My first reaction, as I turned to this week's scripture was: "Oh geez. Another good story--but why do all these stories end with women giving birth, as if that's the end-all, be-all?"
Last week, it was Naomi (through Ruth's childbearing) being restored to motherhood.
This week, it's Hannah, finally bearing a child, after all those years of suffering in childlessness, comparing herself to the other wife: the fertile but less-loved Peninnah. Despite her husband's assurances that she's loved abundantly, she prays so fervently for a child that the PRIEST thinks she's drunk or crazy. God hears her prayer, and "opens her womb."
And Samuel is born.
I admire her faithfulness, and her determination. Her willingness to look like a fool, for the sake of seeking after God's blessing.
I just wonder why God's blessing so often is portrayed in the shape of a child. I've known plenty of women (and men, for that matter) who have lived faithful and inspirational lives, without ever having given birth...
Then, I turned to the Gospel lesson. And her, the birthing is metaphorical. And big-time. In Mark, we experience birth pangs--not from the birth of a little child, but from the birth of God's new creation.
Oddly, this is reassuring to me: perhaps all this talk of giving birth is about much, much more than little babies. Perhaps this talk is again reminding us that we are all suitable for the work of bringing God's creation into the world.
Just last week, I was chatting with a father before Water's Edge. We were talking about one of his kids. And delighting in her personality, intelligence, and thoughtful concern. "I've never though of my kids as 'my' kids," he said. He said it's more like they are these strange creatures of God who he's given responsbility to take care of, for a time. And it's incredible to watch them.
Perhaps our scripture records so many stories of God working to fulfill us, in stories of women giving birth, because they help us know something about the wonder of God's work: it begins in our care, but grows and far beyond our reach.