"But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." Ephesians 4:7 (NIV)
It was August 27, 2000 around 2:00 a.m. I woke with a start, realizing that my water had just broken. With this being my third child, I knew that the contractions that were non-existent at that minute were soon to become a force to be reckoned with. I reached across the covers and shook my husband awake. I had had the suitcase packed for several weeks. We needed to get our preschooler and toddler over to my parents before making the 45 minute trip to the hospital. Rob carried two sleepy, sweet bundles and tucked them into their car seats. As we were leaving my parents' driveway, my contractions started becoming regular as they aroused a sleeping terror in me. I knew what was coming as dread began to overtake my emotions.
This was not our first trip to the hospital or even our second. No, this veteran mommy had been sent home twice with false labor and a sense of great humiliation each time. I knew that with my water broken, I would not be sent home this time; still, the fear lingered. As they took me in to register me, I started bawling.
"Please, please don't send me home!" I begged.
I proceeded to tell the receptionist way too much information about my sad plight of being turned away twice before. The summer's heat had caused unbearable Braxton-Hicks contractions the last two weeks of my pregnancy. I am sure that God makes us women so miserable at the end in order to be able to face labor. Even though I was not looking forward to what was ahead, I could not bear the thought of having all my internal organs squished for another day. I longed for the ability to not have to use the bathroom every thirty minutes as I currently did. There was a desperation in my voice that the lady admitting must have heard. She patted my hand and told me she would get someone to check me right away.
My contractions were coming closer and closer together now. A nurse checked me and told me I was already three centimeters dilated. I was ecstatic--for the moment. By the time they wheeled me into the LDR (labor/delivery/recovery) room assigned to me, the quiet dread was no longer quiet, but crowding out every semi-coherent thought.
My labor suddenly took on warped speed. I could not get comfortable. Where was my midwife? A nurse checked me and told me that I could have an epidural at any time. Right after that good news came the bad news. There was only one anesthesiologist on the floor and an emergency C-section had suddenly come up. That was not the time I was feeling willing to share. I wanted drugs and I wanted them NOW!!!
As each pain-saturated minute passed and no Doctor Feel-Good appeared with my wonder catheter of relief, it dawned on me that I would probably have to have a natural birth. I had opted for this crazy method my first time around the block of childbirth. No way, never again, not on purpose, at least!
I had two options at that point. Either stay in bed or sit in the rocking chair. Before I made my decision, I started yelling like a mentally-imbalanced woman.
"Help me, Jesus, help me!!"
I screamed so loud and often that the attending nurse quickly came to close my open door. She told my husband that I was scaring other patients on the floor. I made my way over to the rocking chair and rocked away. Both a nurse and my husband tried to get me to "Hoo, hoo, hoo, hee" breathe. I looked at them both with daggers in my eyes. That method was soon abandoned.
Each contraction seemed to last an eternity and was like a huge mountain that I had to climb and could never get to the top of. As I sat in that rocking chair, I knew that the only way to get to the other side of the pain was to plow right through it. I could not avoid it. There were going to be no drugs to help alleviate my misery. I was going to have to embrace the situation as my lot and go right through the middle of it for it to go away.
My sweet sister, is that your situation today? You may be screaming, "Jesus, help me! Help me, Jesus!" The heavens seem to be silent. The dread that has been lurking in the back of your mind is now an all-consuming fear as you realize that there is no way under, around, or over this mountain in front of you. The only way to the other side is right through the middle. At this critical moment, we have two choices: to remember that our God has ordained this painful episode for our good and welcome His faithful decision for us or to get stuck in the bitterness as we miss what He is trying to teach us.
There is truly the other side just ahead. But some of the fear is not knowing how long this is going to go on, just like I could not know how long my labor was going to be that night. We can concentrate on entirely the wrong perspective and leave the trial only to fall into one that is more difficult because we clench our teeth and seethe bitterness and anger as we dig in our heels. Our God is a God of hope. And the grace that we need for this very pain has been given in just exactly the right amount if we will only receive it. How do we do that? We praise, girlfriends. Not for the excruciating pain of having to endure the moment, but for what it is going to produce in us. We praise Him that He is too loving to allow there never to be any rain. The days of ease are the ones in which I become apathetic, prideful, and useless to Him or anyone else. I am self-absorbed, too easily offended, and most unforgiving after too many days of life going my way, just the way I want it.
This heart does not naturally seek out my God. And in this chest beats a heart that is so easily deceived and is desperately wicked as the prophet Jeremiah revealed. In me is no good thing, except my Jesus, who continually sends opportunities for me to conform to His image. That mountain is an opportunity to strip me of this flesh that offends my God. But I rarely see it that way. I just see the height of the mountain and the depth of the river I must cross.
My daddy used to sing a short chorus that I have thought of so many times this past year facing the mountain:
Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can't tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible,
And He will do what no other God can do.
My reward after that intense three hour labor (all natural--there was a SECOND emergency C-section after the first one!!) was an eight pound thirteen ounce baby girl who I can't imagine life without. I am reaping the benefit of that pain in every hug she gives me, and in every time I see her "get" life's lessons. Was my sweet Jenna worth it? Absolutely and so are you, my sweet sister, so are you.
Jesus, how tragic to only know you as Savior. To never experience You as Redeemer, Deliverer, Comforter, Healer, or Lord. My trials are not punishments. They are my refiners, making me more like You if I decide there is no way around them but through them with Your help. Help me to accept that grace that has been apportioned for this very mountain, this very river in front of me that seems so daunting. You make a way where there is no way and walk right through the pain with me.