A Beautiful Curse: Reflections on Pregnancy

“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for the joy that a human being has been born into the world.” – John 16:21

In the creation story, God curses the human race for its sin and lack of trust in Him as a Good Creator. This curse results in an increase in pain and suffering for both men and women. The specific curse for women was increased pain in childbirth. Often times when Christians speak of childbirth, we completely skip discussing the effects of the curse and jump right to the amazing joy that children bring. Often times, the consistent pain of gestation and the agony of labor are completely avoided in our conversation about the beauty of pregnancy. But, part of redemption is knowing the suffering, pain, despair, and darkness that comes before the gladness, joy, happiness, and the light. Part of the Christian’s witness to the beauty of pregnancy and childbirth is being honest about its inherent pain and suffering. When the whole of pregnancy is acknowledged, then and only then, will we see the true beauty of pregnancy and new life.

I see no better way to discuss this truth then expressing the deep admiration I have for my wife, Stephanie. Stephanie is currently seven and a half months pregnant with our twin boys, Abel James and August John. Her pregnancy has not been easy, and the labor will not be any easier. But, Stephanie amazes me every single day with her love and deep affection for our sons. And, her love for our boys is best realized in showing all the pain she has, is, and will suffer for them.

Stephanie’s pregnancy started with seventeen weeks of morning sickness. Often she would vomit more than fifteen times in a single twenty-four-hour period. Cologne, Indian food, having an empty stomach, even elevator rides, would all trigger her digestive system to revolt in disagreement. Even if there was nothing in her stomach, she would experience constant acid reflux and dry heaving. At week sixteen she hit the climax of her morning sickness when she also got a stomach bug and had to be hospitalized for two days. The stomach bug depleted her body of all its electrolytes and made her tachycardic. The boys didn’t help, because they just kept taking what they needed from their mom. For two days, she had a heart rate of over 125 bpm and could barely walk because of how week she was. But, she persevered.

After the hospitalization, Stephanie’s morning sickness did start to subside, and she had a brief respite from any major discomforts. But starting at around week twenty, her body began to prepare for the birth, and the constant pains of a changing body structure started. Abel and August’s growth has started to hurt and pain Stephanie’s body. Her abs are stretching and separating, causing consistent pain and discomfort. Every part of her body has become more sensitive, hitting into something by accident feels like getting punched. Around week twenty-six, Stephanie started to get increasingly short of breath. Abel and August are getting so big that they’re constantly pushing Stephanie’s intestines and stomach up, which presses on her diaphragm and lungs. Stephanie can actually no longer sleep on her back because she literally cannot breathe. And, her nighttime sleep, in general, has transformed into three power naps, causing increased tiredness. These are just some of the physical and anatomical changes that cause constant pain for my wife.

But, Stephanie also has emotional pain as well. When she was hospitalized, we sat in the emergency room and had two nurses try and find the babies heartbeats. These labor and delivery nurses could only find one. An ultrasound was then scheduled to check on the health of the boys. We waited for three hours, and those three hours were some of the most painful in our lives. Stephanie, more than I, felt the emotional weight of not knowing if one of our sons was alive. We cried together, read Psalms, prayed, and waited. God was good to us, and both of the boys were healthy. At our week twenty ultrasound, we found out that both the boys were very small even for twins. One was the 11th percentile (for the size of babies in the U.S.A.) and the other the 13th. Stephanie felt for the boys, wanting desperately for them to grow. They did grow for a while, but at week twenty-eight we were told that one baby was growing while the other’s growth had been stunted. Abel was at the 27th percentile while August was only the 9th. Stephanie and I were both devastated and scared. But, Stephanie is the one who literally feels the boys grow and move in her. One of the boys in hidden under her placenta and is harder to feel. This paired with knowing one was smaller caused increased emotional pain and anxiety for Stephanie. We cried together more and prayed desperately for God to grow August. And, grow August He has. All this to say, mothers do not only have physical pain during gestation, but they also experience emotional pain.

Let’s be honest. For almost all women: pregnancy is difficult; it is painful; it is stressful; it is hard work; and, in reality, pregnancy is accursed. But, what a beautiful curse it is, for it is a curse that displays fully the message of divine redemption. Gina Loehr wrote on pregnancies saying, “Women will be saved through childbearing,” St. Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy. If bearing a child in one’s body is salvific, it is because the experience leads us into the redemptive mystery of the cross. As Christ offered his body and shed his blood to give us life, so too every mother offers her body and sheds her blood to give life. The new life every mother brings to the world follows the “Passion” of pregnancy and labor. Let’s not pretend the Resurrection should come without the cross.” These words ring true for a husband watching his wife experience the pain and suffering of child-bearing.

Stephanie has been such a beautiful display of Christ to me these past seven and a half months. She is literally giving of herself every single day. She is giving her body, her nutrients, her hormones, her oxygen, her blood, her literal life to our beautiful twin boys. She is giving shelter and food to these helpless human beings. Jesus once taught, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me…Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” I do not think it is far off to say that mothers, when they bear and raise children, are doing these same actions to the least of these, the most vulnerable, unborn children. For when a baby in the womb is hungry, the mother feeds it; when it is thirsty, she gives it drink; the baby is a stranger to her body, and she welcomes it; it is naked, and she covers it.

Stephanie has yet to give birth. But, her labor will be the climax of her pregnancy, the darkest night. It is in this darkest night, that we by the grace of God will see the light of our children’s faces! If gestation is represented by the passion of Christ, then labor is the cross. As Rachel Stone writes, “Birth is not passive, pointless, cruel suffering. It is active work—labor…These mothers suffered pain, perhaps even risked death, to bring forth someone new, to bring forth new life…And so when Jesus goes to the cross “for the joy set before him,” as the writer of Hebrews puts it, it’s not masochistic, nor is it passive. He puts forth strength and endurance; like childbirth, it is a commitment to struggle.” Even in Acts Chapter Two, when Peter is preaching on Christ’s death on the cross, the specific Greek word ōdinas (ὠδῖνας), used for the “agony” of Christ’s sufferings, is best translated as “birth pangs.” This paints for us a vivid image of Christ’s salvation of mankind through his death on the cross as a birth. How beautiful it is that our Lord empathizes with women by speaking of his salvation of all mankind as birth! The same way Jesus gave birth to new spiritual life in his death and resurrection, so to Stephanie will give birth to the new life of our twin boys. Birth is the last great sacrifice before the joy of new life and resurrection! As Jesus taught his disciples, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for the joy that a human being has been born into the world.” And, this is the beautiful curse, known as child-bearing: that deep pain brings even deeper joy.

Women experience pain, and then bring new life into the world. And, we need to continually proclaim how beautiful this process is, but also how hard childbearing and birth is. Women experience continuous pain and the greatest pain in the world to give children life. And, all women and mothers deserve constant support, praise, love, and honor for the way they carry their cross. The more we understand and discuss this pain the greater we can support the needs of women. We need a culture that understands the deep pain that child-bearing brings, so we can more fully experience the joy of new life.

I write these words as both a praise to my God who gave birth to resurrection life in the person of Jesus Christ and as a thanks to my wife, Stephanie Augusta Elliott. Your pain, your sacrifice, and constant work to support Abel and August do not go unnoticed. You are a beautiful image of Christ’s sacrificial love every day. I love you, and always will!

Folding the Laundry: A Meditation on my Wife’s Birthday

Today is my beautiful wife’s, Stephanie Augusta Elliott’s, birthday. The more I think about her and all of her amazing qualities and virtues, I realize that I value her birthday infinitely more than mine. For, birthdays are a celebration of an individual’s life, and I would much rather celebrate my wife’s life than my own. For, God (and my family & friends for that matter) knows who I would be without her.

Stephanie is such an amazing wife, as she loves me despite my insecurities and downfalls, my lack of empathy, my occasional lapses in judgement, and even my hatred of folding laundry. She does not simply “suffer” through my problems, she calls them out and urges me to live in the grace of God. I manage my money better with her; I am more disciplined with her; I even wax the car now because of her. She has challenged me to “grow up” in so many ways. But, alas, folding the laundry still evades me, in all honesty, I don’t want to grow up in that area.

Continuing on, Stephanie is such a diligent worker. This year alone she finished her accelerated post-baccalaureate nursing program and graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, passed her NCLEX, and accepted a nursing job. She even did side cleaning jobs to make extra money to pay for our move across the country. Stephanie empathizes so effortlessly and is extremely caring. Steph and I were youth group leaders at our church this past year, and she constantly talked with her small group girls whenever and wherever she saw them. She had them over for spa nights, movie nights, cookie party nights. Stephanie legitimately invests in those with whom she is connected. Seeing her be this person, challenges me to equally be as diligent and empathetic. And, while Steph has her faults, as all humans do, no human has intimately shown me God’s grace more than her.

St. Clement of Alexandria once stated, “For with perfect propriety Scripture has said that woman is given by God as “an help” to man. It is evident, then, in my opinion, that she will charge herself with remedying, by good sense and persuasion, each of the annoyances that originate with her husband in domestic economy.” Perhaps it is just the editing and translating of Philip Schaff and Alexander Roberts, but I love that St. Clement uses the term annoyances. In marriage, men are given wives to refine our rough edges or as St. Clement puts it “annoyances.” Woman make men who they are. Women are the sanctifying tool of God for the life of mankind. Not only do they physically and literally give life to all of mankind, women metaphorically give life to mankind as they educate, develop, and refine mankind through marriage and motherhood. This is the true beauty of marriage as an institution; this is the beauty in which the triune God created man in his image, as specifically man & woman. Man is not truly man without woman.

All this to say, I am not fully who I am without you, Stephanie Augusta. Your Christ-centered love and righteous jealousy do not merely make me a better human, but rather they are the very dispensation of the triune God’s grace for my sanctification. I look forward to the many years ahead, to the children we will raise in God’s grace, and to the hope that one day I will enjoy folding the laundry.


“The marriage, then, that is consummated according to the word, is sanctified, if the union be under subjection to God, and be conducted “with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and the body washed with pure water, and holding the confession of hope; for He is faithful that promised.” And the happiness of marriage ought never to be estimated either by wealth or beauty, but by virtue.

St. Clement of Alexandria – Chapter XX: A Good Wife

Love Examined. part II/II : Love and the Nature of Marriage.

“Those who are enjoying something, or suffering something, together, are companions. Those who enjoy or suffer one another, are not.” – That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis in the third and last book of his Space Trilogy, That Hideous Strength, has a unique emphasis on the sacrament or practice of Marriage. He, to show the importance of the theme of marriage in the book, starts the book with the words of the Anglican Book of Common Worship. It states, “Matrimony was ordained, thirdly, for the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have for the other.” (1) This then creates a theme for Lewis to use in the relation of his two main characters, the newly married Mark and Jane Studdock. The overall theme of That Hideous Strength is that a proper education, use of language, and knowledge of divine institutions will provide for a society rooted in objective truth; paired with Lewis’ Abolition of Man, it aims to show the need for objective truth in a society. Although many readers overlook this theme of marriage in the book, I believe that Lewis describes what he believes to be the objective truth of marital love.


Lewis thoughts on Marriage can be summarized in the first conversation of Dr. Ransom and Jane, the wife. Jane, who is one of the keys to the coming battle of Good and Evil, is about to meet Dr. Ransom, the leader of the forces of Good. Many would think that the good Doctor would talk to her of strategy, but rather he talks with Jane almost entirely about her marriage to Mark. This conversation, I believe, symbolizes one of Lewis’ main themes in That Hideous Strength and also in many of his other works; it is this: that the key to bringing good to any society is to correctly understand and display the institutions of God in a habitual manner. This would include the correct understanding of the church, the family unit, friendship, work, recreation, and the topic of this essay, marriage.


This leads me to my first point. Understanding correct marital love is essential for the benefit of one’s specific community. A marriage, that is correctly understood and enacted in a community, acts as a light to those trying to understand how it should correctly work. Marriage, then, can be compared to a complete picture of a puzzle. Those wishing to understand marriage and complete its puzzle, can thus look to the correct understanding found in a Christian marriage to know the way to complete it. Although, I am afraid this illustration falls apart, because marriage is a puzzle that can never be fully solved until our sin nature is eradicated. I am not trying to say that a couple can have a “complete/perfect” marriage, but rather that they can have the mechanisms to actualize a fulfilling marriage.


This action again reminds us of nature of love. Love displays God. Part one of this series described the necessity of Christian love toward one another as the way in which God displays Himself to the world. This love for one another does not only manifest yourself in the church, but rather it starts with your everyday life and particularly, your spouse, if married. The world can and will see how you treat your loved ones. Marital love then also displays God’s love to the world around you, and as part one described, this comes back to the imitation of Christ which is found in living a life of humble sacrifice. This is the great paradox of losing your life in order to find it, to die in order to live.


Pope John Paul II described the public picture of marriage as this. “Christian spouses and parents can and should offer their unique and irreplaceable contribution to the elaboration of an authentic evangelical discernment in the various situations and cultures in which men and women live their marriage and their family life. They are qualified for this role by their charism or specific gift, the gift of the sacrament of matrimony.” (2) Marriage is evangelistic in the sense that you act differently/truthfully in the same cultural situations that all other families find themselves in. But what characterizes a correct Marital relationship?


Let us return to the conversation between Dr. Ransom and Jane. Jane, who is angered at her husband will defend one major point, which, ironically, our modern culture loves to triumph as well; this point is the necessity of equality for a flourishing relationship. Jane defends her belief by pointing to Mark’s inadequacies, his faults. She says to Dr. Ransom, “I don’t think I look on marriage quite as you do,” (3) and that is exactly what the problem is with Jane’s view. She views equality as what she individually thinks it is, and her problem is with with the way Mark individually views things. If marriage is done with complete equality, nothing could ever be done. It would be a crippling stand still, a stalemate in which no one could make any progress. Logically speaking a 50/50 relationship could never work. Perhaps you will say, “well, this is where sacrifice comes in,” but to that I would say: if both parties sacrifice for the benefit of the other then you have the same stalemate thus switched. The wife, sacrificing for the husband, takes his position and the husband, sacrificing for his wife, takes her position. Thus a decision remains unreached, but it is now unreached for the sake of sacrifice.


So what is the answer to equality? Simply, it is obedience. Dr. Ransom during the continuing conversation with Jane humbly presents his belief on what marriage should be. Lewis, through Ransom, shows the unique relationship of marriage: that a wife respectfully submits to her husband and the husband unconditionally loves and sacrifices for the wife. Perhaps Lewis was reminded of the story of Hosea and Gomer. The entirety of Hosea is of the husband unconditionally loving his disobedient bride who repeatedly cheats on her husband. He easily could have said, “I have an equal right to sleep around,” or “I have an equal right to divorce you,” but rather Hosea submit to an unconditional love in the hope of restoring Gomer, his adulterous wife. The same way, when a wife respectfully follows an adulterous/evil husband, not in the evil acts, she does so in the hopes of restoring his unconditional love to her. This is the position that Jane, who is a follower of the Good, will eventually take with her husband, Mark, who is currently following the Evil. Jane does not submit to the point where she violates her conscience and the Good, but in every situation that does not violate goodness and God she follows Mark.


Jane, though, in order to get to this point has to listen to the instruction of Dr. Ransom. Ransom in his talk with Jane constantly reminds her that if she wants to make progress with her husband, screaming for equality will never work, rather, humbly serving him as far as she can, will work. Ransom lovingly tells Jane, “You do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but you have lost love because you have never attempted obedience.” (4) Jane then proclaims, “I thought love meant equality and free companionship” (5) to which Ransom returns, “Yes, we must all be guarded by equal rights from one another’s greed, because we are fallen….equality guards life; (but) it doesn’t make it. It is medicine, not food.” (6) This goes with part one of this series “On Love and the Nature of God.” This is the same problem we faced in the first article. Instead of love being active, it has become passive. Love is now reactionary. This is what Lewis is arguing against. Marital love should not be one reacting to a plea for equal rights, it should be an active giving of oneself to the betterment of the other. Ransom, to enforce this, then states, “Those who are enjoying something, or suffering something together, are companions. Those who only enjoy or suffer one another, are not.” (7Lewis wants his reader to see that this modern “love” of equality or tolerance is not equality at all; it is the opposite. It cause a wife/husband dichotomy instead of wife/husband unity. According to Lewis, “obedience – humility – is an erotic (marital) necessity.” (8) Jane had been, “putting equality just where it ought not to be.” (9)


Again love is not equality. Love is comfort, but not in the modern sense. Love comes alongside someone to strengthen them. This is what is meant by comfort. You “fort”-ify the one you love. This means telling them when they are wrong. To do anything less is to actually dislike, even hate, the person. For, if you know the truth and do not try and persuade the people you love of the truth, you in fact prove that your love for them is shallow and passive, but this loving persuasion must be paired with humility. This is what Jane embodies. She is the wife who, when she finds “the Good,” both acts humbly and begs her husband to reconsider what he is doing because he is countering what is true. It is with this pairing of truth and humility that Mark returns to his wife. The book begins with Jane doubting the concept of marriage and fidelity, and it ends with Jane and Mark being reunited in a deeper understanding of love.


This is then the epitome of marital love: imitation of Christ. It is the combination of humility and truth. Lewis does not mention this in That Hideous Strength, but it is seen in his other writings, and it is seen in the writings of all the great doctors and teachers of the Church. As part one of this examination of love stated, we know what true love is, because God displayed His love in the God-man, Jesus Christ. It is by this we can see, experience, and partake in love. So what does marital love look like from our knowledge of Christ?


1. Marital love is sacrificial: The same way Christ sacrificed himself for the church so should the husband and wife sacrifice for each other each day. If it comes to it, the man should love his wife so much to physically die for her.

2. Marital Love is forgiving: The same way Christ forgave sinners of their trespasses, so the husband and wife should forgive each other of their sins. I would even argue that Christ allowing for a divorce in sexual sin situations, is not Him desiring it. It is the exception to the rule of fidelity but not the rule. Again, Christ’s forgiveness is unconditional, and so should ours. This can be seen in the account of Hosea and Gomer.

3. Marital Love should be gracious: There will be times in the journey of marriage where each spouse will grow at a faster rate, and there will be times where each spouse fails. It is important for each spouse to extend grace when grace is due. Use failure as a means of growth. Christ did so with his disciples, do so with your spouse.

4. Marital Love does not retaliate: sometimes a spouse will become frustrated and will wrongly be angered. It is important to remember that Christ did not retaliate when he was wrongly accused but acted humbly. In doing this you will show them their error. If you retaliate, Christ is not imitated and love is not displayed.

5. Marital love is faithful: when the disciples deserted Christ, Christ did not desert them. He died for them. There will be times when your spouse figuratively deserts you, and it is your job to remember that Christ is unconditionally faithful.

6. Marital love bears burdens: Christ carried the burden of the cross and the weight of world’s sin. It is therefore your job as Galatians 6 states to carry the burden of your spouse in love. If they are struggling with a burden, it becomes your burden as well. Remember, you are co-journeyers that are united as one.

Last and not least. One that is very often overlooked.

7. Marital love is manifested in bearing children: The same way Christ is the Son of God, so we imitate God in the fact that we produce children as well. Adam was created in the image of God, and Adam then had a son in his image. This is the image of sonship. For, If Christ is the exact image of God, why is this so? Because, Christ is his Son of God, eternally begotten. Humans then imitate God’s “nature” in the birth of children. Children then are an act of sanctification for parents. Marriage involves having children.


As a wife obeys, and a husband loves unconditionally, they mutually seek to obey God and His commandment to love one another. Remember Dr. Ransom’s warning? Love is not about suffering and enjoying one another, but suffering and enjoying things together. Marital love is focused on how to approach situations, ideas, and people together as one, not about how to approach each other in various situations. You are co-journeyers, living life together, helping each other. Marriage is the beginning of a journey; it is not a destination, and this journey will challenge you. You will be forced to work together to endure hardships. You will help each other in the “so-called” mundane tasks of raising children, making a budget, shopping, and cooking, and you will realize that these “so-called” mundane acts are some of the greatest growing points. When your spouse falters, and you come alongside to strengthen them, you will see the beauty of the cross. The one who falls will see grace, and the one who carries the burden will see a changed life. And, as the two, united as one, do these mundane, public acts for all to see they, if imitating Christ, will display the love of God to their community.


1. Lewis, C. S. That Hideous Strength. London: Voyager, 2003. Print. pg 11.

2. Hogan, Richard M., and John Paul. Covenant of Love: Pope John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage, and Family in the Modern               World. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1985. Print.

3. Lewis, C. S. That Hideous Strength. London: Voyager, 2003. Print. pg. 144.

4. Ibid. pg. 144.

5. Ibid. pg 145.

6. Ibid. pg. 145.

7. Ibid. pg. 145.

8. Ibid. pg 146.

9. Ibid. pg. 146.