Tuesday, September 29, 2009

She's Having the Wrong Baby!

"She's Having the Wrong Baby"

That was the headline from the Detroit Free Press dated Thursday, September 24, 2009. The story goes on to describe a mix-up at a fertility clinic in which one metro Detroit woman's embryos were mistakenly used to impregnate an Ohio woman. Maybe you've seen the story.

I thought of another story which has some parallels. But this story has a different cast.

The birthing mother, in the second story, is The Church. The babies are those of us who call ourselves Christians.

The Apostle Paul writes, "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you..." (Galatians 4:19 NIV). But instead of being a mother carrying around this potential "bundle of joy", Paul is in the morning-sickness-phase. "I know what you can become, but right now you make me more than a little ill!"

Do our spiritual mentors, leaders and those to whom we are accountable ever think this about us? (I'm sure people have thought that about me more than once.)

In the Free Press story there seems to be a pretty good chance the baby birthed will look nothing like the birthing mother. I wonder if occasionally those of us who call ourselves "Christians" look nothing like the One after whom we are named. (Certainly there have been times in history when the Church has not lived up to its name.)

In another passage Paul tells us "the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" (Romans 8:22 NIV). Things aren't right in the world, in our community, in our family, in my life. We are hurting and longing for Someone to come and set them right. We long for all of "creation (to be) liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God".

Certainly the two families and the fertility clinic have unwillingly become examples of one part of creation that is groaning through human error. But they are just one small part of a much larger world. You and I could easily list any number of other places where this world groans, where life is broken and bloodied because of choices, both intentional and unintentional. Times and places where people have been careless, stupid, selfish.

I recently saw an episode of Ken Burns' latest documentary, "National Parks: America's Best Idea." They were discussing a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt, known as someone who appreciated God's creation in a variety of ways and through a number of activities.

After seeing the Grand Canyon, he warned people who lived in the area the best thing we as a country could was to, "Leave it alone. People can only deface it." And then the President set off on a crusade to begin to mark off various parts of the country that ran the risk of being defaced, commercialized, and scarred beyond recognition.

What a great idea: preserving places unlike anywhere else on earth. Planning on our country's well-being, not only for a few years, but for generations.

Can you imagine if there were no Grand Canyon to take your children to see? Or if Yellowstone National Park had become commercialized and Old Faithful had been named for some sponsor? (Go ahead, you can think of a clever company or two.)

For better or worse we are on this planet and we live with each other. And we will leave our mark, one way or another, on the places, systems, structures and yes, people with whom we live.

If you are or have previously been part of "The Church", whatever branch or brand of Christianity you might be or have been, then this next sentence is for you.

The children of God, God's sons and daughters, have not yet been fully "revealed".

So if you look at your own life and feel frustration at how far you are from who God has called you to be, take heart! Maybe you are still in gestation. Don't give up. Christ is still being formed in you!

Or if you have experienced a situation where those The Church claimed were the sons and daughters of God bore no resemblance to the Christ whose name they shared, be patient. Maybe she is having the wrong baby!

The update on the Free Press story was that the impregnated mother-to-be had decided she would carry the baby full term, give birth to the baby, and then give the baby away to the other family!

I wonder if there isn't a lesson there for all of us pastors and priests, deacons and deaconesses, chaplains, board members, teachers, preachers and leaders, about how we, "The Church," ought to view those to whom and with whom, we minister.

Much like that birthing mother, we are called to treat them with respect. We are called to cherish and protect them. Then we are called to give them away because they were never truly ours. We were birthing this baby for Someone else.

What might The Church look like if you and I purposed in our hearts to live life that way? I don't know about you, but I'd sure like to find out.

No comments: