"... my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!" - Paul to the Galatians.
This morning I was sitting at the breakfast table with my kids discussing death. Of topics I like to address in the morning this ranks pretty high on my list (I hate mornings). It was David, who's 2 yrs. old, who brought it up with, "I don't want to die."
I disagree, most mornings I want to die. But this morning I was "perky." Maybe because I'd already been out for a beautiful early morning bike ride where yes, I actually saw the sun rising.
So I wanted to engage my children in spiritual conversation, or as I like to consider it, "discussing the really real." Being the official missionary/evangelist I am it was time to do my duty. I think I could hear the sound of trumpets blaring.
I explained that when we die, if we know Jesus and he lives in us we get to go to be with God forever. I sounded like a Sunday school parrot. But I went on to explain how Jesus was going to make all things new and how there would be nothing that makes us cry or hurt and it'd be like the Garden of Eden. Why did I still sound like a parrot?
To all of this, Teya piped in with helpful theological adjustments, as well as some pragmatic thoughts on death. Like, "We'll get buried under the dirt David." "Exactly," I said, "but we'll get new bodies." David didn't seem to like this as he looked at his arms and bulbous tummy, slapping it and saying, "I like my body."
With doctrinal astuteness, I told him that his new body might be very much like his body now, just perfect. He seemed to like this idea until he started wondering if he'd be black. "I don't want to be black!" he said. "Great," I'm thinking, "This is going to sound so racist when I write about it." Yup, it sounds racist, sorry.
I calmed David down and convinced him that he'd be big and strong, and probably look like his Daddy (which came from my great store-houses of vanity). To my delight he liked this idea. "Yeah, I'll be big and strong like Daddy!" David then came to the conclusion, "I want to die, Daddy."
These weren't the words that I was expecting, but I should have seen it coming. In his expression of hope, David, at 2 and a half, was to catching on. Little people see so clearly.
The verse above got me thinking on our conversation this morning. How much do I long for "Christ to be formed" in my children and others? Could I really express with Paul that I'm "in the anguish of childbirth?"
I've been in the room for two childbirths, and let me tell you, for the lucky uninitiated, the anguish is not pretty. Melissa, who's probably has the quietest voice on the planet (so much so that my Grandfather took it upon himself to teach her how to project by repeating "how now brown cow" over and over. I know it's weird, but it works.) reached into the darkest canyons of her soul and let forth a scream that I never ever want to hear again.
When she screamed I pictured a woman who'd been feeling a few slight contractions, being peacefully wheeled into the hospital by her doting husband (I hate husbands who dote, especially around stuff like births. Doters are dopes.), perhaps with flower pedals and song-birds dancing in her head, thinking, "I'm going to have a beautiful precious baby today!" But upon hearing this unearthly scream she frantically claws at her husband to turn her around and take her what she's now found to be "the hospital of hell." I know it happened to some poor young lady, and I'm sorry, my wife is a screamer.
But back on topic, do I really long to see Christ formed in others? I guess I do sometimes, occasionally and sort of not so much. Sadly I think too much about Christ being formed in me to worry about others. And I think this misses the point of spiritual formation completely. Because the Gospel is not primarily about our personal formation. We are the beneficiaries of a kingdom coming, and we are to be on the lookout and to be eager, "yeah even in the pains of childbirth" (thank you Paul) for others to experience Christ as King.
I'm this way for my children and for people I like, but it's probably about time I begin to have a heart bent this way for all people. The Gospel draws us out of ourselves and towards others, I think. I don't know about child-birthing analogies Paul, but I would like to have a heart. Maybe today I'll pray for Christ to be formed in someone I know. But I'm not about to scream like Melissa. Man can she scream.