The doe, low, on her side in the straw. Her whole body given over to breathing. Breathing. Breathing. To stretching, bleeding. To waves of pain, while the sparrow finds scattered grain to bring her young. Her head bows, like Mary, as the breath of God quakes her womb.
The way of pain is how we're born. All of us. Like the young doe, like Eve, like Mary, like Jesus, wave after wave, we pant and quake a prayer, "Be it to me as you say, Lord."
Death lurks and lingers, breathing threats like an evil emperor, ready to steal God's breath right of the newborn's chest. But, alas a midwife sits, even the unseen angels, attending, to usher life past death even past a stony grave.
The doe's sweet calls assure the helpless victor she bore. She baths him with kisses and a song to stand and walk. She bleeds and stands weak, emboldened to feed her young. Christ stood up and surely Eve and all of heaven's angels stood to their feet at Mary's Magnificat, her sweet Magnificat song.
First I want to confess, I’m a coward by nature. I, like Pilate, avoid conflict, washing my hands of decisions that might cost me peace. Without the reigns of the Spirit of Jesus in my life, I would trot off down the path of keeping peace, shutting my mouth. I would disguise my passivity, hoping it would come off as piety- seeing both sides of an issue- yet never taking a stand. That said, I am my mother’s daughter, and when I smell injustice I want to hunt down the predator and rescue the prey from his mouth. But most of the time this fierceness gets stamped out by the part of me that doesn’t want to deal with the damage my truth-telling might cause- mostly I don’t want to be cut off, or cast out. This putrid, passive stance would be me without Jesus every day. But I’m not without him. He exposed me with his words, rescued me with his line in the sand, calling me daughter. He’s been making me brave ever since, trading my peace-keeping comfort-lust for peace-making confrontation-in-love.
Taking up your cross and following Jesus is not a self-flagellating quality that proves your worth. Taking up your cross and following Jesus is what the Bible Project call, “the way of the exile.” It’s a practice of what they call subversive hope, where by both speaking boldly and serving self-sacrificially, a Christian exposes evil and suffers the pain of another’s sin and judgement.
So I need to take up a cross and say something: Deliberately destroying the life of an unborn human being is evil. Saying that, I hear my friends and my passionately-left, now-with-Jesus grandma’s argument that the evil done to women is too great and that if someone has to die, it shouldn’t be the woman or girl. I see both sides. I can’t help it. The self-preserving nature in me would see both perspectives and say nothing. But Jesus, who said to the woman at the well, “You’re right. You’ve had 5 husbands and the man you’re with now isn’t your husband,” and then offered her his life, won’t let me be silent about the evil destroying women and their children.
The argument that Pro-Life anti-abortionists are hypocrites because they don’t do anything but protest abortion and make women in vulnerable positions feel condemned is an attempt at diversion. In a tweet thread I read today (can’t remember who wrote it) the writer pointed out that just because a person stands openly against abortion and for the life of the unborn doesn’t mean they are not doing their part to support women and girls in crisis with unwanted pregnancies. It doesn’t mean they aren’t for life-preserving sacrifices for the elderly, the disabled, the immigrant, the poor and the marginalized.
The argument that women in crisis shouldn’t have to go through the torment of pregnancy and child-rearing or the torture of giving their child up for adoption comes down to a belief about suffering and human worth. If you believe that the woman’s life or quality of life is more valuable than the unborn child’s life or quality of life then you believe the child should suffer the death required to keep the mother alive and well. But if you believe that someone is going to have to die in this sin-bearing relationship of mother to child, and you believe it should be the strong who lays down their life for the weak, then the mother should be the one to suffer the daily death and maybe even the ultimate death to give a child life.
Giving life to another always involves some dying to self. It’s just the way life works. Even seeds have to die for plants to be born.
I’m reading the Dignity Revolution right now (finally). Last night I read this:
“…I wonder, had I been a German Christian, living under the rule of the Third Reich, would I have possessed the unyielding conviction to resist the pressure to conform, to see the Jews as less than human? Would I have had the courage to step forward and affirm in my actions the dignity of those being sent off to their deaths, even at a high cost to my own privilege?” (Chapter 2)
It’s easy to look back on the Holocaust and be aghast at the atrocities, condemning those who were explicit, implicit and passive in the evil done to Jews. It’s so obvious. How could they have thought it justifiable? The same way we do.
One day, just as Karen Swallow Prior wrote at Vox, posterity will look back on me, on us, and be appalled at the evil we perpetuated, justified or did nothing to speak against or stop. As I live in the presence of the One who laid down his life for me, I cannot be silent.
Today, I saw a clip from a PBS documentary on elective abortion. In the short clip, a woman early in her pregnancy with twins took the first of the two medications that would kill her unborn babies. And she knew it. And at the end of the clip she said, “What I hope I feel, is a sense of peace, not only with myself and the decision that I’ve made, but also a sense of peace with these two beings that I’ve chosen not to bring into the world. Thank you for choosing me. And I’m honored to be given this gift of life. And also I can’t do it right now. I can’t accept that mantle in terms of the other lives that I’m taking care of and I’m responsible for.”
Life is always born out of someone else’s sacrifice, someone else’s sort of death. Confusion breeds evil. This woman’s confusion about where life comes from, and who should die has her believing the evil that says, “Life. You can take it or leave it. It doesn’t have to cost you anything.” But the truth is all life is born at the tearing, the bleeding, the breaking, the dying of one for another.
I hear the critics of my convictions about abortion crying foul and I am listening. I’m examining myself. I’m asking what I can do to apply my belief about suffering and sacrifice and life and human worth to all human beings, no matter their sexual orientation, color of skin, immigration status, age, religion, income or addictions. I believe I should die. I should lay down my life. I should be willing to suffer so that others might live. I believe husbands should do this for their wives, and leaders should do this for their followers and mothers should do this for their children, and Christians should do this for their neighbors. All of them.