Orator and freedom fighter Frederick Douglass, in one of his passionate speeches about the abolition of slavery said, ‘Where there is no struggle there is no progress.’ Douglass was letting his listeners know that if they would give birth to the child of freedom, they would have to prepare themselves for hard labor. If they would move in the struggle for emancipation, they would have to prepare to give birth to liberation. It is no different for us today. Indeed it is true:
Where there are no guts, there is no glory. Where there is no pain, there is no gain. Where there is no battle, there is no blessing.
Birth comes after labor, fruit comes after planting, pleasure comes after perseverance. If we want to deliver the substance of our life and legacy – to bring forth that which developed in the womb of our consciousness – then it would behoove us to prepare for birth. Wise mothers are depicted as –
Women who give and receive – Women who bear and share – Women who germinate and cultivate – Women who till and nurture – Women who sow and nurture – Women who bring life and give life – Women who appreciate their gender and respect their femininity – Women who know the power and pleasure of having been created female – Women who love being women – The wise mother – prepares for birth.
For some mothers, morning sickness creeps up – queasiness, nausea, upset stomach and lethargy set in. You begin to live to sleep and sleep to live. Your hormones send your emotions on a roller coaster ride. And not only do you go through emotional changes, you go through physical changes as well. All of a sudden, you find that you have an abundance of padding and curves in places that you did not have before. The pressure from the child you are carrying may cause your back to ache, your feet to swell, your body to sweat and your mind to look forward to the day when the child shall appear. You look around and you notice that your hips are expanding and your chest is reaching out to new dimensions – a change, a change is coming over you. When you go to the doctor, she tells you, ‘It’s all a part of the preparation for delivery – giving birth.’ Giving birth will take you through changes!
And likewise, wise fathers are described as –
Men who plant and empower – Men who build and bless – Men who deposit and return – Men who caress and comfort – Men who create life and support life – Men who bring life and give life – Men who honor their gender and affirm their masculinity – Men who know the difference between making a baby and being a father – I’m talking about real men – The wise father – prepares for birth.
Men too, go through changes in preparing for birth, wondering if you will make it through the actual delivery without falling out. Wondering how you will provide for the new addition in your life. Wondering what kind of father you will be. Wondering about your wondering. All of it is a part of the human experience of giving birth. Although men do not give birth in the physical sense, they do so in the spiritual sense. Yes, giving birth is a spiritual reality that both men and women experience. It is a reality that the disciples in our text are facing.
As Jesus approached his final hour, the time of crucifixion – the hour when he would lose his life so that you and I might find ours – he spoke to the disciples about giving birth. Jesus spoke of giving birth, not in the literal sense, but in the spiritual sense of being willing to go through the crucifixion in order to get to the resurrection in our lives. Using the analogy of a woman in labor, he let the disciples know that they were experiencing a spiritual birth. Like a caring and empathic midwife – Jesus began coaching the disciples, and us, regarding preparation for birth. He let us know that while the world may be rejoicing, moving on, oblivious to the pain that we suffer – God is in touch with our birthing process. God will be there to coach us through the delivery process – to wipe our feverish forehead when the fire of affliction heats up, to guide us through the preparation of delivery so that we will be able to stand when our hours come.
Some of us may need some coaching right now. Some of us may be going through the birth process right now. We are confused and frustrated, perplexed and dismayed, at a difficult point in our life. We are going up, as the old African American hymn says, ‘the rough side of the mountain.’ We may feel like throwing in the towel right now, but don’t give up on your dream! Don’t destroy the vision! Don’t abort the baby! Don’t end the pregnancy! Remind yourself of the words of Jesus, ‘When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.’ (John16:21)
Hold on until the delivery is complete! Hold on until the situation changes! Hold on until sorrow melts into joy and pain simmers into pleasures! Hold on!
Breathe through the contractions of life, concentrate and focus on that which God is birthing in you so that you may know the joy of God’s promise. Wise disciples will not give up before time. Wise disciples learn how to prepare for giving birth, how to prepare for delivery so that when the labor pains come they will know how to handle them, and so they will be strong enough to ride the wave, move through the moment and succeed in the situation. The statement begs the question, How then does one prepare for giving birth? Well, there are three basic instructions given to pregnant mothers. These same instructions can be used for pregnant disciples: eat well; exercise daily; and get plenty of rest.
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