"To the woman He said, 'I will greatly multiply yourpain in childbirth. In pain you will bring forth children: Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Genesis 3:16
I have heard two interpretations of this from pastors in the last several months. The first was when I stopped and listened to a sermon on the radio from a Calvary Chapel show (I know -- not my usual thing, but it amazed me that as I was scanning that the pastor actually spent five minutes talking about how you can't come to faith unless the Holy Spirit draws you.) Basically, he interpreted this as once a guy and a girl get married, the man starts focusing on work, etc. and she starts wondering "why doesn't he pay more attention to me?"
The other pastor that addressed this text in a Bible class, put the emphasis on "he shall rule over you" and believed that "your desire shall be for your husband" was that woman will desire that power to rule, but in the end, it belongs to man.
This post that I have referred to before on the Concordian Sisters' blog has had me thinking on this for quite a while.
These aren't the first times that I have heard such interpretations of these verses, and the big issue that I see is that in an age of birth control and planned family size -- and subsequent separation of sex and reproduction, we fail to see how really truly powerful this proclamation is, and so we find ourselves reading other things into it rather than letting the text speak for itself.
In Genesis 2, God blessed Adam and Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply. Having children was something inherently human, even before The Fall. It was integrally part of who we were, and what our purpose was.
Think of what that meant. Having children was an unadulterated blessing. Nothing tainted it. There was no fear of childbirth... no pain, no death, no destruction of figure, no bodily deterioration. Nursing didn't hurt and wasn't complicated or tainted with carnal implications and cultural negativity. Babies inherently trusted and that trust was not in jeopardy from parents who would be tempted to put their own needs first. Exhaustion would not exist. Our children would be without sin and our marriages would be peaceful. Punishment and discipline would not be issues. Fear of harm coming to our children or spouses...death was not in the picture.
Now, look at what the fall into sin meant....Pain, possibility of death in childbirth, infections. Loss of figure, physical problems, c-sections, infertility, etc. Babies crying for hours at a time because of colic, exhaustion, isolation, depression; husbands that weren't supportive or worse yet, weren't there. Breastfeeding problems, formula feeding, the terrible twos -- the worse threes; adolescence. Bickering siblings, disobedience, punishment, frustration, harm, injury, handicaps; death.
Common sense would say that we should all go the route of Scarlett O'Hara who told Rhett Butler after Bonnie's birth that she was done with sex. But that was exactly the thing that was so inhuman about Scarlett O'Hara. To do so is displaying a blatant lack of trust in God and in marriage, which He created. Despite all of these things that wear us down, ranging from our own vanity (which has its roots in the knowledge that we are heading toward death, and we shouldn't be), to the exhaustion that children bring, to the fear and the grief that come along with them and forever taint whatever joy they bring...our desire is still for our husbands. We still want that love, that intimacy, that ultimate union that until this century, brings more children.
And with all of that, we have to put our trust in a man who is also a sinner, and even if he is a good man, he will hurt us. He will fall short. He will sometimes not understand our burden. And at times, we will hurt him, and hurt because we hurt him. We will fall short. And we will not understand the burden that he is under to care for us like Christ loved the church and gave His life for her, either.
It is a frightening thing being a woman under the curse of sin.
Whether one believes that contraception is good or is sinful or has not thoughts on it whatsoever... as a society, it has taken fertility and made it somewhat more foreign to the human experience, less natural, and has made verses like these a bit more alien to our experience...more unfathomable.
It definitely isn't about wanting a little more attention and an occasional date on Friday night, though it gets lonely when we are not valued and cherished. It isn't about craving power and headship -- though that is always there when sin is there.
Thankfully, God is faithful. Children, all children, are still a blessing from God, even with the sometimes terrifying, exhausting burden and chaos that they can also bring. When He provides the blessing, He also provides the means to care for it, to show more love than we ever knew could be there. More than we ever will, God knows what He is doing, and He gives us the means to bear it.