I got in the shower to clean up. As I rubbed soap over my belly I couldn’t help but think how strange it was that just earlier that morning, in the same shower, I’d rubbed soap over a full, pregnant belly. Now it was empty. I thought to myself, “Wow, where did it all go!” and the then the phrase “He is not here” pierced my heart and I found myself remembering another part from our “The Gift of Giving Life” book. In her essay “Birth in Remembrance of Him” Robyn Allgood writes,
“The Atonement was not complete until after Christ voluntarily suffered and then demonstrated His power over the grave by rising from the dead. As the women approach His tomb, they said to each other:
Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre they saw a young man . . . and he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here; behold the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:3-6)
The empty tomb symbolizes the power of Christ and new life through the Atonement. It symbolizes joy and wonder and even possesses mysterious significance. In like manner, the mother’s empty womb symbolizes the power of creation made possible through our Heavenly Father. It is a sacred event as is the Atonement and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It symbolizes physical life offered to a spiritual being. It offers joy, wonder and mysterious significance. Mysterious because it is easy to ask, “How is this done?” The only answer can be through God, through His infinite wisdom and power.”
Just like Jesus left his tomb empty when he rose again, so did my little boy leave my womb empty when he was born. The symbolism between birth and the atonement is so incredible and as I pondered on that phrase “He is not here” I realized what a miraculous thing I had just been a part of. I’d just given one of God’s precious sons his mortal body. A body that, because of Christ’s resurrection, would live eternally and had the potential to become a God. The full magnitude of that knowledge has overwhelmed me and I over the last several days I’ve found myself looking in awe at my deflated belly.
Since Abe’s birth I have been pondering a lot about the similarities between birth (the womb) and resurrection (the tomb) and the more I learn the more awe I feel at the beauty of God’s plan. Several nights ago I was reading my scriptures and I read this scripture in Job 1:21
“… Naked came I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.”
For some reason that scripture struck me. I stopped and pondered about it and my mind was directed towards the story of Christ’s resurrection. I went back and re-read the story and discovered a fact that I had never noticed before.
“Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, andseeth the linen clothes lie. And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in place by itself.” (John 20: 6-7, emphasis added)
I had never noticed it before but when Christ was resurrected He took nothing with Him, not even His clothes. The women who came to anoint His body found the empty clothes lying in the tomb, bearing testimony to the truth of what Job said, “… Naked came I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” Just like we came into this world with absolutely nothing except our bodies, we will leave this world with absolutely nothing except our bodies.
Both the womb and the tomb are places of transformation and those who enter emerge as new beings. The womb is a place where bones, sinews, muscles, organs and nerves are all organized and ordered. One enters the womb as only a few cells and miraculously emerges nine months later as a mortal being with millions of cells. In a similar manner the tomb (death) is also a place of transformation. One enters it with a mortal body that will corrupt and decay, yet because of Christ, one day that body will be organized and ordered again and will emerge as an immortal being.
The image of resurrection being a literal birth is very powerful for me, because even with all our medical advances we know very little about how human life is created or the process that governs labor and birth. Whenever I witness a birth, as a doula or at the emergence of my own children, I find myself in awe of the incredible miracle life is. How can a living, breathing person be created out of only the materials housed within a woman’s body? It makes me cry, like Robyn mentioned in her essay, “Lord, how is it done?”
It is truly miraculous and if I hadn’t seen women do it– over and over a thousand times a day all over the world– I wouldn’t have believe that such a miracle was even possible. I feel that same way about the resurrection. The whole process is so mysterious to me. How is there any way that a human being who has been dead for thousands of years, whose bones have turned to dust, be reconstructed and reunited with their spirit? It seems impossible and makes me question doubtfully, “Lord how is it done?”
Yet Christ, with His empty tomb and left behind clothes, is a testament that just like miracle of mortal birth is possible, the miracle of resurrection is also possible. In fact, the processes aren’t all that different— they both require a sacrifice of blood, water and spirit.
The most incredible thing is that both birth and resurrection are free gifts; one given us to us by our mortal mothers and one given to us by Jesus Christ. They are gifts that no matter how hard we try we will never be able to repay.
How very grateful I am for both of those gifts.