Friday, July 26, 2013

What Childbirth Taught Me About Grace

In case you've wondered why I've been inactive for almost a month, I gave birth end of June to my beautiful daughter. Since she's almost a month old already (so hard to believe!) I thought I would share some reflections on the childbirth process and some takeaways.

I decided to give birth naturally (no anesthesia, epidural, etc) for a variety of reasons. This meant pain. Now most of what I remember was no worse for me than my normal that-time-of-the-month cramping, but of course it intensified over time. I prayed a lot through my pain. In fact that's apparently all I did for the last few hours of labor.

I remember that it hurt - quite a lot actually. And I remember thinking about Adam and Eve, and what birth could have been like before the fall.

I imagine Eve laying in a meadow of flowers calmly sipping refreshing tea and nibbling on some fresh fruit with the honey the bees delivered to her. Adam and her talk about their future. They know their baby is on the way because Eve's abdomen is contracting, but of course it doesn't hurt. (They don't know what pain is.) Then, her face lights up and she pushes a few a times. Adam catches the baby as he slides out. They sit and stare at him for awhile and smile at each other. Then Adam helps Eve up and they start walking around the garden showing their newborn off to all of their animal friends.

Quick. Easy. Painless.

We aren't told if Adam and Eve had children before the fall or not. I like to think she did since God told her there would be pain in childbirth now as a part of the punishment for their disobedience. Why would she know that was punishment unless she had experienced birth as it should be first? But I wouldn't stake anything on that theory.

Now there's pain in childbirth? There wasn't before? Curse you, Adam and Eve!

Wait. That's the problem.

Uncurse you!

Funny thing. I remember that labor hurt - quite a lot, actually, but I don't actually remember the pain. It's like God has grace even in his punishment...he erases the memory of the pain. And in the end you're just left with a beautiful gift.

But even if I didn't forget my pain, my daughter is absolutely worth every second of pain I was in. That was what motivated me to continue. I knew the outcome. I knew I would be bringing my child into the world. So I labored on.

The pain brought new meaning to many passages of Scripture, too. While I was in labor, I kept thinking about the last days, and times when God would bring his judgement on the nations. One of the most common and vivid descriptions of what folks feel during that time is pains as of a woman in labor.

Now, before I gave birth of course I knew the birthing process was painful. I was not fooled in that regard. Still, the head knowledge is totally different from personally experiencing birth.

In my case, I knew I had a beautiful blessing waiting for me at the end of the pain. With God's judgement? There's no happy ending. It's just pain. Pain like you can't imagine (please don't let that scare you if you're wanting a natural birth. The pain's totally worth it in that case, and, yes, I plan on doing natural birth for any future children I have.), but there's no blessing. Only wrath.

That's a terrifying position to be in.

But nature is also groaning like a woman in labor. Why? Because its waiting. It's waiting to be redeemed like humanity. It's waiting for it's rebirth - for Christ to return. For the new heavens and the new earth to be born. For nature to be restored to how it should've been - a prefall state. And these labor pains are much longer than any we experience in childbirth.

They're longer, and, I daresay, more intense. For if childbirth is a beautiful blessing (and it is) how much more so the restoring of the world to how it should be? For the final stage of redemption? For Christ's return and reign? If childbirth is worth the pain and time, how much more so is this?

And this is grace. For we ought to be groaning in those pains waiting for wrath. No hope. Just pain.

Just pain, and knowing it's only going to get worse.

Instead, we're given the blessing of childbirth - the earth waits through it's pain, groaning. But redemption has come. Restoration is coming. And then there will be no more pain, and our tears will be wiped away.

All of creation deserves the pain with no blessing and all wrath. And instead we're given grace. We're given blessing after blessing. Hallelu Yah.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

original image source

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Why I am Not a Minimalist

I know a lot of folks are into minimalism lately, and I understand it's attractiveness and why it's so popular. As a whole, Americans are laden with stuff. I've often felt compelled to just throw everything away and start fresh (I never do. That's way too expensive a proposition with all the things I'd be forced to replace.). So I'm sympathetic to minimalism.

Most of the time, though, when I hear people talk about minimalism it seems unrealistic. Some examples include:

  • You only need enough clothes so that you wear them all and wash them (and you're doing laundry pretty much all the time because of this).
  • You don't need any books, movies, or music. All of that can be borrowed/rented, or found online.
  • No decorations or pictures set out on a shelf - that's clutter.
  • Who cares that your grandma made that blanket for you, it doesn't match your decor so toss it.

By no means do I argue with the idea that Americans in large should learn to be content with less. Nor do I think that decluttering is a bad thing - its something I've been working on for several years. I've downsized a lot. But I don't view it as living minimally, I view it as a part of living simply. 

Simplify your lifestyle. Don't say "yes" to everything. Don't pick up all the Swag you don't need. Do throw away, give away, or donate possessions that don't serve a practical, sentimental, or other specific purpose.


Sentimental value does not have to mean that you can never part with something that was given to you as a gift. It's ok. If it's not enhancing your life or bringing back fond memories it's ok to let it go. At that point it's a burden in your life, and I'm sure that was not the intent of the gift-giver.

By "other specific purpose" I mean that china you rarely use is ok to hold on to. Have a hobby? A collection? You don't have to toss them. Get rid of things you don't need or don't bring you pleasure, don't think because something isn't dreadfully practical it must go.


Though I've been working on downsizing for many years, I have recently tried to regularly find things I don't need/use/etc and handle them appropriately. Some of those decisions were not easy to make, but truthfully, thus far, I've missed nothing, and haven't even felt the cuts.

And that's the point. You can simplify your life by free up your space and time without having to do with the bare minimum. You shouldn't feel guilty for owning things. It's a blessing. Give yourself grace and allow yourself to take pleasure in what you enjoy (unless it's hoarding, then we might need to talk). And think of how you'll be able to bless others by simplifying your life.
  • Your family will be better off because you'll be less stressed because you have fewer things that just get in the way. (double blessing!)
  • If you give away things, there's an obvious way to bless others you know personally!
  • If you donate, you're blessing those who likely are unable to afford to pay full price for something, but are truly in need.
  • If you choose to sale, you're providing the item to someone who wants it, and you're making something off the deal too! (I recommend saving this money, or putting it toward something you need ... not just going out and blowing it on more things you'll just toss later. *grin*)

Live life fully. As I mentioned over here, Satan is the accuser. That's exactly the spirit I've caught from many self-professed minimalists. Condemnation. Guilt. Satan catches you coming and going - first he traps you with a ton of useless-to-you stuff, then he makes you feel guilty for owning any of it. Don't listen to him. That's not the spirit of Christ. He is full of grace and love. He is the provider of our needs, and appears to often bless us above what we need. 

Do stop buying things if won't serve a specific purpose. Clear distractions. Focus on Christ and your family. Simplify, and live life to the max. 

n.b. - I am not saying that if you claim minimalism, you are in league with the Devil. I am commenting on the general spirit I have felt often from self-professed minimalists. Many probably are unaware they convey this spirit when discussing their philosophy. 

Anyway, I do not think most minimalists are true minimalists. I think they usually take what they like and ditch the rest ... you know, minimally applying the philosophy to their lives ok, I know that wasn't funny, but please humor me. Some would argue that what I've articulated is minimalism. If it's helpful to you to think of it that way, that's fine. As long as you know I don't think of it that way and I view minimalism in a different context than simplified living. 

At the heart of the issue, in a broad sense, I would say that minimalism's goal and the goal of living simply are quite similar (don't let stuff bog you down) - the main difference I see is the heart behind the philosophy. One screams you must have less and throws guilt at you because you have; the other is filled with gratitude for what you have and wanting to bless others with what you don't need.