I hear women talk about them. Having never been there myself, I mostly rely on borrowed experiences. The common denominators seem to be 1) long; 2) painful; 3) tiring. So when David Rountree was preaching through Galatians 4, verse 19 arrested my attention. Paul talks about experiencing the pangs of childbirth as he waited for “Christ to be formed in [the Galatians].”
Salvation is begun in an instant but worked out in time and space. Very few of us grow to maturity in Christ without the help of one or more spiritual “parents” who shepherd us along the pathway of grace. Christ is “formed in us” as we are transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of our Older Brother and Co-Heir.
I work primarily with covenant children who are in a later stage of a multi-year process of sanctification. I never know where any particular kid is on that pathway. At any given time, some may be unregenerate (but experiencing God’s grace as He works through their families and churches to draw them to Himself). Still others exhibit an amazing relationship with their Father at an early age.
Some know Him only as an acquaintance. If left alone in a room with their God, they would sit in an uncomfortable silence and stare at their shoes, at a loss for anything to talk about. I often see those kids wrestling to understand why the God at work in their lives (poking around and rattling their cages) doesn’t seem to match the picture of God they expected to see.
The process of shepherding brings with it difficulties akin to childbirth. I can see Paul’s point. It’s not like the means of grace work instantaneously. In fact, God rarely untangles situations or people very quickly. He works patiently … while we wait. The outcome often seems uncertain. Will this person continue in faith? Will the covenant promises hold true? I see a life-shattering tragedy shake someone to the core — will s/he survive the onslaught?
In the four years I’ve spent at NCS, I have wept.
I have rejoiced.
I have cried out to God in prayers that I couldn’t even begin to find words for.
And I’ve seen “Christ formed” in my kids.