Everyday Faith: What Expecting a Child Taught Me about Sacrificial Love
By CLAIRE SWINARSKI
Editor’s note: To celebrate the season of Christmas, we vaguely planned months ago to “feature perspectives on faith,” reached out to some people and then were blown away by their stories. Each is a unique, extraordinary reminder of how faith transforms everyday life.
I never understood sacrificial love until I was pregnant.
Of course, I tried to. I stayed up late and talked to my husband when I really wanted to go to bed. I got coffee with girls to talk about their faith when I really wanted to call a friend from home. I knew in my head that loving other people meant sacrifice, but it was not until being pregnant that I got slapped in the face with it.
To some people, being pregnant means glowy Instagram selfies and gender reveal parties and pinning nursery pictures and prenatal yoga. To me, being pregnant has meant keeping puke bags in the car. It’s meant a regimen of medicine and calorie shakes and Pedialyte, trips to the emergency room for IV pricks and endless ultrasounds making sure everything’s still OK in there. It’s meant making my husband clean out the fridge over and over, because something-in-there-is-rotten-I-just-KNOW-it.
It is the fiercest I have ever loved someone, to do this for them. It makes me love him more.
Love doesn’t mean sacrifice anymore, at least, not to most people. It means Valentine’s Day cards and perfect profile pictures; it means can’t-you-do-this-for-me and he-just-makes-me-so-happy.
There are plenty of times my husband does not make me happy, when we are fighting and frustrated and words are flying out of my mouth quicker than I can think them through. Plenty of times this baby we’re having has made me throw up, over and over, until my throat’s bleeding and my vision is blurred and I have dreams of just running away. But I would do anything for this little family. I would.
According to Pope Francis, promises “cannot be bought and sold, they cannot be coerced with force but nor can they be safeguarded without sacrifice.”
Jesus came to Earth and was born in a barn. The lowest of the low, next to the animals. As a pregnant lady, I have a whole new heartache for Mary. We tend to gloss over the fact that Mary had to journey all the way to Bethlehem, that she probably had heartburn and her ankles were swollen. Mary could have used a massage and a day off with some Netflix and cereal, but instead she got a donkey ride and a hay-covered floor.
Mary sacrificed. Jesus sacrificed. God could have chosen for his Son to be born into a wealthy family, where after preaching all day he could kick back and be fed grapes and fish. But He knows, better than anyone, of the sacrificial nature of love. He made a promise to redeem us, and the love I feel for our new son is nothing compared to the love Jesus feels for me.
Sometimes, yes, love is comfort and Christmas cookies. But there are other times that it’s sacrifice. There are times when it’s talking to those family members you don’t particularly jive with, or realizing that Christmas dinner is probably not the most appropriate time to confront your uncle about his pro-Donald tweets. When it’s not mowing down the person in front of you at Best Buy to get the very last big screen on sale.
When it’s acknowledging the homeless person you walk by every day on the way to work, even though it’s awkward. When you take a deep breath and apologize to the coworker who drives you insane and try to find a way to work together, and then ask him about his kids, even though you’re imagining ways to burn his cubicle down.
It’s something, for all of us.
It’s sacrifice, but at least you’re not riding a donkey 70 miles while nine months pregnant.
Claire Swinarski is a writer, wife and Wisconsin Badger with a passion for library books and all things girl power. She spends a lot of time drinking coffee and explaining Catholic feminism online. She can be found on Twitter (@claireswinarski), Instagram (whatclairesaw) or her personal blog (thisisthewonder.com).