We are here to love. And the enemy of love is self-consciousness.
--Tom Jackson, as quoted in Living the Questions: Making Sense of the Mess and Mystery of Life by Carolyn Arends
January is here. Goodness, how I hate this month. I know that this month, on the twenty-second, we will mark yet another anniversary of that travesty of humanity, decency, liberty and justice -- the reprehensible Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court abomination of 1973. This whole month hangs heavily upon me -- a burden of pain that surfaces more easily at this time of year than any other. The mass murder of the unborn is never far from my heart, but, in January, it is like a millstone weighing me down. Because, this month, I have to do something about it that takes me far outside my comfort zone. Because, this is the month to stand up in public against the culture tide and proclaim loudly that I will speak against this horror -- I will speak up for the little ones robbed of their voices.
I love and rejoice to support crisis pregnancy centers throughout the year. I am blessed to be a small part of child-and-youth-centered ministries like Compassion International and Mercy Ministries. Toy drives, supporting the Seattle Union Gospel Mission, volunteering at my church -- these are my preferred ways of loving children. I enjoy working in the shadows. I hate to stand up in public. But, every year I dutifully pack warm clothes and my Bug into the Cavalier and journey westward to Olympia to stand on the steps of the capitol (the place where the legislators of one of the most pro-abortion states in the Union legalized abortion in 1970 -- beating the SCOTUS to the punch and declaring in no uncertain terms: "Inconvenient babies must die.") and join with fellow travelers in saying, "Not in my name." Every year, I am just miserable about it. But I do it, because not to do it would be inexcusable.
This is the same dilemma I face when I get that letter every year from Compassion International. My stomach ties up in knots when I see the annual request that I host a "Compassion Sunday" at my church. All this is is a short presentation before the congregation sharing about my experience as a child sponsor, and then setting up a table after service to give people the opportunity to ask questions about my experiences and, hopefully, feel led to sponsor a child themselves. Every year, I pray: Please Lord, let another sponsor at our church volunteer. Every year, the reply is the same: Nope. You're up, baby. So, I do it. I stand up in front of everyone with my knees knocking and my voice quavering, and I speak from the heart, trusting in the Spirit to lead me. And every year I get a positive response, and some beautiful children living in poverty around the world are given a safe haven in a ministry partner of Compassion International because the Lord spoke to hearts through me. That's humbling and unnerving and a little too close to His holiness for comfort. But it is what I do, because not to do it would be inexcusable.
Last year, when the world clamored to starve and dehydrate Terri Schiavo to death because she was severely handicapped and her husband remembered five years after her incapacitation that she had really wanted to die all along, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) sent out a call to action for its supporters to write to their congressional representatives and ask that "Terri's Bill" be passed so that her case could be subjected to federal review. Oh goodness, I did not want to write anything to Maria Cantwell or (even worse) Patty Murray, because I would prefer if their lives and the lives of their staffers never crossed mine. Mostly, I want to live under the radar of any government official -- I most certainly did not relish subjecting my e-mail address to their list of constituents. Then, after I had decided that this was not for me, I had a very disturbing vision of my standing before the Judgement Seat and trying to explain to the Holy One why I did not send out a simple e-mail when a life was on the line. So I did it. And I got the automatically-generated reply back from those two senators. And the bill was passed, but Terri was put to death anyway. At least I did what I really thought the Lord wanted me to. Not to have done so would have been inexcusable.
Once, I really crossed the line of my comfort zone. I went to a prayer vigil outside a local abortion mill that was organized by a local Catholic pro-life group. The morning started with Mass at the local parish, which is uncomfortable enough for a Prostestant heretic like me, and then proceeded caravan-style to the death house. Those were a few of the most uncomfortable hours of my life. First of all, there was the Catholic aspect. I love Catholics -- I do not think, like so many Prostestants unfortunately seem to, that Catholicism is a cult. I know that they love the Lord, but there are a lot of auxiliary doctrines and rites that I just do not get (e.g. the Pope, the holy water, the saints, the obsession with Mary). It was very hard to be the only non-Catholic at the vigil. Everyone was praying the rosary, and the Hail Marys kind of freaked me out. Then, of course, there was the public aspect. I hated, hated, hated standing on a street corner in one of the top three pro-abortion states and hearing obscenities yelled out from passing cars. The cheers and honks and thumbs-up we got were a heartening relief, though. All in all, I wouldn't want to do it again, unless I could find some fellow non-Catholics to go with me. But, then, I think, what if even just one heart were changed -- what if just one life were saved? Then, that makes all of my discomfort and self-consciousness irrelevant and petty. So, I'll probably have to do it again. Not to do so would be inexcusable.
I have felt led by the Lord for a couple of years to do two things that I have so far left undone. The first is to start a Saturday morning coffee and doughnut table in a park and talk with everyone who comes by for a cup of joe and a sugary pastry. It is just a call to do that putting yourself out there in love that Jesus modeled consistently. The other is to start some kind of housecleaning care for new mothers, especially single mothers. I know from experience that the last thing new mothers have the energy to do is clean house and do laundry and cook. I'd love to start some kind of network with like-minded people to give them a helping hand. Of course, starting anything like these takes a whole lot of shedding of self. For the first, I would have to commit to giving my Saturday mornings in service on a very consistent basis, since love cannot be a fly-by-night operation. For the second, I would have to assert myself with local hospitals or support groups to find out which new moms need help. Here's a question: Does anyone have any suggestions for getting started? There has been a lot of prayer already, and still I hesitate. I'm definitely going to wait until we move, though, because whatever may come, I want to have permanence and reliability. I know that eventually I will have to do them both. Not to do either would be inexcusable.
So, I'll be in Olympia later this month. I have yet to find the date of the March for Life posted, but I will be vigilant until it is -- most likely on Friday the 20th, or thereabouts. Here's my recounting of the March last year. I do not think that I added in the gritted-teeth and knotted intestines aspect to my post, because it all seems so silly to have been tense, once the travail is over. But here I am again, all grouchy and uptight and self-conscious once more. The Lord will kick me in the pants and get me there and get me through it, because He is good and He has not given up on me yet -- nor will He ever! So, I will lean into Him, trusting not in my own understanding but in His love and grace -- not to do so would be inexcusable.
One last thought from the always apropos Carolyn Arends:
I need a touch of love. I need a thrust of grace. A push, a shove, a slap in the face. I have gazed too long at the person in the mirror. As I turn away, I'm finding things are clearer. I will set my sights on Someone so much higher -- not on what I want, but on what I require to travel to the place where at last I can embrace all the things that really matter. I don't want to be here again, bowed at the altar of ego. I've sacrificed most everything, here at the altar of ego.
-- From "The Altar of Ego" by Carolyn Arends (I Can Hear You, 1995)