My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you… Galatians 4.19
Some verses get lodged in your heart, always in the background, being mulled and processed and slowly shaping how you live and see life. This is one of those for me. Mike Tomford read it on a Sunday several years ago, and it’s been lodged ever since.
Today it comes to the forefront.
This makes sense, because May 28th is always a day that makes me think of labor, babies, and life. Twenty-four years ago, I was a 9 year old girl, scrambling downstairs at dawn with my siblings, excitedly tiptoeing into our dining room, peering through doorway past a cluster of my mother’s friends, hoping for a glimpse of the miracle taking place: a baby being born! She came, chubby and sweet, and Mrs. Colbert swaddled her and named her Butterball until a more suitable moniker could be chosen.
And so May 28th, labor, and Galatians 4:19 all converge this morning in my heart.
I’ve learned things about childbirth and labor in the last few years. I learned that it’s not easy, watching my strong and courageous mother, a woman I knew could take on the world, meet her match in labor. I learned that it can last for days as I waited for news of my first nephews’ arrival (and cried to Mrs. Kinnen, wanting so badly to take my sister’s place so she could just rest.) I learned that it can go much faster and more intensely than anticipated, when Jameson was born 4 hours and 15 minutes after my water broke, with barely 3 hours of contractions. I learned that it can include complications requiring life-saving measures, as my littlest brother was delivered by emergency c-section, and a niece followed suit several years later. I learned that it requires determination, that it exacts all reserves of courage, that it crashes like brutal waves and leaves you depleted only to find a new depth of strength. I learned that your last labor is not your next labor, and no two are exactly alike.
I learned that no one can promise you or tell you much about how it will go. The only true comfort is this: “There, that contraction is over. You’ll never ever have to do that one again.”
And the greatest joy is that there is a baby.
I learned how to meet childbirth with Holy-Spirit inspired strength from my mother.
And I’m learning what it means to be “again in labor” as I watch my mother (and my father) persevere in seeing Christ formed in me and in my siblings.
All of those things about courage and perseverance and trusting for grace for this moment and not dwelling on how long that last labor was — all of those things, I see them doing still.
I’m learning that the ecstatic moment when you hear, “It’s a girl/boy!” is only the start of a life of laboring.
I’m learning that “I can’t do this anymore!” needs to be swiftly met with those scripture cards I wrote out for labor. He makes me able.
I’m learning to labor alongside. I’m learning that just as I am strengthened by my sisters and friends in a circle around my bed, wetting my sweaty forehead, rubbing my feet, whispering and cheering — so we strengthen one another as we each labor to see others come to maturity in Christ.
I’m learning that personal expectation and desires and any selfish grasping must be done away with. Just as I surrender my body to bring forth a baby, so we lay down our lives — our time, our energy, our money, our everything — to see people find Jesus and His purposes.
I’m learning what incredible joy it is to labor and pray and persevere alongside and then see someone dear be set free, fall in love with Jesus even more, set their hearts completely on Him.
Because this: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”
“It’s a girl/boy!” isn’t the end.
Neither is their 18th birthday, or high school graduation.
It’s not over until Christ is formed in them. (Yes, that’s a life-long labor we’re talking about.)
This is parenting that all believers are called to — married, single, childless — all.
When the contractions keep coming, and you wonder how much longer, and no one can tell you?
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” –Galatians 6.7-9