“Blessed is the time of waiting, when we stay awake for the Lord, the Creator of the universe...." -- Columbanus
It’s the any-dayness of this late stage of pregnancy that serves as the metaphor. Amber sits on the couch, groaning quietly under the pressure of a contracting uterus. They are coming more consistently now. Harder. Longer in duration.
She lays awake mostly, the infernal sword of Damocles hanging over her neck. There is fear in the labor. Birthing is violent. I have seen this three times now. There is glory in the end; she knows that. But the anticipation of new glory is sometimes overshadowed by the anticipation of the process. She is, after all, only human.
Today the contractions will cease for a bit, and she’ll be convinced that she’s only been experiencing pre-labor pains. We’ll have an almost normal day, I expect. And tonight when we sit on the couch, when she drinks her raspberry leaf tea, the contractions will resume. Harder, still. Longer in duration, still. We’ll try to watch a movie or read a book. We’ll try to distract ourselves from the anticipation, but you cannot ignore labor pains. They always come like a thief in the night.
My world, the one in Northwest Arkansas, is turning to ash. The grass has withered. The flowers have faded. The trees have tanned under too much sun. They beg for a drop of relief, groan in anticipation of spring rains.
I pay a migrant worker to mow my lawn, the lawn that lays dead or dormant outside of my sunroom window. It hasn’t needed mowing in a few weeks now and I wonder how he’s making due. Sometimes work dries up and blows away. It’s happening all across this great Midwest. Work and weather can both be so fickle, the misery of both so persistent.
He and his wife lay awake at night too, a different kind of sword hanging over their necks. It’s hard to put food on the table when drought has robbed you of work. They groan with creation, “Lord, a bit of rain please.”
I have these friends, a couple married for many years now. They have lived through the anticipation of birth, the raising of children, the matriculation to a near empty nest. It’s a lonely place, the growing apart. They’ve considered the neighbor’s spouse, the coworker, the friend at church. They’ve considered anyone but each other.
She’s strayed, and maybe he doesn’t know it yet. Or maybe he’s strayed and she doesn’t know it yet. They lie together at night, silent on their separate sides. They wish it weren’t this way, believe it could be different. They silently pray for salvation from a dead marriage. They silently pray for the resurrection of dead souls.
Tomorrow they will visit a family counselor who will remind them of their vows. He’ll tell them that the covenant covers infidelity. He’ll remind them of Hosea and they’ll work through the metaphor. They’ll groan in anticipation of healing, eye-roll and sigh through many an argument. Repairing a marriage is a violent process. I’ve seen it many times now.
In the end they’ll lift arms in adoration, four limbs melded back into two. They’ll rejoice in the coming of the new, the passing of death. They’ll have another twenty good years, I expect. That’s how redemption works.
The metaphors are all around me. If only I could learn to listen.