Last night, Rachel and I welcomed our fifth child into God’s world. Phoebe Hope Medefind arrived with a full head of dark hair, robust lungs and sparkling eyes. Early this morning, as mother and child slept, I reflected in my journal on the marvel and trial of birth:
Our world, at its core, is both disturbing and glorious, anguished and delightful. Its DNA is woven of both groaning and song.
The birth of a child recounts this reality perhaps more than any other experience. It is strain and blood and moan. It is joyful tears and hope and laughter.
Last night held all of those for us. I watched with renewed wonder at the strength of womankind as Rachel climbed upward—like an assault on Mt. Everest—through the intensifying contractions, the roared strain of final pushes, and into the euphoria of the first encounter outside the womb.
Ancient pagans clung to their gods in such times. They knew not science nor the Maker of heaven and earth. But they were not mistaken to sense great spiritual gravity in the birth of a child, in the bursting forth of life amidst travail and pain.
When all unfolds as we hoped, as it did last night, these moments, alongside their pain, are weighty with sublime beauty. The mother—yet gasping from her strain—holds to her skin the newborn, its hair still matted and bloody. Father encircles both with arms strong and trembling.
Yet when all is not as it should be in a child’s arrival, there is no greater marring of God’s intent: The abyss of silence following a stillbirth. The hopeless straining when a child’s head is too large for mother’s hips in lands where a caesarean delivery is not possible. An undesired child born and cast off in a single hour.
Yes, the birth of a child is both Creation and Fall. It is Fall and Creation, interwoven, and retold in stories of unspeakable joy and unfathomed anguish.
It is the holy night when hopes and fears of all the years were met in the soft lamplight of a stable. It is also that most unholy night, when Roman soldiers dashed the life from every boy child in Bethlehem at King Herod’s command.
We should not be surprised at this stark juxtaposition. God delights in children. In Jesus, He drew them near. He declared we must become thus to enter God’s kingdom. So no wonder the scar of sin is especially visible in the birth of a child; no wonder God’s Enemy would seek especially to kill and destroy children: whether through Herod’s soldiers or Pharaoh’s; or in forcing a child into life alone on the streets or in a loveless orphanage; or a little one sacrificed to the god Moloch in ancient times or today to the One Child Policy in China or gender selection in India or mere convenience in the West.
No wonder, too, that God sets the protection of children as a central task of those who would bear His name—to defend the fatherless, to care for the orphan in distress.
In the birth of a child—my precious Phoebe Hope, as well as every child born around the globe today—the truth of this beauty-filled, ache-filled world is retold.