Mother of four. I should know in my head and by heart what kept all four of their heads and hearts alive in me. But I guess I just accepted the miracle and was simply so pregnant happy that I had no questions. No need to read about the miracle, because it just was. And is it okay to say that about a miracle? Say, “It just is and I don’t need to know the details?” It seems to me it is okay. Because something’s lost when everything is found out.
Doesn’t faith thrive a bit on the mystery of the unknown? The unseen?
Sometimes the happiest faith is the faith that just accepts because the hope is sure.
Seventeen years ago my youngest was in womb, and now the question comes! “Just exactly how does that go? How exactly does a baby eat in the womb?” I’m curious.
Curious because the miracle is still happening. To me. In Christ. And that’s a whole other realm of mystery that I don’t understand. He’s begotten Son of Father. He’s my oldest Brother. He’s my Savior. His Spirit lives in me. His life is being reproduced in me and I am being formed in Him. All I can say about that is that He is my All in All and all my hope, and may my faith grow large and obvious because of it.
I google it right out, “Exactly how does a baby eat in the womb?’I’m the queasy type. This isn’t the sort of thing I ask. But here I am and here it is, “The umbilical cord contains two arteries and a vein.”
“Ah!” I stop right there. “It’s a three-stranded cord!”
It kind of takes my breath away because isn’t this how all of creation was made and how I’m being formed even now? By the Father, Son and Holy Spirit three-in-one mystery that secures me to Him and grows my faith by His love, blood and breath? It’s cord! It is.
I am attached to this cord and have been for my entire born-again life. Thirty-six years and I’m still getting things backward and upside down. No wonder. I was born the first time that way. Upside down, head first, and slapped on the backside.
I’ve been thinking about endurance and strength and joy. Because it’s needed for labor. Especially the joy. And needed desperate for the mother who labors and knows a pain consuming more than body and breath but that consumes love into itself because her baby is still. To the mother who felt baby in womb and saw beautiful form but never got to give milk. Her heart cries beneath breast ache, full and dripping sweet milk.
“Am I not better to you than ten sons?” Elkanah breathed to Hannah, and doesn’t Jesus ask the same? “Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
The question hurts. It even angers. And it’s not reserved for women delivering, but it’s for everyone who labors all hope and heart strength for life. And then grieves. For anyone who has just folded in half over themselves and air has pressed out in the fold and joy rolls out flat ‘til it’s deflated when we need to be filled with it, and love’s been roughed so bad it’s not recognizable.
But maybe the question is cleansing. Maybe it’s cotter mill for keyways to heart. Maybe the question pries where it’s not wanted, but maybe it pries where it’s needed. Because maybe the question itself induces labor ‘til soul womb births into the light what’s been in the dark. Pushes out grievance against God ‘til, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?’ can be answered with honest, “Yes.”
So how does that go? Is there any way to hope for joy outside of believing how the Father endured when cord of flesh was cut from His Son’s baby soft belly knowing that He would labor ‘til Love was unrecognizable? Is there any way to hope for joy beyond a thousand dead soul-beats because the soul life has bled right out of soul heart?
It seems a backward way to joy, the way through suffering.
The cord makes all the difference. The cord of flesh feeds the flesh and it must be cut if we are to have any hope at all of living; but Spirit cord feeds spirit ‘til joy grows through labor, and unfolds open right before us when heart curls up to die. There is no easy way to this joy. No otherway than this joy. Because this joy is reserved miracle for those hanging.
I need it. All of it. No, I have not suffered still-born delivery, but there are other lives that I labor for who are still just so, well, just so still. And sometimes I’m too plumb wore out to appear full of joy. I labor and they are so still and my heart is folding up because of it. Until I get it right side up.
I don’t need strength for joy, but joy for strength.
I don’t need strength for joy, but joy for strength.
I’m thinking of it. I don’t really know why, but I am. Thinking of what the Lord’s strength was when He had no strength left. And the only way I can wrap my mind around this is that He is everything to Himself. And must be everything to me, too.
He who was scorned, scorned its shame; and He who was shamed, shamed shame.
Was there anything that looked joyful about the crucifixion? About the physical appearance of Jesus? About how the sun disappeared, and did the moon and stars cry? About how the earth shook and rattled bones and split open rocks and gave up its buried? Gave up the saints long dead and they came out of the earth? Did anyone look around and feel it and say, “Oh, joy!”
Probably not. More like, “Oh no!” And “Uh-oh! Big trouble, because truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:51-54).
But Jesus saw something beyond. Saw joy. It was set right there before Him. And what strength does it take to give up your own life? Not take it? Not rescue it? Not let it be taken? But to give it?
I’m thinking it’s hard.
It’s hard to give myself up. And harder to give myself up when everything in me wants to scream, “No! This is wrong! What did I ever do to deserve suffering for everything that’s wrong in your life?” Hard to nip the thoughts and bite the tongue. Hard to work repentance by working to deny myself that “No!” Because in the “No!” I’m shouting my pride out and it's all upside down, “I’ve stuck through this. Stuck by you. Prayed endless hours for you.” But the “No!” devalues whatever it touches and cuts cord.
Cut the cord and be born the first time in sin. But fell pride and be born again drawing life from Life all Father love, Son blood and Holy Spirit breath. It’s two arteries and a vein three-stranded cord. Draw on Life from here and grow strong because draw on Life and draw up joy. It starts with Him.
And nothing but extreme joy for extreme need is enough joy.
May I give myself even now? Because of now? I may. Who says we need to make our own joy? Everyone who was born upside down and slapped on the backside, that's who.
Sometimes I’m just hanging there somewhere between right side up and upside down. I’ve had a lot of practice because I’ve been born both ways. But something is getting right side up in me. Because when I was born-again it was right side up in the Righteous One and no one slapped my backside but just breathed living breath right into soul lungs. And I’m spending time lately practicing the right side up that doesn’t make much sense when upside down on head.
Like, where can I stand when mayhem turns my world upside down? Sometimes it’s not at the foot of the cross. Oh, that sounds so backward I flinch to say it. But I do. Because I read it in God’s word. Read, “And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar” (Matthew 27:55). And I know that the word “ministering” means “mothering.” It’s in the dictionary.
Looking on from Afar
I’m learning when to look in from afar. Learning where to stand in mayhem. Learning where to take position to minister to Jesus with the kind of percipience that only womb and cord can know. Because His life is being formed in me through this Three-Strand Cord.
I’m learning the right side up of putting myself last because God promises the last will be first and I’m counting on it. Ways to be last? Slow down. Fold my clothes and put them away last. Be last in line. Set my place at table last. Put other’s needs and wants at the top of my list, and that places mine last by default. And something very right side up happens then. I don’t miss what’s dropped down to the bottom of the list because I’m focused on what’s at the top. And I know that Jesus says the last will be first and it all has to do with where I’m standing. In what Kingdom? In who’s line of sight?
I’m just learning to stand afar, like those women I read about who followed Jesus and ministered to Him. They stood afar at the crucifixion. Behind the others. And in Jesus' line of sight.
Could it be that when we stand behind others, Jesus sees us consecrated and consecrates us further for blessing? Sets us apart? When the sky is falling and the ground is opening and everything is deflating? Sets us apart even, and especially, then? For His joy? I’m hoping for it and planning on it.
Maybe I’m starting to get it. To get that God’s joy, not just my joy in Him, but the joy He owns. His joy. That His joy is my strength no matter what’s going down.
Is there anything more consecrating than pain? Anything more necessary for life than holy Three-Strand Cord all Father, Son and Holy Spirit that nothing on earth can cut ‘til the Day of deliverance and resurrected body? Is there anything too hard for His joy? I don’t think so.
Can’t you just hear Him say, “Look on from afar and look to Me. I am your Joy. Look on from afar and see the presence of the Lord.”
I hear it. “I have set the Lord always before me. Therefore my heart is glad, my whole being rejoices, my body rests in hope. In your presence is fullness of joy.” May I breath Psalm sixteen verse nine kind of “Yes.”
Because this is, I’m convinced, just exactly how that goes.
written by: Carolyn Roehrig