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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 8:12–25

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (NRSV)

The image of “groaning in labor pains” is powerful. Though none of us understand it as viscerally as a woman who has given birth does, there are still some truths we can intuit.

Labor is not pretty. Not only is there groaning, but there could be some downright yelling. This may well be accompanied by some writhing and sweating and contortions of various body parts. (One of my most soft-spoken friends surprised me with the language she knew—and used—during a difficult delivery!)

Labor is painful. Though modern medicine can make the experience much more comfortable, pain is an integral part. It serves a purpose. The pain says, “Now.” It tells the mother (and those around her), “It’s time for what’s next.”

Labor is transformational. A woman goes into labor one person and comes out another. She is forever different because of that experience. A family’s shape shifts through a labor and delivery.

Labor is not under anyone’s control. Although today there are exceptions and special circumstances, for thousands of years women have given birth not on their own timetables, bur according to a biological process and the demands of the force of life. The outcome of the labor, who gets delivered, is a delicious riddle.

Labor requires deep trust. A woman must turn herself over to a midwife or doctor or doula to guide her through this profound event. She must trust her body to undertake a mission both meticulously documented and mysteriously unique. She must trust that others will be community for her, offering physical, emotional, and spiritual shelter in the days, months, and years ahead.

So if “all creation is groaning in labor pains,” we have something of a roadmap for what we are most deeply desiring: our salvation, along with that of our families and cities and country and world. It will be neither pretty nor controllable; it will be painful and transforming. We do not see the end result, but let us trust that what is being born will be in the image and likeness of God.

Spirit of God, fill us with your life, and strengthen us with your hope. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator, Center for Life and Learning

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