Promises Fulfilled--A Labor of Love
By: Mary Elder-Criss
“O.k., Franny, now just a few more moments and we’re going to let you push.”
Taking a deep breath, Fran nodded, gathering her strength for the moment to come when she could finally bring their child into the world. The pain was excruciating, but she knew that it was the only way. As she struggled to find a position that presented momentary relief, she offered a quick prayer of Thanksgiving to God for allowing her this labor of love.
Fran and her husband, Jesse had tried for over fifteen years to have a child. Four miscarriages and countless tears later, she had finally succeeded at carrying a child to full term. A million thoughts now ran through her head, as she grasped her husband’s hand, and saw her concerns mirrored in his eyes. She was over forty years old. They had been warned of complications that could arise. “Would the baby be healthy?” Prenatal tests showed no reason for concern, yet until she held him in her arms and counted all his fingers and toes for herself, she would not be at ease.
“O.k., Fran, it’s time. Now we want you to take a deep breath, and push with all your might.”
As she braced herself against her husband’s frame, Fran uttered the last of her “Please Lord” prayers, and pushed with everything she had.
“One more time, Fran, come on girl, that’s it, now PUSH!”
Feeling as if she was being ripped apart, she grit her teeth nonetheless against the scream that was building in the back of her throat and pushed as hard as she could one more time. She felt a giving, and then mercifully, release, as the child slid from her body into the doctor’s hands. He was perfect in every way. God’s promises had been fulfilled.
He sits by his mother’s bedside, holding her thin hand in his. Stroking the fine paper-parchment skin, he remembers her hands strong, always busy at some chore. Rolling out biscuit dough, weeding her flowers, throwing endless baseballs to him when Dad had to work late, and couldn’t help him practice.
He brushes a stray hair back from her lined forehead, and bends to drop a quick kiss on her brow. He remembers the endless kisses dropped on his forehead while growing up, as she would stand over him each night, praying. For years, she had labored with his father, side by side to provide everything the family needed. When Dad died three years ago, and Mom got sick, there was no question in his and Mary Beth’s minds about what to do. Mom would come and live with them, and they would take care of her. It hadn’t always been easy, but then again, pain often accompanies love.
Slowly, her eyes open and she focuses on the beloved face above her. “Paul?” she whispers in a voice grown raspy with disuse.
“Yes, momma, I’m here,” Paul replies. “What can I do for you?”
“Love your family, Paul. Love them with all you have. Love them as you love the Lord. Never let a day pass without telling them you love them.”
“I know, Momma. I will, I promise.”
“That’s a good boy. I know you will. You were such a blessing to me and your father. We tried for so long to have a child, we had almost given up hope, and then God gave us you. Remember, Paul, a labor of love does not always have immediate results, but is always worth it.”
“I know, Mom. I’ll remember.”
Smiling, she closes her eyes and slips away to be with Jesse. As Paul quietly weeps and mourns her passing, he smiles as well through his tears. God’s promises have been fulfilled.
He stumbles and the crossbeam cuts heavily into his lacerated flesh. The cries of the crowd ring in his ears, as his blood drips down, imprinting each pain-racked step of the journey. They yell mockingly, forgetting that just three days earlier they praised him, as he rode into town. He stumbles again, and the soldiers roughly hoist him up, and shove him forward. With flesh hanging in tatters, thorns piercing his brow, he endures blows and spittle, while he staggers on silently to the hill where his destiny lay.
Relieved at last from the heavy wooden beam when he fell for the third time, he now stands, chest heaving, looking more dead than alive before the Roman soldiers and the crowds who had followed the procession. At the Place of a Skull, they offer him bitter wine to drink, but he refuses. Publicly, they strip him of his clothes, and cast lots to determine who should get them. As one soldier holds his arm steady, the second picks up a heavy hammer, and drives the spike deep through his wrist. Pain flares, bright, hot, and heavy, as if his arm has suddenly been set on fire.
As they raise him up, his gaze meets his mother’s eyes. The grief and sorrow reflected there pierces his heart. She still does not understand. God’s promises must be fulfilled. It is a labor of love.