Friday, January 02, 2009

Barrenness and Other Women's Babies

I can remember coming across Psalm 20:5 many years ago. “We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.” It is the pronouns that impress me. It is easy to shout for joy when we are victorious but perhaps not so easy when the victory belongs to someone else. “You” is not you personally but the other person. While they are experiencing the victory, perhaps you are ankle deep in mire and not feeling the rock beneath your feet. As Christians we are a body and the victory of one member of the body is a communal victory – we all share in it. But we are all too human and when someone experiences something great, our all too human reaction is “Why them? Why not me?”

I was reading the opening chapter of Exodus, the account of the two midwives. I seemed to dredge up from somewhere that it was often barren women that became midwives. If they could not enjoy their own experience of giving birth to a new life, then they could enjoy it vicariously by aiding another woman to do so. I suppose that because they did not have the same responsibilities as mothers, they could respond to a call for help at any time of the day or night.

In my early days of discovering my own barrenness, I found it extremely hard to be around pregnant women. I found it hard to shout for joy when someone was so obviously enjoying a victory that was denied me. I am sure that most people did not begrudge me my silences, or my tears, and they didn’t last long, but my first response at hearing the “good news” was not joy.

When called upon by the Pharaoh to dispose of the baby boys as they came out of the womb, the two midwives refused to get involved. Much is made of the lie they gave to Pharaoh that the Hebrew women were strong and vigorous, giving birth before they could reach them. A lie that saves a life…particularly when one of the saved lives is Moses…is OK by God, and let’s not forget that the Ten Commandments along with “Thou shalt not bear false witness” was not yet given. And let’s not forget either that God rewards them with families of their own. I don’t think the reward is for the lying part, but for refusing to kill the babies.

I got to thinking about times when we all feel barren in our spiritual lives. There are seasons when things flourish and life bursts forth. There are also seasons when, like winter time, nothing is happening apart from ice crystals forming on frosty branches. It may be easy to look at someone who is flourishing, when we are not and ask “Why them? Why not me?”

The secret may be to not dwell upon our own barren state, but to involve ourselves in the lives of other people to ensure that what God has birthed in them comes to fruition. Not every birth is without its struggles. Our help and our encouragement to “Push” is needed. In helping Moses’ mother to give birth to him, and protect him from Pharaoh’s wicked scheme, those two midwives had played their part in the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt!

When we have helped others to bring to birth the things that God has conceived in them, it opens up the way for God bring to birth great things in us.

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