“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children…”
As I continue to wade into the sometimes peaceful, sometimes roaring, river that is motherhood, I am often struck by the sorrow that mixes with the joy of loving my children. I have watched my daughter grow, learn to walk, to speak, to throw a ball (and food, and toys, and iPhones…). Most recently I am watching her test the waters of friendship, stretching her social muscles and opening up her precious little heart to the affections of people outside of her family. And I am terrified.
I have reveled in the sweetness of her vulnerability. From the time I saw her tiny heartbeat, to the moment I first gathered her sweet, fragile body into my arms, I have celebrated her newness. Innocence carries with it such a beautiful strength, and from the moment I learned of her existence I knew I would give my life to protect it.
Adam and Eve lived in Eden, in perfect existence with the Creator. They were whole in every way. Given freedom to explore, to grow, to experience all of the life that God had so thoughtfully designed for them. And then it happened, the seed was planted in their mind that God was withholding something from them; something that kept them from wholeness.
In my own little dark, rebellious heart I have wondered why God wouldn’t want them to have all of the information. Why would he want to keep them in ignorance, not knowing both good and evil? Ignorance is a disability after all, right? Knowledge is power. Why would God not want to empower his children? And then it happened, I watched my own child as she learned some painful reality of the world, and I could almost feel the chisel press in as her innocence began to chip away.
I cannot remember what exactly it was, it was miniscule. Yet, as I watched her process this new information, I could see a bit of sadness welling up inside of her. And it hit me. Was it necessary to her wholeness to know the deep dark secrets of this broken earth?
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not going to be locking my child away in a closet to protect her from outside influence (trust me, I have tried to find a legal and humane justification for this, it doesn’t exist). To enable her to walk safely through this life, we will have those “hard” talks, I will truthfully answer those awkward questions, and I will regularly explain to her that, no body safety is not about wolves wearing seatbelts when driving cars (her little brain is a wild mess of weird some days!).
But while these things, for her safety, will have to be learned over time, are they essential to her wholeness? Was Eve less of who she was meant to be without the “knowledge” she got from that wretched fruit? I would argue that she was more. The lie was that we would be like God. BUT WE WERE ALREADY LIKE HIM. Distrust broke that relationship and sent all of creation spiraling into chaos, losing all but a flavor of what it once was.
Innocence is valuable. It is so easily and, sadly, quickly stripped away. But when it is intact it allows for such freedom to be nearer to the truth we were created for. Aren’t we called to live in faith like a child? One that is fearless. Trust that does not question God’s unchanging love, that is not tainted by the belief that what hurts us deepest is a mere reflection or even a direct result of a vengeful, dictator god.
My breath catches in my chest as I think of God taking those steps through the garden. Knowing full well that his children were hiding from him in shame, full of fear of HIM. How his heart must have shattered, knowing that they would now have to live in broken relationship with everything that was good.
We so often refer to what he says in response to them as “curses.” Yet, in reality, he was sharing with them what their new lives had to look like now that all of creation’s perfect connectivity had collapsed. Eve is not punished by physically painful childbirth, though many of our translations state it this way. Hebrew scholar, Katherine Bushnell says a better translation would be “A snare hath increased your sorrow and your sighing. In pain you shall bring forth children.” She further explains that the word “pain” is more than just the physical pains of labor:
“The root from which it is taken, along with its derivatives, signify physical, mental, and spiritual anguish ranging from sorrow to bitterness or despair, to feeling disgust, trouble, turmoil, indignation, even terror. It is used less of physical pain than of mental pain.” (Read more)
We, Eve, now experience what God experienced as he stood before his children: the anguish of heart that comes from an unnecessary loss of innocence- that leads to an equally unnecessary loss of relationship. We bear our children knowing that they will not only struggle against us, but with God- not able to recognize love in all of its healing fullness. I see flashes of it rear up in the deep pools of my 4 year old’s eyes: indignation, an inability to see my love for what it is and an unwillingness to accept all that is good without wondering if there is better. And my heart shatters.
This world is harsh, and I long to protect her. To wrap her up and sing love over her until she has so soaked it in that she can know nothing else. Then, as always, I am standing before a mirror. My own desires for my child reflected back on me from the heart of my Father. And yet, I rebel.
We cannot lock our children up (but we’ve all been tempted.) We must let them walk in the same free-will that we have been granted. We can cry with them, and teach them where to run for healing. But, we first have to know the answer for ourselves. We must be willing to release our own pain into the depths of his healing love in order to come out so saturated that we cannot help but bathe our children in it. Parenting is painful, just like he promised. The good news is, he also promised that it was only for a season, and through him we get to watch our children (and our relationship with them) restored!