As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
– Mark 13:1-13
“If you hang around a mother long enough, you’ll eventually hear the stories of the birth of her children. And although everyone’s story is different, there are some predictable signs to giving birth. In the passages around today’s verse, Jesus describes the end times as “birth pains (Mark 13:8).” And no time like the present has fit Jesus’ description better.
“Today we see false prophets, false teachers, wars, earthquakes and famines (not to mention tornadoes, tsunamis, fires, floods, hurricanes and religious persecution). A January 2018 report from Open Doors said some 215 million believers across the globe face persecution for their faith in Christ. Jesus also said the gospel must be preached around the world before the end would come. Never before has it been so easy to get a message delivered globally and instantly.
“This is an exciting time knowing Jesus will come again. But no one likes to go through labor pains.”
– Presidential Prayer Team Devotion
My wife did not mess around when it came to giving birth. Our first son came early. Our second son came even earlier.
With the first son, I did not believe her when she called me from the hospital. She had taken me to work that day, so she had the car. I had to beg my office partner to drive me to the hospital. My wife was upset when I came into the labor room with my briefcase full of work, still not believing our son was coming that day. I had this big project with a tight deadline. She kicked me out. I was banished to the waiting room. Our son was delivered a couple of hours later in the old traditional style. My wife was knocked out and the doctor used forceps. I was not allowed in the room.
But with the second son, my wife and I went to breathing classes, not the name brand classes, but what the Army contracted for use. This time we were prepared. But there is something silly about creating your own plans when God has different plans.
The birthday of our second son would be epic for all who were involved.
First, our plans for that day were to take my wife’s brother and bride on a romantic dinner to a castle in Baden Baden, West Germany. I was in the Army. They were on their honeymoon. The second child was not due for about six weeks. It made sense to plan for a romantic evening. Nothing could go wrong! Right?
There was one problem with the plan. Okay, one that we knew about in advance. I was hosting a team of designers from Rome who had been contracted to design a multimillion dollar maintenance facility in our military community. I had been successful in getting Congressional moneys for our community two years in a row, and this second project was the big one. Nothing for 30 years and now over $10 million in two years. The guys from Rome wanted to see old tunnels built before World War II to ensure that their design would have a firm foundation. So, for most of the day, I was in one tunnel or another. I was away from the phone, but everyone at work knew where I was and could have found the right location with only three phone calls.
Late afternoon, my wife was fixing a snack for our older son, who was almost three, knowing that we would eat late at the castle that night. Her water broke. She had not had the first labor pain by this time. I had the car, so she got the honeymooners to babysit and found a neighbor to take her to the infirmary. There, the local doctors called my office. My staff, comprised of German and French civilians, claimed that they had no idea where I was. The doctors placed my wife in an ambulance, and they gave my staff time to call around to find me. She started to have labor pains, but they were far apart. So, they waited even longer than planned.
Sometime later, I arrived at the office, having said goodbye to the people from Rome. I walked toward my desk to drop off some paperwork. A very drunk Frenchman burst out of the secretarial pool office. He threw his arms around me and started kissing me on the cheeks. In one hand was an empty bottle of champagne. He said in English, “Congratulations, Papa.” That’s all I needed to know. A couple of the drunk secretaries, one German and one French, pulled the Frenchman off me so that I could join my wife. Instead of looking for me, they had started to celebrate. There were empty cases of champagne, beer, and wine all over my office.
At this point, I was wondering if I had missed it again. If I did, I would never live it down.
I drove home. We lived on the fourth floor of the stairwell. I ran up three steps at a time in my combat boots. My brother-in-law said they were babysitting, that my wife was at the infirmary, and not to worry, his bride had mopped the kitchen floor, twice. As I wondered what was so important about the kitchen floor, I nearly flew down the stairs. I skipped the waiting room at the infirmary like I owned the place, and I burst through the double doors into the hallway that led to the different examining rooms. The ambulance driver was at the far end of the hall. He yelled, “Sir, follow us. We can’t wait any longer. If we get separated, I hope you know how to get to the Heidelberg Hospital!”
I yelled, “WILCO.” In military speak, this means “Will Comply. Out.” “Out” means that no further conversation is needed, but I was wrong. As I turned and ran for the parking lot, a nurse tried to tackle me. “Sir, you can’t barge in here like this! You have to sign in first!” I told her I was leaving anyway and took off.
Let’s take a break in the narrative to talk about the oddities between German driving etiquette and American driving etiquette. In the USA, when an ambulance approaches with screaming sirens, you pull out of the way and stop. In Germany, when an ambulance approaches with its “neener, neener” siren (as our older son called it at the time), the traffic continues to flow. The traffic simply parts so that the ambulance can pass through; afterwards, the traffic slides back into their proper lane. It is almost impossible to follow an ambulance in Germany.
Oh, I forgot to mention something. By this time, it was rush hour. Two blocks from the gate, the ambulance took a left onto the Adenauer Ring in Karlsruhe, West Germany. I followed the left turn, but while the ambulance had parted the “Red Sea”, I was the Egyptian chariot who was swallowed as the sea ‘un-parted itself’. I arrived at the hospital about 30-45 minutes after my wife had gotten there.
I was escorted to the labor room. The labor pains were still very far apart. I started coaching my wife with the breathing exercises, but she wasn’t listening. She was angry about me not getting to the infirmary earlier. Oh, no. I thought, “Will I be banished to the waiting room again? And after taking all the classes?”
The nurse came in to measure my wife. She told me that they don’t transfer to the delivery room until 10cm. My wife was measured at 2cm. The nurse said to get comfortable; this was going to take a while. The nurse left.
I again started into the progression of breathing. My wife groaned. My wife NEVER groans. She turned to me, grabbed my lapels, and pulled me close to her. She said through gritted teeth, “Forget the breathing. Get the nurse!” I didn’t have to. The nurse was just outside the door and heard what my wife said. The nurse rechecked and said, “Oh dear, Sir, you need to go across the hall and get dressed. You can’t go into the delivery room with fatigues and combat boots.”
I had taken all the training, preparing for our bay’s arrival. I knew that it still took a while after moving into the delivery room. They told us fathers to not panic. They said to take our time getting dressed for the delivery room. My bladder was about to burst. I had not gone to the bathroom since before dawn that morning. The sun had now set. Honest, when the delivery nurse burst into the room, I had my robe, hat, and gloves on. I was standing there trying to figure out how size 8 white booties would fit over size 11.5 combat boots.
Let’s take another break in the narrative. Hattie McDaniel won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in the movie Gone with the Wind, unheard of for a black actress at the time, but one of the most memorable scenes in the movie starred a different black actress, “Butterfly” McQueen. Just picture her high-pitched voice screaming, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies!” It is odd that this very scene became significant at this moment.
The delivery room nurse burst into my room. She looked a lot like “Butterfly” McQueen. She sounded exactly like “Butterfly” McQueen. She was very strong. She screamed, “What are you doin’, Lieutenant! (I was a couple months shy of promotion to Captain.) You are ‘bout to miss the whole thing! Now, get those booties on!” She grabbed one arm and started dragging me out of the room and down the hall. This left only one arm to try to get the booties on. I hopped on one leg and fought to get the first bootie on as the nurse reached Delivery Room #1. She lowered her shoulder and threw the doors open. Why they had the delivery table turned that way, I will never know. I looked into the room at a strange woman, a young soldier behind her, and her legs spread out so that I saw everything. I saw everything plus four adult eyes, staring as big as saucers. My nurse screamed even louder, “Wrong Delivery Room!”
This caused my nurse to drop my arm for a second. I got the first bootie over the toes and started with the other one when she grabbed my other arm and started dragging me toward Delivery Room #2. I continued to hop on one foot. She again did her best impersonation of a pulling guard in American football as she lowered her shoulder and threw the doors open.
This time, I see the back of my wife’s head, and I hear the doctor calmly say, “This may be your last push. No. Wait!” Our son wasn’t lined up just right. The doctor turned him ever so slightly while greeting me and trying to keep my wife from pushing. He then said, “Dad, keep her breathing right. On the next contraction, push hard.”
The doctor shouldn’t have said the word ‘hard’. Our son came out, bounced off one arm, bounced off the other arm, then the doctor brought up his knee and cradled him before he hit the floor. I was looking forward to the German method of causing the baby to draw in their first breath. They gently rub the baby’s back. The baby will start crying. But no, after the doctor had recovered his own fumble, our son was screaming.
Our son was bathed and handed to his mother. I was ushered into the hallway to make phone calls at a German payphone. I barely had enough loose coins to make the two calls, first to her parents and then to mine. Luckily, the night before all this happened, we had picked a boy’s name. We had been so convinced we had a girl, we hadn’t thought of even thinking of a boy name until then. When I told my mother our son’s name. I mentioned his middle name, Ian. My mother used the rest of my German money repeating the same question, “What does the ‘N’ stand for?” Southerners will get the pronunciation confusion. I spelled it, I-A-N, just as the phone clicked off.
When I returned to the delivery room, my wife’s first words were, “Get me a Big Mac.” I protested. At that time of night, the MP patrols were constant around the only McDonalds in over 100km. They arrested everyone in fatigues after dark. Those were work uniforms and not to be worn in a public place at night. The doctor suggested where I could park. I sneaked in and out without getting caught.
This is a long post, but when I read the devotion above, I thought, “Mothers may have stories of labor pains, but this father’s story is one for the ages.”
In all the confusion and excitement of that day, God had His protective hand on all involved.
Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God alone.