A Document Study – Author: Natalie Wood on 23 March 2018
Four experts rush into the labour room to deliberate their findings, Clive, Jean-Luc, Gerhard and Jurgen (Ebling, Marion, Marsh and Moltmann) all eager to inject their spiritual wisdom and insight about death to life, a dispersing theme over the coming hours, days and years. This compelling true story has all the elements of a nail-biting drama, a vicissitude with threads connecting and weaving a well ordered tapestry of Christological presence that continues to bring revelations of Christ’s truth, love and life.
Clive delivered his message first, his words resonating with this woman’s third and most significant brush with death, ‘The Otherness of Christ is thus reflected in word and image on two fronts: through the encounter with Christ, through others, on the part of the one who articulates the Christology, and through the ‘word’ addressed to the hearer through the Christolology produced (whether as word or image).’ (Marsh)
On reflection the ‘other’ in the story was a husband speaking life when his wife was completely silenced. Words of life were critical at this time as his wife was incapable of speaking or breathing. The husband, at that time, represented a type of Christ, on one side a snapshot image of a husband holding and stopping his wife from falling off a high labour ward bed (physical protection) and on the other side screaming words of life over his wife and unborn baby (verbal provision).
Jean-Luc’s message was delivered next, ’Paradox of visible vs invisible (exhausted corpse vs glory of the living God).’ (Marion) The visible was a lifeless, heavily pregnant body being revived in the labour room of a Country Coastal Hospital. Delivering a son 40 minutes later, he too was struggling to breathe traumatised by his birth taking way too long, the end for both looming, with the loss of massive amounts of blood and part of the body unrecognisable because of all the cutting, pulling and bruising from the battles of childbirth.
The following hours and days brought the sense of the invisible, facing the reality of the consequences of dying and being brought back to life, instilling God-given purpose and testimony of a miracle to bring glory to God. A lifeless body versus the glory to God for a miracle of lives resurrected.
The time of transition happened two to five years after the traumatic childbirth experience as focus was upon rehabilitating their disabled son. Remembering and pondering Gerhard’s words, ‘At the point of transition is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead,’ (Ebeling) their encountering of the resurrected Jesus. The wife needed to exchange the struggle within the soul and inner irrational dialogue for new rational, renewed mindset of the living Christ. Transitioning from one dark place or valley to a light place or mountain top, allowing revelations to flow freely of Christ’s living word written on her spirit. Redemption, restoration and resurrection linked with the experience of exchanging old irrational thoughts for new rational thoughts, with emotions that followed, became her point of transition.
He whispered truth, one night as the physical symptoms of clinical anxiety began to overwhelm, poisoning the soul and body, a time just before release from a seven year captivity of a debilitating fear of dying. Jesus spoke intimately and clearly in her hour of need and breakthrough, “I went to the cross to get the keys to life and death from the enemy so that you would no longer be separated like I was from my Father, you will not have to endure being alone in death because I will be with you and I will never leave you or forsake you, not even in death. I will be with you in both life and death. I will give you back everything the enemy has stolen.” From that day forward His words, peace and love were written on her spirit and heart, rehabilitation began, continually set free from PTSD, anxiety, and post-natal depression. It would take a further five years to embrace complete freedom and restoration.
Jurgen’s words of profound insight would provide further clarity and depth in restoration, ‘the cross of the risen Christ revealing humility and the law of life in Christ,’My strength is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor. 12:9, NKJV),’ (Moltmann) the words Jesus had spoken to her kept resonating. Jesus’s separation from His Father, God. Was this Jesus self-surrendering? Dying on the cross seemed like Jesus was helpless, nevertheless God’s perfect plan for His son in humanity to take back and hold the keys of life and death for mankind, showed deep humility, a never-ending love, not afraid to go to the darkest of places to abide with us.
Ebeling, Gerhard. The Nature of Faith. Translated by Ronald Gregor Smith. London: Collins, 1961, 58-59.
Moltmann, Jürgen. The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology. Translated by R.A. Wilson and John Bowden. London: SCM, 1974, 204–206.
Marion, Jean-Luc. The Crossing of the Visible. Translated by James K.A. Smith. Stanford CA: Stanford UP, 2004, 72-74.
Marsh, Clive. Christ in Focus: Radical Christocentrism in Christian Theology. London: SCM, 2005, 178-179.