You know raising children is not going to be easy if it all starts with something called labor. Sometimes a woman will endure as many as fifteen hours or more of labor to have a baby. However, it's no piece of cake for the men either. Remember we are the ones in the waiting room with our in-laws for those same fifteen hours and there is no epidural for that. After the birth occurs, you bring home the perfect Gerber baby. Then it really sets in and you realize you are responsible for another human and the labor continues. This "perfect" baby throws up at both ends and is totally dependent on you. You feel unprepared. Like John Kennedy, for example, who sat down in the Oval Office, glanced up at the men who helped put him there and said, "Now what are we going to do?" Don't worry, there will be plenty to do. At first, you are mostly just cleaning up and feeding. Feeding is the process of putting the fruit on top of the vegetables in the spoon and sticking it in before he realizes that he just had his liquid broccoli. Cleaning is the process of ... . Well, let's skip that. It's kind of a dirty subject.
The labor increases when they learn to talk. And then the questions come. Questions like, "What is God's last name? Does He have a dog? What do batteries run on?" The older they get, the more difficult the questions. Like, "If dry ice melts, could we go swimming in it and not get wet?" They will ask strange questions and do strange things, like flipping Alka Seltzer in the bathtub water. Their brain has not matured yet so their body suffers the consequences. I saw a kid with a burned lip and asked him what happened. He said he licked his night light. I asked why and he said he had never licked one before. They live in a world that they have to see, feel and touch to understand. Just listen to a kid when he says abstract words like, "I pledge allegiance to the flag." He won't say that. He doesn't know what a pledge is or an allegiance. He will say, "I lead the 'pidgins' to the flag" or something like that. Listen when they say "One nation indivisible." Do you think they say that? No. They don't know what a nation is. They'll say, "One naked individual." They've seen one of those before. Theological concepts are very difficult for kids. They think God's name is Howard because it says "Howard be thy name." Or Art because it says, "Who art in heaven." They pray for things they understand such as, "give us this day our jelly bread." One little fella got it all confused and said, "Round John Virgin was the fattest of the twelve opossums." Children can't relate to your adult world. You tell them you have to work late or bring work home that you didn't finish, and they'll tell you to ask the teacher to put you in a slower group.
You find that the labor is not over at child birth. The labor continues because it is a sacrifice to enter their world. It is eating a pretend meal on plastic plates and reading The Poky Little Puppy for the one thousand two hundred fifty fourth time (I think I really did read it that many times, too). Many times the labor leaves you tired, drained and discouraged. There is something you need to do when this happens. When you are in a discouraging hole, refresh your soul. Remember that you have a perfect Father that entered your world. The one who could eat angel food cake came into our world where cows eat. And when you think of the labor that it takes to enter into a child's world, remember His labor did not stop at His birth but continued to His death. Jesus entered our world to labor in our behalf so we can rest. He made it very clear by saying, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). You see, it was a labor of love. He says that when you labor in love by doing it to the least of them, then He will give you rest.
Yes, children and labor go together; but so do children and love. Taking care of them is a labor of love. It really is the best kind of work you can get or should I say give.
So let's get out The Poky Little Puppy one more time.
Charles Lowery is pastor of Hoffmantown Baptist Church, Albuquerque, N.M.