“Okay, I’m done. I can’t do this.”
It was my third time in labor but my first completely unmedicated delivery. I was exhausted after several hours of painful back labor. Even the honesty of my Lamaze childbirth instructor hadn’t prepared me for this kind of pain. During the pregnancy I had decided I really wanted to avoid medication, especially since my first two experiences with epidurals had been less than successful.
“No matter what I say, remind me that I decided not to get an epidural,” I told Benny on several occasions late in the pregnancy. Gratefully, minutes after my declaration that I could not and would not give birth, the nurse discovered Jesse was coming…soon.
In those desperate moments when the pain was nearly unbearable I wanted only one thing: relief. My prayerful, thoughtful and calculated childbirth plan – made over several months and with counsel from others – was tested and everything in me wanted it all to just stop.
Have you ever felt this as a mother? Have there been times when the heartaches and fears that commonly accompany motherhood crash in and all you wanted was relief? If you’re like me, you’ve probably come to realize that the suffering of childbirth compares little with the fatigue of caring for children or the sorrow of watching your kids make unwise choices. The memory of childbirth pain diminishes over time and many moms look forward to another baby. But how many mothers forget the weariness of sibling fighting; tears over a serious health diagnosis; anguish of seeing a formerly compliant child turn into a moody, argumentative teen; or the disorienting heartache of watching a child walk away from God into moral compromise.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a desperate mother. When a prophet spoke of the mission to which her son was called, he mentioned that her very own soul would be pierced by a sword (Luke 2:34-35). She knew the heartaches, disappointing surprises and pain of motherhood. Surely she felt a sword had pierced through her heart when she saw Him hanging naked, beaten beyond recognition and mocked on the cross at Calvary.
Desperate mothers struggle and suffer. But please hear me: we have a loving and faithful God. Mary didn’t know what we know on this side of the cross. We look back and see the “joy that set before” Jesus. We are that joy! Each and every one of us as blood washed believers are the fruit of His agony and death. If Mary could have known what lied ahead, she would have still wept at her Son’s suffering. But imagine how comforting it would have been to know that His perplexing death would mean so much to so many. What a difference it could have made if she had known that you and I who are Christians would be declared not guilty for our sins because her Son took our place (and hers!) on the cross, securing for us a place of eternal worship of Him by her side!
Every desperate moment or lengthy season in my nearly 35 years of motherhood has vindicated the goodness and wisdom of God. Like Mary and every mother before and after her, God has been faithful to turn every hard and painful trial I’ve faced — every time when a sword has pierced my heart and left me gasping for breath — into good that I see and don’t yet see.
Before this series goes another day I want to assure every mother and mother-to-be, every father and father-to-be, that there is no heartbreak or sin or failure on your part or that of your children that will not be redeemed by God. Any swords that pierce your heart will create wounds that God Himself will heal.
Desperation is the stuff of life for every person in every season of life, sometimes we just feel it more acutely. That moment when I wanted the childbirth pain to stop I thought I wanted relief. What I wanted was my son! I wanted to hold my baby boy. I wanted to finally see his little face and kiss his tiny head. I wanted to tell him Mommy loved him and cuddle him close to my heart.
In the moment I thought I wanted everything to stop and the pain to go away. But, no. I wanted the fruit of my suffering and pain. I wanted a little blonde who would grow into a tall man with a beautiful wife and three little boys of his own. I wanted a son who would learn to play the piano and become a passionate worshiper of God. I wanted the answer to my prayers and another Philips boy to pass his father’s name and legacy to a new generation.
And relief wasn’t gonna get me that. Pain that made me feel like I couldn’t take any more was the only way that baby was coming and I just had to endure it.
Do you want relief from the challenges and weariness and hard work of motherhood? No, I don’t think so. You wouldn’t be frequenting this blog if you wanted the easy way or the wide road. You want godliness and fruit. You want to glorify God and see your life and your kids (or future kids) lives to count for Him.
Other moms and I will share more about the desperation of godly motherhood as this series continues. But we moms must remind ourselves regularly that fruit can’t be hurried. No amount of talking to your fruit tree or tomato plant or rose bushes is going to make them produce.
By God’s grace, though, the fruit will come. Why? Because He is faithful. Even when we are unfaithful, He remains faithful. Through every desperate moment or lengthy season. When delays test our faith and it seems like nothing will ever grow. Through joyous times when all is well and hopeless seasons when the ground beneath us trembles and it seems even God has lost control. The One who has no beginning and will have no end will be faithful.
When the pain and disappointment and temptations to anger crescendo till your heart begs for relief, fruit may be closer than you know.
So remind yourself that relief won’t satisfy…but fruit will.
P.S. Happy Anniversary, Jaime and PJ. For those who know your story and those who don’t, the fruit is delicious.