To give birth, one must lose their dignity. Have you considered that? We cry out for the Lord to birth something into our families, our lives, our churches, yet we prefer the sanctity of our personal space to the mess and noise which almost always accompany the release of life.
A woman in labor is probably in the most vulnerable position possible. She cannot flee; her time has come. She is confined to a prostrate position, exposed, and must surrender her dignity to the hope of the life she carries. That life must come out, and it will come, but only through her brokenness. She is laid bare before the eyes of others. There is much pain. There is also a rhythm that must take over, an ebb and flow. The pain doesn’t all come at once. Vulnerability is not a singular experience. It is an unfolding, a progression, a series of humiliations.
A man hung upon a cross has lost all his dignity. For the life which would flow, Jesus had to surrender his right to protect himself from the poor opinion of others. This might seem like the least of his problems at that dreadful moment. But the fact is, losses of much less consequence inhibit (or paralyze) most today. The possibility of public shame would have ruined for us the joy which remained before Christ as he faced his destiny. Equally terrifying would be lesser degrees of shame, such as public misunderstanding, or even general dismissal. We so desperately want to be included, liked. Yet in exposure, mockery, laughter and revulsion we often find the environment through which the Lord births his absurdities into the world.
There is a stigma which God, by design, attaches to His anointing. His anointing is His magnified presence, his signet ring buried in the hot wax of earth. It is that effusive dimension which leaks over from spirit to flesh. It is often invasive and disconcerting. Most people recoil from the more radical aspects of divine participation because, by design, they offend our minds. They look silly, foolish. They invite joking and laughter.
I remember being so offended years ago when Benny Hinn was in his prime. The televangelist was—and maybe still is—too easy to mock. But I wonder if the woman who rises from the wheelchair at his melodramatic rallies cares much for my spiritual snobbery? Even more daring, I wonder if the question is not “Why does Benny Hinn have to be so embarassing in his technique?”, but rather “Would he be fit to be a channel at all if he were not willing to be so embarassing in his technique?” In this respect, we have inverted God’s priorities. God never said he wanted to make sense to man! Quite the opposite, he said the wise were bound to miss him because his wisdom appears as foolishness. Yet we would rather God honor the quiet, healing prayer of a St. Francis figure than somehow align himself with Benny Hinn-style hype and noise, because that approach makes so much more sense to our desire to become palatable to the culture. As to my personal taste, the shenanigans are unfortunate, perhaps even fleshly at times. But if at the heart of it all is a willingness to look foolish, I suspect God is pleased, more so than with the unyielding reserve of the well-mannered spiritual courtier. Courtiers don’t give birth. They are too concerned with profit and loss and the power of their own image before the rest of the court. On the other hand, both beggar and knight are focused on the king alone.
Perhaps Benny Hinn is an extreme example. I don’t feel the need to defend the man or his ministry. Rather, I am full of reflection on the inherent disgrace of labor, blood, groaning and the gawking which follows. These things are like fingernails on a chalkboard, scandalizing that great, harmonious sensibility and respectability which the religious mind desperately craves.
Yet here is the interesting thing. The woman in labor, the Christ on the Cross, and all who suffer ignominy in hopes of giving birth—of being a portal through which the eternal disrupts the temporal—these are robed in a transcendent dignity which far surpasses the natural rags we tend to prefer. What could be more noble, more awesome, than the tenderness of a woman rising with lion-hearted courage to face pain and even death for the sake of a wretched, squirming new soul? What is more breathtaking than a naked man, hanging on a stick of wood, suspended between heaven and hell for all eyes to see, and yet hanging there just the same—with the dim flicker of hope undying in his eyes; even to his last breath, prophesying the life to come: “It is finished…”
The way is ready for new life. The cost of shame has been paid.
Paid by whom? By you? By me? No, surely not. Rather by one willing to suffer misunderstanding, shame and the total loss of personal dignity. For life: yours and mine. That anointing flows from the cross to us today. Are we willing to be carried by this violent and offensive river of divine intrusion to the place where we actually become givers of life to others? We shout yes all too readily. Then the door swings wide and we see a cross, or maybe a pair of birthing stirrups, and a crowd of people primed for controversy, and we…?