On Mary, hormones, ultrasounds and losing control of our future forever.
I’m writing this post five months pregnant. Now, I realize many women find pregnancy exciting. I’m not one of them. I hate the experience. I’ve done it several times before–and each time becomes a little worse it seems, because this time–not only does my body do crazy and weird things–but I know what’s going to happen in advance. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
I remember one conversation I had with another woman–she said being pregnant was the best part of her life. I thought to myself: you should really get a better life. (Of course, I didn’t say this out loud.)
So, what is it about the condition of pregnancy I don’t like? Where to begin …
I guess I could sum it up by saying: I don’t like the loss of control. Right now, particularly, it seems I’ve lost complete control of my hormones, emotions, and body. Pretty much everything about my life is now almost impossible to control. The other day I had a “normal” meeting that ended with me a blubbering mess of emotions–which most people who know me can’t even imagine happening, let alone witness. Which leads me to this question: could my life get any more embarrassing? My pants don’t fit, my breasts are at least twice the size, my skin is breaking out, my emotions are like a roller coaster and I’m constantly tired. Add to that any kind of pressure and I’m in an emotional state. This is the opposite of myself.
This is not normal–for me. I’m completely NOT in charge of my life right now … a small person is. I caught a glimpse of his picture the other day and couldn’t believe that someone so small could make such an impact!
So, I’ve been thinking about how my condition mirrors the condition of salvation. I know we say there is no greater thing in the world than getting saved–but if we are honest about birthing Jesus in us–we should be honest about the process. One of the first conditions of salvation is our own loss of control. We used to have a well-ordered life–with values and situations that were clearly in our own control.
Salvation (the act of Jesus being formed in us–the apostle Paul uses the term “Christ formed in us” and it’s a great image for pregnancy and salvation) is a loss of our own control. It’s often accompanied by pregnant-like symptoms:
– emotional breakdowns (how many of us were “saved” with blubbering emotive moments?)
– expansion (I don’t know of anyone who has met Jesus whose life hasn’t expanded!)
– and loss of control. (Jesus wants me to do what?!)
It’s funny actually. I remember before I met Jesus I couldn’t feel at all. I had spent most of my life numbing pain and so didn’t know what to do with it. Ask any addict and they will tell you the same thing. We don’t know what to do with pain. Now, I don’t struggle with drug use anymore–my biggest offense is that I usually take a fair bit of ibroprofin on a regular week to keep my body working pain-free … but even that’s over now. Caffeine isn’t good for the baby, so that’s out. Holy cow, it’s like a detox–with the pain! Here’s the thing: one of the ways you detect deadness is pain. If we have no reaction to pain – it means we’re dead.
One of the characteristics of dead people is that they cannot feel. As Dr. Paul Brand put it–pain is a gift (Btw, great book on the subject by Phillip Yancy and Paul Brand called “The Gift of Pain.“) If you were to look at my life before Jesus found me or I found Him or we collided (the more accurate depiction), you would spot a lot of deadness. What salvation did was make me alive. How do I know? I felt pain. I felt the pain of my own selfishness, I felt the pain of broken relationships and consequences of my own evil actions, I felt the pain of breaking God’s own heart and I even felt pain about not feeling pain until then. There was no doubt about it–I was alive.
The pain helped me emote. Emotion is also something dead people don’t display much of. But I slowly began to connect my feelings to my pain … and I began to understand that feeling sad is a proper emotion. It’s not wrong if there is something to be sad about. It’s right to feel.
Actually I remember as I read the gospels (the stories of Jesus), it occurred to me how emotional Jesus was. He was angry, sad, mad, happy, joyful. To me–at that time in my life–He seemed a bit like a pregnant woman!
Emotion, as a dead person, was my enemy. Not least of which was because I didn’t know what to do with my pain. Salvation, because I was now a living person, helped me emote and Jesus helped me figure out what to do with my emotions … up and out they came. And Jesus slowly took the pain.
I expanded. I’m way bigger now than I ever was before. My tent has been enlarged, my tent pegs expanded. My world has gone from a small, confined space to a large, open expanse. It’s amazing actually–the kind of bigness salvation brings. It’s a lot like being pregnant.
I actually do things as a person who follows Jesus because of Jesus, instead of me. This is remarkable, really. For someone who loves having control, I seem to have very little. (It’s a bit like that ultra-sound …) Sometimes I think of the impact Jesus has had on me: where I choose to live, what I listen to, where I go, who I’m friends with, what man I married, how many children I have etc. All these decisions are impacted by Jesus being formed in me.
I can’t help but think of Mary–the first person Jesus was formed in. She instantly lost control. Death was a real option for her. She not only lost control of her body for a time, but of her future forever. She went from being a normal teenage girl–destined for a life of servitude–to being Mary, the mother of Jesus, destined to a life that would bring blessing to the entire earth. Talk about expansion!
It’s no wonder Mary was emotional
– bursting into tears in a safe place with Elizabeth
– wondering outloud what to do?
– bursting into songs and tears and justice–wanting God to uproot the world! (Have you ever read the words of Mary’s song in scripture? They are intense. I’m pretty sure she wrote them when she was pregnant!)
The end of Jesus being formed in Mary wasn’t at Bethlehem, of course. As Mary herself became a follower of Jesus, the real birthing happened through the cross and resurrection of Jesus and in the early chapters of Acts as God’s presence is poured out on the earth. The real birthing of Christ in the world happened as every believer got the experience to have Jesus formed in us. To lose control. To expand our lives. And to finally truly, live. Pregnant with God.
So, why not lose control? Let’s join the painful, beautiful pursuit of bearing Jesus in the world. Let’s expand our boundaries, laugh more, cry often, embrace life–even a small Jesus within me and you can have a big impact. Let Jesus be formed in us.
Today I bought some stretchy jeans; perhaps it’s time we all got ready to expand.
Danielle serves Jesus as the Corps Officer of Crossroads Community in Edmonton, Canada. Her passion is social justice, including establishing human trafficking response teams in local situations and giving leadership to the global team for the Stop The Traffik campaign. Danielle speaks and teaches around the world and has written several books: Just Imagine: the social justice agenda, Challenging Evil, and newly released this year, The Liberating Truth: How Jesus Empowers Women. Danielle is married and has two sons.
Image: Pregnant, by Frank De Kleine, Flickr/Frank De Kleine Coloring (Creative Commons)