At 3am on May 24th, 1974, I started making my wishes for an appearance, known. While they didn’t often do ultrasounds in those days to determine a child’s gender, my mom had that motherly instinct that assured her I was a chunky boy. And a few hours after I started plotting an escape from my maternal holding tank, a doctor facilitated my release and all 8+ pounds of me emerged.
My next oldest sibling had tortured my mom for 33 hour of labor, so despite my size -- “the biggest of the brood” -- the time reduction was welcomed by my mom. And as they played the birthing song in the hospital lobby (dad’s didn’t often join their wives in the birthing room in those days), my father knew he had a third son and the name had already been chosen: Joseph Aaron Castañeda.
Birth is messy. If you’ve ever had the experience of seeing new life enter in this world, you know the mess of which I speak. Sitting bed-side while my wife gave birth to all three of our children, I had a front row seat to the natural carnage. I’ll spare you the details, but there is nothing glamorous about birth.
And yet, birth is incredibly beautiful. After my wife had labored for over 15 hours, our firstborn emerged reluctantly. In an instant, the pain of child bearing disappeared, tears of joy replaced tears of pain and in the majesty of the moment, both Traci and I turned our attention to the baby boy nestled in a blanket, resting on her chest. There are few things more beautiful than watching a mom hold her new born baby after enduring labor.
I don’t think it’s an accident that birth is messy and beautiful -- it’s a metaphor for the life that will be experienced by the new child. Life is messy. Read the paper, watch the news or follow the top online headlines for a week and you’ll know just how messy it can be. Since Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in Genesis 3, the messiness of life has followed humanity like a haunting shadow.
Messiness is the reality of a busted up world. Yet intersecting with the reality of messiness is the fact that beauty is emerging all around us. Just as Adam and Eve experienced God’s grace and forgiveness following their moral failure, that same grace and goodness shows up in the greatest darknesses of this life.
Just as the pain and mess of childbirth fades when the mom holds her new baby, the messiness of life pales when God’s grace shines through. Paul said it this way in 2 Corinthians 4: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” The big-picture of God’s grace makes the messiness of this life worth it!
Have you experienced the messiness of this life? Maybe you are enjoying a break, or maybe you are living in the muck right now! Let me assure you that life starts messy, and stays messy until it ends. What makes it worth living is the grace that God provides -- the hope that only He can give as we follow Him.
I’m glad my parents brought me into this messy world. I’m thankful for how they raised me and taught me to live in the mess but not be overcome by it (more on that in the blog posts to follow). But more than anything, I’m thankful for a God who knows the big-picture, and provides grace sufficient for every moment of every day so that I can enjoy the beauty that this life offers.
2 down, 38 to go.
Go ahead and take the plunge, the beauty of life is seen clearest out on the water!