“Mom, what was it like the day I was born?” She asks me, fresh from her first day of school. I guess going to junior high makes one think more deeply about grown up things.
“Well, can you tell me exactly what you are wanting to know?” I’ve learned that sometimes what they want to know is much more simple than what I am prepared to share.
“You know, like did I come fast or did it take a long time? And what did it feel like?”
So, I launched into the story, giving her the answers she was seeking and even sharing the fun parts, like eating a biscuit in labor because I was legitimately hungry! At the end of my account, she asked me the ever present question for little girls with the imprint of motherhood on their heart.
“Did it hurt?”
“Yes, it hurt. But you know…it was worth it.”
With the slightest tilt of her head, she looked at me and said, “You mean once you held me you didn’t care about the pain?”
“Yes, sweet pea. The pain was worth it to get to hold you at the end.”
I can’t forget that little comment because there is something far deeper in it, something an eleven-year-old in her sweet innocence grabbed hold of, that I think us adults tend to forget somewhere along the way.
Pain is always the precursor to joy.
When I look back at the tapestry of my life so far, I can’t find one place where joy came before pain. I don’t see one moment of great triumph that didn’t come through an ocean of tears. The very man I’ve pledged my life to first caught my heart with nail scarred hands. His greatest triumph came only after the deepest valley every witnessed by humanity. It all lines up rather logically, this idea that we will experience pain before joy, but the human heart is not founded in logic and so we tend to resist.
“If God cared, he would stop all this pain.”
Oh, how many times did I say that, early in the journey? How often was I tempted to see the pain as an indication that God had abandoned me? Somewhere along the way, I equated all the things I suffered with God’s displeasure. As if I suffered because he didn’t like me.
Yet, here I am, looking back at every moment of sorrow and seeing only the goodness of God. I can’t find it anymore: the place where I thought he was distant or uncaring.
Like the suffering required to bring my baby into life, I find that the greatest joys have come from the deepest pain. I look back at every tear I shed, and though I wouldn’t wish it back or want it for anyone else, I can say…
“Once I held the very grace of God in my arms, the pain faded from view.”
The reason we suffer to bring babies from the womb is because we are waging war on darkness in the doing. We are waging war on death by bringing life through our suffering.
Is all of life not this way?
Yes, I think so. Great victories are only won through great battles. I wouldn’t know grace had I not needed redemption so desperately. I wouldn’t know courage had I not first been terrified. I wouldn’t know joy, had I not first known deep sorrow.
When we spend our energy strategizing how to avoid the pain, ignore it or sneak past it, we only make ourselves slaves to it. In becoming slaves to the pain, we convince ourselves that God is not great enough to conquer it – that the pain is a greater master.
Pain is not meant to be our master, it is meant to be our method of discovery.
My heart has been won by the Savior – the man who bears the scars of his love for me. His promise to me was very clear…is still very clear:
You will suffer, but I will be with you.
In the deepest valley, where no one sees the tears you shed, he is with you. In the place where the loss weighs so heavy on you that you can’t find words, he is with you. In the place where you feel completely alone as you plow the field before you, letting your tears stain the dirt at your feet – he. is. with. you.
There is much more life ahead of you, more than you realize, but it won’t come unless you give the Savior permission to visit you there, in that place of suffering. He will come swiftly if you let him, and he will show you – he will show you just how close he is too broken ones. Then, He will birth life through your pain…
“I came so that everyone would have life, and have it to the fullest.” John 10:10