I remember thinking to myself after the birth of our first child, "Those women were lying! Those women who told me I would forget this pain were lying!" Overwhelmed by the ordeal of natural childbirth (yes--I gave birth in the 80's before the advent of the epidural), I could not imagine ever forgetting the unbelievable, off-the-charts pain of labor.
Yet, almost 30 years later, the memory of those contractions has become faintly imprinted in my memory by almost indiscernible hues. Jesus explained to his followers what this experience of forgetting pain is like. "It
will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is
born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby
into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy." John 16: 21 - 22
Anguish gives way to joy. Joy eclipses sorrow.
But where does the pain go? Is it "canceled out"? Is it erased? Is it kept in some concealed place in our memory, only to be solicited when a similar experience of pain comes along?
Many of you know that our journey of giving birth to our dream became a very arduous trek, including hard labor and pain. Now that we are "living our dream," all the difficulties we experienced, the confusion and exhaustion, has faded. And I wonder where the pain has gone.
I read this morning in Esther De Waal's book, The Celtic Way of Prayer, "'I have little time for any sort of tradition that presents me with a spirituality without tears,' for I find that patronizing, demeaning." I agree with her. My prayer is that as our "anguish gives way to joy," the pain and sorrow of what we endured will not be lost on us.
Pain, if fully accepted and received, can be remembered in the heart and remains useful to us. It helps us remain tender and teachable; humble and human. Though we experience the joy of bringing a "new baby into the world," we continue to receive from the pain of our childbirth and allow the experience to deepen us as people and help us become more whole.
Have you found this to be true? Where has your pain gone?