I'm reposting this from a reflection I wrote in 2005. As our community moves into a new phase in our journey and works through some close friends getting a divorce I'm reminded of Paul's metaphor for pastors.
That joyous morning when Tayla arrived was not without its share of pain. At about 1am in the morning my wife jumped out of bed and told me that her water broke. I grabbed the "What to expect when expecting" and looked up under the heading of "what to do when the water breaks." Lollie's water didn't gush out, it was more of a trickle and so we thought that it was a false alarm. We went back to bed. Twenty minutes later my wife woke me up and said, "Let's go!" She cringed with the unmistaken pain of contractions. Our drive to the hospital took us seven minutes. We arrived at the labor ward and Lollie said in the calmest of voices, "I think I'm in labor."
The sister on duty took us to a room and placed two measuring devices on Lollie's stomach; called a fetal monitor. The one measured our baby's heart rate and the other the strength of the contractions. The machine gives a printout that looks like mountains and valleys. When there's a strong contraction, the graphic creates an Everest-like mountain, as it subsides it looks like the Free State here in South Africa (Kansas for those in the USA).
I stood next to Lollie and tried to console here (nothing seemed to help). The fact was that she experienced immense pain. I felt totally helpless. What could I do? I decided to check out the computer with the two readings on it. On close inspection I saw that our baby was fine, her heartbeat at a constant rate; it was the other graphic that disturbed me. The graphic representing the contractions looked like an ever growing Himalayan mountain range. By now the contractions were four minutes apart. The machine gave her pain the numerical value of 50-60. Curious as I am I asked the nurse, "How high can these contractions go?" She told us, "Some people have readings into 120." And then it happened. Lollie's graphic shot out and the rest of her contractions were all above 120!
Three weeks later Lollie can't even remember the contractions; in fact the only one who recollects it is me! The joy of Tayla totally overshadowed the pain. This is the perfect picture of pastoring.
Pastoring without pain is impossible and anyone who claims they don't ever experience contractions is well … an alien. The vocation of pastoring will always be the same graphic I saw in that hospital room; mountains and valleys. When we're in the midst of a 120 contraction it will serve us well to remember that a birth will follow; and that makes the pain worthwhile. Paul articulated it like this,
"My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you." Galatians 4:19
We live in a world that doesn't like pain. We will do almost anything to avoid it. Pastors are not exempt from this evasive attempt. For many years I lived a life built around ecclesiastic comfort. I built relationships that are shallow enough that it won't hurt. I preached sermons that focused on only one side of the gospel – the part that showed people that they're blessed. I have changed and now I'm in pain. As I decide to walk into and through the contractions of childbirth I can only pray that Christ will be formed in me and those he entrusted to me.