For nostalgia, and to prove my point, here’s Baby Bear’s birth video….enjoy!