First Glance: Galatians 4:19-31

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“My dear children,

for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth,

until Christ is formed in you,

how I wish I could be with you again and change my tone,

because I am perplexed about you.” (Galatians 3:19-20)

I (Stephen) will never be a mother. I will never experience the pains of childbirth directly. I remember journeying through our first pregnancy with my wife and feeling a certain level of awe and helplessness. There was much to be done as parents as a child was formed in the womb. We read books, took classes, and picked out names. As the due date drew closer, we dreamt of the future we might have with this child. We packed bags, assembled cribs, and stocked up on diapers.

Yet, none of my fretting or nesting did much in making our son grow. The process was both amazingly fast and painfully slow. All of it was filled with that sense of wonder and helplessness. I couldn’t do anything and I was astounded at how God worked. I had to wait, to hope, to groan, and to trust that what was begun in her would be finished – complete and beautiful.

I have never experienced the pain of childbirth directly, but as a pastor, I resonate deeply with Paul’s words. I long for Christ to be formed in the lives of our congregation, in our community, and even in myself. But that formation comes with a feeling of awe and helplessness. I read books, teach Sunday School and catechism, preach regularly, and do my best to guide people as disciples of Jesus, and yet all that work cannot make them grow any faster than God wants. The process is both amazingly fast and painfully slow. I have to wait, to hope, to groan, and to trust that what God has begun in us, he will bring to completion – full and beautiful.

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