When I went into labor with Vivienne at 35 weeks, I wasn’t looking forward to the contractions; after all, they weren’t supposed to be happening quite yet (and they hurt, to boot). Perhaps her lungs wouldn’t be strong enough. Perhaps her sucking reflex wouldn’t kick in yet. Perhaps she would be too small.
This pregnancy, things are a little bit different. Since the time is right and I have every reason to believe that the baby will be healthy and strong, I’m experiencing the beauty of full-term. Most fascinating to me, are the waiting and preparation that happens over and over again as each day passes.
This time, I’m noticing all of those parallels that people use to compare the anticipation of birth and the anticipation of Christ’s return.
For instance, I’m actually looking forward to labor, knowing that the pain will bring us face-to-face with our baby. It’s helped me to look forward to the “end times,” knowing that the pain will bring us face-to-face with our Savior.
Also, I’m (finally) submitting to the inescapable fact that many of the preparations for the baby’s arrival must be repeated over and over and over again: giving the floors a good cleaning, scrubbing the bathroom, restocking the pantry and freezer, returning library books whose due-date arrived before mine… over and over again. When I want to whine about things falling apart or disappearing the moment I straighten or stock them, I’ve just had to look myself in the eye and say, “get over it!”
I’m learning the quiet beauty of this daily living, daily bread, daily work. Similarly, I’m submitting to the inescapable fact that many of my preparations for Christ’s return must be repeated over and over again: gratitude, meditation, confession, communion, hospitality… After all, living by faith rarely requires more than doing these sacred things over and over again, loving Him all the while. Again, the beauty of daily living, daily bread, daily work.
The habit of faithfulness seems at once beast-like and divine. While we are subject to a world in which things come undone (so we vacuum and vacuum and vacuum; grocery shop and grocery shop and grocery shop – convincing ourselves that we are not really squirrels even though sometimes we act just like them), we are simultaneously subject to a King who – in this world – redeems, breaks the laws of science, and moves ashes backwards-through-time so that they become beauty… instead of more ashes. And wonders of wonders, He makes my work count. He teaches me to pray that I am fruitful in every good work, elevating my position title – not necessarily my tasks – from Automaton to Saint.
When I dwell only upon our predicament of futile (yet necessary) work, I commiserate with Yeat’s well-worn poem “The Second Coming” in which he laments that right now, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
When I dwell upon our redeeming Messiah – the One who graciously makes our daily work both fruitful and eternal – I rest in the fact that, somehow, “he is before all things, and by him all things hold together”.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1: 9 – 17)
Because of Him, life will emerge from our work. And this is what makes full-term (repetitive chores an’ all) so beautiful.