I make this disclosure up front – I am not a woman. I’m a man. I don’t take this lightly or for granted and I sincerely doubt I could fake otherwise even were I so inclined, which I am not.
So allusions and metaphors and similes that involve strictly female things such as childbirth are somewhat lost on me. And all that I will say below is said with that acknowledgement. There are some things I as a man can never fully know or understand simply because I am a man. I can be sympathetic to a certain extent, I can rationally understand or equivocate to some degree, but there is a chasm I am unable (and unwilling!) to cross in order to fully know any number of things a woman might know and experience because she is a woman.
Romans 8:22, for example. I can understand rationally that childbirth is a process that is both beautiful and exhausting, exhilarating and agonizing. But that’s as far as I can go without my wife hitting me. I can’t know what it was like for her to bear and give birth to our three children. I’m grateful she did, but I can’t say I know what it was like. And so Romans 8:22 is meaningful to me but it also speaks at a level I can’t engage with because I’m a man. That doesn’t mean it’s meaningless, it just means a woman may read that verse and it will speak to her at an entirely different level than it can me.
I can understand weariness and waiting. Trepidation and anticipation. Thrill and fear. I can understand physical pain and exhaustion as well as giddiness. I can understand Paul tapping into (even imperfectly as a dude!) the experience of pregnancy and childbirth to describe the longing creation has (although we as human beings are often ignorant willfully or inadvertently of this longing personally) for the redemption our Lord will bring with him in his glorious return. The metaphor is just so perfect (not surprising if the Holy Spirit inspired it). All that longing and suffering and enduring and adjusting and compromising that is finally, utterly and completely relieved in a moment – the moment of childbirth, the moment our incarnate Lord returns not as a newborn but as the King of Kings.
We’ve had a small taste of that this week. As the calendar winds down towards our departure date of February 4, there are so many major issues that need to resolve. Foremost is that we needed to receive visitor visas from Indonesia, and we needed to find a hotel to quarantine in suitable for our family. For what seems like forever (but really has only been a few months) we’ve been working towards these goals. One day at a time. One objective at a time. Ticking off one check box after another. Watching the days disappear between now and then. Wondering if this was all really going to happen or if we would be delayed once again.
Today, we gave birth. Metaphorically of course (and thank God!). Today, we received digital confirmation of our visa approvals. Formal letters of welcome and acceptance by the government of Indonesia. And following within just a few hours after this joyous blessing, we had digital confirmation of a quarantine hotel where we can stay as a family in one unit rather than being separated into two or more rooms. It is a full answer to prayer in both of these regards, and we are grateful and relieved almost to the point of tears. Almost, at some level, like birth.
What this means for us is that there are only two issues that could prevent us from departing on time on February 4.
The first is that Indonesia could decide to close their borders to American or international travelers out of concerns about Covid and the omicron variant. This seems very unlikely. Just last week Indonesia updated their immigration and Covid policies so that the African nations they originally banned from entry because of omicron are no longer banned, and people traveling from countries where omicron was first detected are now free to enter Indonesia on appropriate visas. While Covid rates are creeping up in Indonesia (there were 3000+ cases reported a few days ago on a single day, the largest daily reporting since September), they are still very low overall and far lower than last summer when Indonesia was the Covid capital of Southeast Asia. Our partners in Indonesia are as confident as they can be that the borders will not close before our departure date. So long as we are in the country, even if they close the borders to further travelers they will not make us leave.
The second issue is that we could test positive for Covid before our departure. We have to have a PCR test no more than 72 hours before our intended departure Friday morning. If any one of us tests positive, we won’t be able to leave on February 4 and will need to delay probably two weeks until we all test negative.
So this is our biggest prayer request for us personally right now. Please pray we remain healthy and Covid free, and test negative not only next Wednesday, but also upon arrival in Jakarta late Saturday night, and six days later as we prepare to exit quarantine in Jakarta. This will ensure we finish quarantine and are able to purchase tickets from Jakarta to Medan. Once we arrive in Medan we shouldn’t need to worry about passing further Covid tests (unless we need to travel by air within the country or in and out of it).
We’re all fully vaccinated. Alec has a cold (we assume) at the moment but otherwise we have remained by and large healthy for weeks and months despite our wanderings and relocations. Now we just need to remain healthy for a few more weeks. It’s close enough to taste! We’re not fearful or worried. Whatever happens we know the Holy Spirit will provide for us. But it would be incredibly wonderful to be able to depart successfully and get to Medan with as little complication as possible.
Please also give thanks to God for what He has provided us with thus far – partners who support and encourage us and through whose gifts of prayer and money we are able to procure plane tickets and pay for visa applications and quarantine hotels and all the other necessities of relocating. Give thanks for our visas and quarantine hotel reservations. Give him thanks and praise because He is the one who holds power and dominion over everything and everyone, and we trust that if He is the one calling us to Indonesia He will ensure we get there in his perfect timing!