Pregnancy can be rough. A mother sacrifices her own body – taking on sickness, pain, and physical marking that may never go away – to bring a new child into this world. Or maybe even, straight into the next world. Even the mother who never holds her child willingly sacrifices her body for that new, sweet soul.
Being in the third trimester of pregnancy, while walking the path of Lent, gives you a unique and clear viewpoint. The forty days of Lent contrast pretty well with those forty weeks gestating a new little life. Both are long, rocky days of self-sacrifice, all in the name of sanctification and everlasting life.
No matter how often we may complain (ahem, if you’re like me, it may be a lot), there is an underlying joy with which we pick up this particular cross. Bringing forth this new life is worth every moment of nausea, every long night of heartburn and insomnia, every sore and aching back. New life – the much longed for, the shocking surprise, or the quickly fleeting – every single one is worth each moment of sacrifice.
The pains of pregnancy and labor are a result of the fall. God’s perfect original plan did not include all of this suffering. In the same way, His original plan did not include sending His Son to suffer and die. Temptation and human weakness altered His perfect plan, but He reached down with the gift of meritorious suffering to give us a second chance. When we suffer and choose to unite ourselves to Christ’s suffering, we bring merit and worth to the pain.
And in Lent, in a very acute way, the pregnant mother can unite herself to the passion and suffering of Christ. He willingly, perhaps even with quiet joy, suffered that we might live. He endured physical pain and scars, He carried His cross along that long and rocky road. He fell and picked Himself back up. He did all this not for Himself, but for us. For you.
Christ’s Passion culminated in an excruciatingly painful, humiliating death. After being whipped and mocked, and hauling that heavy cross up the hill, they hung him there in the hot sun in front of jeering crowds. Just like the long road of pregnancy is hard and exhausting, the mother is then asked to endure labor as the grand climax of creating new life.
How many of us have given birth and quietly thought “this isn’t my most graceful moment!” It hurts. We throw all pride to the wind. We grip the moment, cry out to be relieved of the pain, and suffer through. And every mother would stand up and say that she’d do it all again. Every moment, every tear shed, every drop of blood spilled. Each and every child is worth the sacrifice his mother endures to co-create with spouse and God a new and unique soul.
I’m sure that if we could ask Jesus, He’d say the same thing. He willingly suffered for our souls and our chance to attain the ultimate goal of Heaven. He shed tears and spilled blood for your soul and He’d do it again if that were required.
No one likes pain and suffering. No sane person sets out in search of it. But as Christians, we have been given a gift of understanding the merits of suffering. Christ’s suffering attained the chance of eternal life for each us, just as a mother’s suffering brings forth a new life. Our individual suffering – be it great or seemingly small – is meritorious in its own way. Christ calls us all to suffer alongside Him and to one day rejoice alongside Him in Heaven.