You know the feeling.
It’s passing the funeral procession out on the highway. It’s the dull sheen off of the linoleum hospital tile. It’s the news of yet another mass shooting blaring in the background from your television. It’s the moment you realize that despite all of your masked attempts you can never be a kid again.
Something isn’t quite right here. And you feel it. Deep within your bones. There is no question that this life is tinted with a color that never quite lets us see the fullness of the beauty around us. The creation groans beneath us. Before us. Within us.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
At the risk of making an offensive understatement: labor is an intense process. It is a period of painful endurance where uncertainty reigns, and waiting is the only thing you can do with assurance. Contractions rise and fall in waves of punishing discomfort. Nurses sprint in and out, checking progress and delivering only discouraging reports. You can’t wait for it to be over, and yet you are terrified of what is waiting for you.
“You’re a 2,” the nurse said in only the way anyone who is on hour eight of a ten hour shift can say. That was the point when I realized we were in over our heads.
For your sake I’ll spare the specifics of dilation. Suffice it to say that a 10 is the magic number. We weren’t even halfway and the pangs were rising. It wasn’t until twenty-eight hours later that we finally met our daughter, screaming from the shock of inter-world travel and the newly acquired practice of lung-breathing.
One thought alone sustained us through the journey: she is coming to meet us.
There is something raw and life-infusing about enduring the grueling process of labor. Here is this thing before you that you have no clue about, and yet you’ve never wanted something more. And standing in between you and that thing is a beating like you’ve never experienced. And yet, the hope of this meeting endures you, casting light upon the suffering.
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved…”
We will all suffer in this life. Groaning may be the only realistic expression of what life under the sun looks like. Fallenness is the song of the birds, and all our human attempts at salvation. But though this groaning begins in mourning, it slowly ascends to a note that resembles hope.
For just as the creation is not subjected to groan without hope, we too find that redemption is at the end of this long labor. May it come soon.
- How have you felt the effects of groaning in this life?
- What does it look like to properly mourn?
- In what ways does your “adoption as sons” cast light on the suffering we experience?
- How can we begin to enter into the suffering of others with gospel sensitivity?
- Phil Maucieri