Holy week is here, again, and has me in awe, again, over how our God takes a curse and turns it into promise. He takes punishment and turns it to ultimate blessing.
Many are probably familiar with the “proto-evangelium,” the first reference to Christ in the Scriptures that is found in Genesis 3. This is God’s curse of the serpent. And in God’s curse, is also found his unmistakable hint of promise.
“The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15 ESV)
Jesus will bruise the head of the serpent. The serpent will be put under Jesus feet. The best news of the universe and it was there in the beginning. And right under it is a parallel curse reversal that happens for women.
“To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)
Many women are familiar with this part of the curse. Pain in childbearing. In pain you shall bring forth children. How many stories of pain and near-death experiences have we heard of childbirth. I have my stories to tell–5 live births, 1 miscarriage and 3 of the births with stories of true drama, heart-pounding stuff–emergency surgery, hemorrhages, blood transfusions–you all know the kinds of stories and have your own.
Yet in two ways, God takes the curse of childbearing and turns it into redemption.
First, God ordains that his Son, the God-Man, be born of a woman. The Savior of the world comes through a birth canal, and enters the curse. He uses the curse in order to turn it on its head.
The second is found in this well-known (because of how hard it is) passage from 1 Timothy:
“Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:15 ESV)
How? How will she be saved through childbearing? I’m not a scholar, but I am mother. Could it be that part of how childbearing is redemptive for mothers is not that it is the atoning sacrifice that puts her in right standing with God, but that it is a means by which God keeps his daughters cemented to himself, humbled and reliant, as they care and pour out for children? This is a gift, a reversal of the curse, a privilege and nothing to scorn.
I read from the ESV study notes that the word “saved” is also frequently used to show perseverance and endurance in salvation. It need not mean that childbearing is the cause of salvation, which we know from all over the Scriptures is in Christ alone by faith alone through grace alone, but rather a means of an ongoing keeping, sanctifying, saving.
And childbearing has the connotation, not of mere birth, but of the ongoing care and raising of children–which applies to all women, mothers or not, by birth or adoption or some other connection. Childrearing is part of womanhood–aunts, friends, teachers, and on and on have incalculable roles in rearing the children around them. Which isn’t to say men don’t, but there is a distinction found here in the Scriptures and experienced in real life that we can all see in regard to a woman’s special role in the life of an infant and child and the reliance it produces in her on her God.
I’m in awe this Easter of our Savior who became curse and promise for us and who turned the curse directed at us into a means of painful, hopeful, miraculous redemption, even as I don’t fully understand it all–the glimpses are breathtaking.