I used to be a people-pleaser. I felt the happiness (or unhappiness) of everyone around me was my responsibility. If I’m honest, I now see that I was more concerned with maintaining the good opinion of others than of doing the right thing in all situations. I used to have very low self-esteem. The transition from an unsure, cautious and timid girl, to a self-assured, confident woman was both sudden and gradual. It was gradual, because the full scope of the change took place bit by bit, and in fact is still going on. It was sudden because one event in my life convinced me of my worth so forcefully and powerfully that I couldn’t help but take notice. That event was the birth of my first child.
Something inside me changed when I gave birth. I was so surprised and so moved that someone so beautiful and so perfect came from me. Childbirth and pregnancy itself was such an epic interior and physical journey that at the end of it, I felt like I could accomplish anything. Through childbirth I learned that firstly, I was good, and secondly, that I could accomplish way more than I ever thought I could. Also, I realize now, I became a bit of a rebel. I consider this a good thing. In a culture that is increasingly unhealthy and has numerous beliefs and practices contrary to our Christian faith, I think some cultural rebelliousness is necessary in order to live the Gospel faithfully. Along with these other attributes, childbirth taught me bravery. I learned that one can be scared and uncertain and still move forward to accomplish great things.
In a world where women are increasingly objectified and where they are incessantly bombarded with the belief that their worth depends upon their “sex-appeal”, I become increasingly grateful for God’s gift of pregnancy and birth to women. If women did not have this gift from our Creator; this message of power, worth, dignity, and goodness stamped into our bodies, I shudder to think how lost we would be. The world does not teach us our worth, so what would there be to teach us this lesson? God has given the gift of fertility to women, however this is something that many people want to remove.
Many teens and young adults are receiving harmful messages about their sexuality and their worth. If unmarried people are engaged in premarital sex, I cannot help but think that it is because they do not know the supreme value of the gift that they give to another. How could they give the gift of their whole self to a person who has not pledged in public and before God and the state, that they will serve and honor their mate for the rest of their lives? Sex is an act that is meant to be a renewal of the couple’s wedding vows, a sign that the couple gives to one another that they choose one another still. It is to be a sign of their love and respect for one another, a sign of trust that they are entrusting their bodies, their hearts and even their future to one another. If people understood their own dignity and worth, how could they give the gift of their own bodies to one who has not shown that they are worthy of such a gift?
Yet, to those who do not yet understand their beauty and dignity, God has provided a way to teach them this important lesson. It is with great sadness that I think of the many Christians who have taken this sign of God’s compassion and care for the woman and have turned it into a source of shame. Throughout history women who have been found to be “with child” prior to marriage have been treated with scorn, and because of the actions of others, many women have believed that pregnancy itself was God’s punishment to them.
I believe in the dignity of the human person, and therefore of the sexual act which is to be a sign of a couple’s sacrificial and life-giving love for one another. Within the stability of marriage, is of course the ideal setting to raise a child. If, however, God gives his greatest gift to a woman outside of this context, who are we to declare her unworthy? No matter the circumstances of conception, let us celebrate the gift of new life with no less fanfare than we would celebrate it under ideal conditions. Pregnancy and childbirth are a sign of God’s great concern and love for woman and for all humanity. Let us mirror God’s own attitude by our great love and concern that we show towards all women who are with child because as we say here at Elizabeth Ministry, blessed in the fruit of every womb!