Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! (On Parenting in the Wild)In the third chapter of Genesis we read that an effect of the fall is that Eve’s pain in childbirth would be multiplied. I’m not sure what it would have been like for Eve to have a child before she and Adam rebelled against God. Would it have been pain-free? We cannot know, as she didn’t have children until they were out of the garden.
The pain mentioned here initially applies to the act of giving birth. This is a topic on which I have no firsthand knowledge. My wife and I are the proud parents of four children: three stinky boys and one delightful and perfect little girl. We have three ogres and one princess.
One Man’s Irrelevant Thoughts on Child Birth
All our children have been delivered through C-section. Being an eyewitness to these surgeries, I can say it looks terribly painful. I’m thankful I’m a dude. I’m the fourth ogre in our house, I suppose. We are Smelly, Stink, Stank, and Stunk living with Queen April and Princess Addilynn.
I’m a wimp when it comes to blood. If I see even a little, I get a salty taste in my mouth and the world begins to sway off kilter. Our anesthesiologist didn’t appreciate my weak stomach. As they pulled Isaiah, our firstborn twin, from the incision in my wife’s stomach, the anesthesiologist grabbed my hospital gown at the shoulder and fought to pull me up so I wouldn’t miss this marvel of human achievement. I resisted. He persisted.
Finally my wife, who should have been focused on more important things, spoke up. “Please don’t make him watch. He might pass out,” she said. So I remained hidden behind the curtain that separated my wife and I from the surgery.
And then, from behind the curtain, a well-intentioned nurse jumped out, like a circus clown with a bit of a triumphant bounce, and held up a small humanlike figure covered in who knows what. I fell out of my chair onto the hospital floor. I’m told my last words before blacking out were, “Put it back!”
Just kidding. I survived. My wife was okay too. Thanks for asking. But I will admit I was a little frightened at the first sight of our children.
In the movies they come out clean, wrapped in swaddling cloths, cooing and smiling, covered in an angelic glow. Not our kids. They initially looked like blood-drenched aliens, something from a low-budget horror film. But they’ve improved greatly, I’m happy to say.
A Parent’s Pain
In addition to the physical pain of childbirth, Eve faced the psychological pain of knowing her children would encounter a very different world than Eden. Bringing children into a scary world carries its own source of pain.
Adam and Eve’s family story is sad and dark. Just read Genesis 4. I’m pretty sure Eve’s pain in childbirth paled in comparison to what she and Adam experienced from their grown children, Cain and Abel.
We’re not given a lot of details but what we see is horrifying. We are told that Cain and Abel both offered sacrifices to God. Cain grew up to be a farmer; Abel, a shepherd. Cain brought crops for an offering and Abel brought an animal. God was pleased with Abel’s offering and not Cain’s. So Cain killed his brother in cold blood.
Don’t forget: we’re only a handful of verses away from Eden. So soon, we read of domestic violence and homicide in the headlines of human news. Too soon, we feel the full weight of our rebellion: our innocence left behind, hanging on a branch in the Garden of Eden.
Four chapters into the greatest book ever written, we find the first human brothers separated by anger, envy, and finally murder. The third person to breathe air on our planet killed the fourth. This shows that outside of Eden there is no “golden age.” There is a whole lot of pain surrounding a promise that one day God will make all things good again.
This battle, this human struggle, is a part of a cosmic conflict with God’s design. Part of our resistance is because no one wants to be crammed into what they fear is a cookie cutter mold. All of us want a little leeway to figure out who we are and who we want to be. And even if we accept that God’s design is best, it still can sometimes feel like an intrusion on our personal liberty.
Towards a Perfect Family
Our children are no exception to this human tendency. In the wild parenting is painful. I’ve heard it said that a parent is never happier than their saddest child. There is a lot of truth in that.
The Bible is the illustrated account of a dysfunctional family going all the way back to the first couple. We’re all a part of this messed up family tree. But the hope of the gospel, spoken of as early as the third chapter of Genesis, is that one day a serpent crushing child will come to undo our generational spiral of destruction.
Unlike Adam, this would be a perfect child. Unlike Adam, he wouldn’t be deceived by the serpent. Unlike Adam, he would actually defeat the serpent and defend the garden. That’s because he came to establish a perfect family. And through him, through Jesus, we can again call the Creator “Our Father.”
So, the bad news is we come from a broken family. But the good news is in Christ we are adopted into a new family. And that can make all the difference in the world, in a fallen world, for individuals and families.
We are pressing on towards a perfect family, through the one who perfectly obeyed his Father, the one who is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters. And one day, in the new creation, we will join together in one big, crazy, loud, eclectic, redeemed, loved, and accepted, family reunion.
This is an edited excerpt from my book that comes out on February 1st, Life in the Wild: Fighting for Faith in a Fallen World.