The first birth I saw was not live but via that infamous high school biology video, the one where someone in the audience inevitably passes out. One girl did that year. This is always funnier than sad due to the fact that everyone just watched a person push another person, smaller but not reasonably small enough, out of her body. The woman groans, works and writhes until a new life breaches. It’s astonishing the mother is alive afterwards–something far more common in the past century–and even more astonishing that now she now cries not because of the agony that is finally over, but for overwhelming joy of what just came of that agony.
The Apostle Paul says that creation eagerly longs for the revealing of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19). Salvation is not simply occurring in the hearts of individuals while the rest of the earth waits around to be destroyed. Rather, all the earth (and beyond) is doing something in anticipation of final redemption, and that something is “groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Rom. 8:22). The creation has hips, and those hips are for birthing.
But isn’t Paul simply talking about believers eagerly looking forward to the conversion of others? No. We do this also, but it’s bigger than us. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (8:23). Don’t feel left out. You are included and your body will be redeemed along with “creation itself [which] will be set free from its bondage to decay” (8:21).
The girl who hit the linoleum floor in biology class can’t be blamed. She had a weak stomach and no eyes for blood. We, however, don’t go to the nurse’s office so sympathetically. Paul is clearly saying that the world is pregnant, and as the saying goes, not a little bit. What is happening? According to some, the world is one giant miscarriage. God tried. He gave Adam and Eve everything they needed to succeed but they flubbed it. He wanted the human race fruitful and multiplied, loving and enjoying him and cultivating the earth. But that tubed. And now what we really need is a little more trauma in the Middle East for the rapture to begin so we can get out of the Hell here. This is easier than getting the Hell out, easier than enduring another contraction. Those hurt. There’s conflict. And fluids spill.
According to another view, what does pregnancy have to do with birth? What does the reign of King Jesus have to do with his kingdom here? I know, let’s multiply kingdoms (but leave out mention of other kings). Let’s give Jesus dominion over spiritual things in the church but that’s it. The word of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover that one puddle in my otherwise bone dry backyard. There’s the already, the not yet, and never shall there be any historical progression between the two. The baby might be further developed in week 26, but it might not. This view ignores the fact of maturity, the miraculous development of a fetus, the sure spread of the kingdom of God, the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
In God’s world, pregnancy has everything to do with birth. “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:24-25). The creation isn’t laboring in vain, but preparing for a glorious birthday. Preparing for a successful birth is different than insisting on a painless one. Since the fall, pain in childbirth is multiplied (Gen. 3:16). Unless a seed goes into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Tertullian was right to say the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. If this is true, and it is, and there were more Christian martyrs in the last hundred years than in the rest of the church’s history combined, then we have much to be encouraged by. But don’t be fooled. Braxton Hicks hurt, but they’re not the end. There is still much growing to do, far more knitting in the womb before the canal. This is going to be a big baby.