Recently, Elizabeth and I had our first childbirthing class. It was interesting; given my personality, I loved the details about biology and grimaced my way through the doula’s rants about hospitals and glowing endorsements of homeopathy. (Side note: I have no problem believing in demons, resurrection, or a dude walking on water. But homeopathy? I often wish its proponents would drink one part arsenic diluted in one million parts water – only a threat if homeopathy works.) That aside, one thing that stuck out to me in the class was a discussion of the pain that accompanies childbirth. Within the curriculum, what was stressed was that this pain wasn’t like the normal pain our culture teaches us to avoid. Rather, the pain of childbirth was good pain, a pain that was worth it.
There is a true happiness that can only be birthed through hardship – through pain. For whatever reason, this thought keeps forcing its way to the front of my mind. There seems to be two camps in the discussion of Christianity and happiness. One says that God wants you to be happy; while meaning well, these folks often end up promising you sports cars or saying you should probably abandon your less-than-perfect marriage. Hey, God might say that’s wrong, but he couldn’t mean you shouldn’t do what will make you happy. In response, other Christians insist that no, God doesn’t want you to be happy at all. They instead recommend a regimen of discipline and guilt-driven obedience suggests everything short of buying a whip and becoming a flagellant.
I’ve never been able to join either camp. The happy-Jesus crowd have no place for crosses or a faith that gets you fed to lions; the dutiful martyrs miss the earthy joys and heavenly raptures with which the heart of Scripture pulses. The real problem, I think, should be highlighted by the question “which happy?” Continue reading