by Trevor Thompson
Director of Pastoral Ministries
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
With our due date of July 10th, my wife and I are expecting our third child any day. As we anticipate this birth, I’m particularly struck by the image of “birthing” from the Second Reading—Paul to the Romans. Here, Paul uses the imagery of birthing to describe the way that we (and all of creation) are in the process of being made whole in Christ. Paul seems especially attracted to this image because he understands the seemingly futile “sufferings of this present time” are like the “labor pains” of a birthing woman, something to patiently endure but nothing compared to glorious experience of new birth. We all know that life’s labor pains are real, and I imagine we can all talk about our respective “birth stories,” how we have endured childbirth, sickness, loss of a loved one, a marital affair, the loss of a job, another day balancing work and parenting, and on and on. For many of us, like Paul, our birthing includes much groaning, especially as our spirits have been pressed to the brink through fear, doubt, and exhaustion. And then, somehow, just when we are ready to give up, through the grace of God, we pass through these pains and are made whole in God’s love. Nowadays we have all kinds of therapeutic and pharmaceutical means to quicken and decrease labor pains. Paul’s approach to birthing, however, seems rooted in a different kind of prescription. Paul seems to see himself as a kind of labor companion, someone like a doula, who, through frequent visits and letters, provides encouragement to the early Christians. Drawing on his own knowledge and experience of how difficult life’s labor pains can be, he reassures the one giving birth that indeed there is glory coming no matter how intense the pain clouds the vision.
In thinking about this metaphor of birthing, I’m particularly struck by how important supportive labor companions are. Curiously, statistics show that having a labor doula results in less need for major labor intervention. Even in hospital births, there are fewer invasive deliveries, fewer cesareans, and fewer requests for pain medication when a doula is present. In other words, there’s something about the presence of a supportive, comforting, and empathizing person that allows for a smoother journey through the pains of labor. I’m sure we can all share anecdotal stories that corroborate this scientific research. No matter how much medical or pharmaceutical intervention we might need, it seems clear to me that we need these supportive and empathizing labor companions to traverse life’s struggles.
Whether reaching out to others in one of our Family Life ministries, like Men’s Ministry or the Senior Club, or making an appointment to talk with a Stephen Minister, or getting involved in one of our service ministries, our church and its ministries are prime places where we might find these “labor companions.” as we are all being born anew and made whole in Christ.