Epidurals and Midwives

Last week I came across this video from Brene Brown. I encourage you to watch it, and to get to know The Work of the People. Really good stuff.

But I want to hone in on something Brene says in the video. She talks about how most of what she heard in church her whole life was “magical thinking.” It was as if somehow Christianity was immune to pain. So when she had her break down, she went to the church for “an epidural.” She assumed Christianity would keep pain away.

But what she found was that the Church was more like a midwife. She found Church to be the presence of God with her saying: Push. It’s supposed to hurt.

As a man, I probably should keep my mouth shut on the experience of childbirth. But I have witnessed the violent process twice, and it is the metaphor which grabbed my attention this week. (Plus, I made my wife read over this.) So ladies forgive me, and please help make the metaphor better in the comments!

Newborn_Nursery_2When a child comes into the world there is a great deal of pain. Even when drugs are used, child-birth is no small process. Recovery time can be long in some cases. But after going through all of the pain (and not just the childbirth process but even the difficulty of being pregnant) you have this beautiful new life.

And this life is a part of you that has never existed before. It is something beautiful and new and you would give your life for it. This life is one of the true miracles of the world, which leads you into all sorts of new joys, pains, frustrations, and beauty.

Even though there is great pain and risk involved in pregnancy, birth, and parenting, people keep doing it. In a world that clings to certainty and avoids pain at all cost, why in the world would anyone try to give birth to a child? There is too much risk, too much pain, too little you can control.

But people keep doing it because alongside the pain is joy, beauty, and hope. And as it turns out, joy, beauty, and hope are stronger than any pain or hurt.

One of the most common critiques I hear of modern Christians is that we are out of touch with reality. And while I whole-heartedly agree with this critique, it should be one of the most ridiculous things you could say about a Christian.

Christianity is a particular way of being in the world. It means nothing without a rootedness in reality.

But the critique comes because Christians often present a view of life which is little more than magical escapism. All that matters is where you go when you die. Pain in this life should either be glossed over or ignored because “heaven is so much bigger.” Or we write off horrible things that are “all part of God’s plan” and we don’t need to worry about pain because after we are dead, it won’t be so bad.

But in my life, I have experienced real pain that I can’t write off to some ethereal plan I won’t experience until I die. I need to know what to do with my pain now. I need to know what to do with the suffering of my friends, family and the world – now.

That is why the childbirth metaphor is so deeply moving to me. In childbirth, joy and pain exist together. But what we discover is joy outlasts the pain. In fact, we can find joy even in the pain.

This is true of life. As Christians, we don’t EVER want to gloss over pain. Pain and suffering are real and true and awful. Anything that diminishes pain and suffering is dishonest. But joy, beauty, and hope are equally real. And the Christian narrative is that joy and beauty are stronger than pain and suffering.

Jesus himself illustrates this. Jesus begins his life as all humans do – through child-birth. And he ends his life in the most horrific way known to humanity in his time.

What is more real, bloody, and painful than the story of Jesus?

Yet what is more beautiful and joyous? Pain gives way to joy. Suffering gives way to hope. Death gives way to life.

When we come through pain and suffering, we should never down play what we have been through. It may take a while to recover, but we can look back and see: I am still here. And I am not the person I was before. Something new has been born. My pain is a part of me, but it doesn’t define me. My pain shapes me and I own it and validate it.

But because I have been through it, I am something new and beautiful. I have more hope and more joy because I survived THAT and I am still here. There may still be hurt and pain ahead, but I am now better equipped not only to be honest about how much it hurts, but what happens on the other side.

When you hold that baby for the first time, the pain doesn’t go away. But the pain is given greater meaning. There is something new that wasn’t there before. And it is a part of you and it is beautiful.

Recovery can be slow. But even in the recovery, you can hold this miracle. It is proof of what happens on the other side of pain.

In truth, this little bundle may continue to cause you pain and frustration. But it is a source of joy. You can’t imagine your world without it.

Joy, hope, and love are available. Here. Now.

In the midst of the pain, it can be awful, scary, horrifying. But keep going. There is beauty on the other side.

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