Occasionally we come across stories that have the ability to alter and define much of what we believe about the world around us. Sometimes these stories are about ideals of liberty and freedom, filled with beautiful words and idyllic symbolism. For me personally, however, accounts of real-life individuals have the ability to pull at my heartstrings and revolutionize my thoughts like none other.
A few weeks ago, I “stumbled upon” one such article. It was written by a man whose wife had recently had an abortion. To be perfectly honest, prior to reading the article, I had thought very little about the topic of abortion, despite the fact that it is an often debated issue in America. But like only certain stories can, it reminded me of the reality that everyone experiences pain, and if we cannot unite with the people of the world over anything else, we can unite on that.
As the article opened, the husband, whom we’ll call Hank, described the three weeks leading up to his and his wife’s final decision that an abortion was necessary. As he depicted his wife, whom we’ll call Molly, grief seemed to seep out of his words. Hank noted her incessant tears in the weeks prior, and it was evident that his heart broke as he watched Molly’s heart break.
The morning finally came in which they were to go to the local women’s clinic. As Hank and Molly stepped out of their car upon their arrival, they were horrified to hear a group of protesters across the street labeling Molly a murderer.
Hank did not go into much detail about the protestors other than to make it clear they were Christians; however, he wrote something I will never forget. “I’ve never believed in heaven or hell. But there is a hell on Earth. Hell is sitting next to the person you love most and listening to her wail hysterically because her heart just broke into a million pieces. Hell is watching her entire body convulse with sobs because she’s being tortured with grief.”
Upon reading this, I was at a loss for words, and my eyes filled with tears.
As I continued reading, my tears only intensified. You see, Molly and Hank had not originally planned on having an abortion at all. Three weeks prior, their unborn baby had been diagnosed with Sirenomelia, a congenital deformity in which the baby’s legs were fused together. What’s worse, the baby would have been born without a kidney or bladder—a zero percent chance of survival. They had finally come to the conclusion that an abortion was necessary, because Molly couldn’t bear the thought of birthing a precious baby only to watch it die hours later.
Now I admit, I do not know either Molly or Hank, but from reading the article, it would be my guess that when Molly found out she was pregnant, she called Hank immediately. I imagine she couldn’t stop smiling. She probably had already thought up names, decorations for the baby’s room, and dreamed about the beautiful days to come.
My heart broke for so many reasons—for Molly, for Hank. But my heart was really shattered by the fact that a group of “Christians” had caused this precious woman to experience even more guilt than she already felt. I’m sure the intentions of these protesters were pure, in that obviously they would not have been making such bold statements if they did not believe them to be true. However, I simply cannot come to terms with the idea that accosting another individual for such a personal decision as this was the “most appropriate” way to handle the situation.
Obviously that is my opinion, and I fully believe everyone has the right to his or her own thoughts as well as the freedom to express them. But personally, as a believer in the Christian faith, I am appalled by the fact that individuals who believe the same faith I do practice their beliefs so differently.
Now Jesus and I haven’t had a conversation about this, but personally, I don’t think that Jesus would have treated his daughter, Molly, in the same way this specific group of “Christians” did.
We all have our own interpretations of what sacred text means and how it should be applied in daily life—whatever your religion is. Certain individuals highlight specific pieces and phrases, while others focus on completely different passages. So I accept the fact that others may not believe my interpretation to be accurate.
But I believe if the Lord had been living on earth in human form that day, he would not have been protesting with the people across the street. I think he would have been waiting for Molly outside with open arms, ready to hold her as soon as it was finished. As she sobbed, he would not have reprimanded her. He would have simply held her, stroked her hair, and wiped every tear that fell from her eyes. However long that would take, he would be there. Because she is his beautiful creation, his priceless treasure. He knows the number of hairs on her head, the thoughts that had been tormenting her for weeks. Every emotion she felt, he felt as well. I’m not saying that the Lord condones or encourages abortion, but I am saying that he loves Molly. Nothing will ever strip her of his love.
I realize the protestors across the street might argue that the Gospel is offensive. That is true; the Gospel is offensive. The Gospel is what I believe to be the factual account of a man, Jesus the son of God, who came to earth. He lived a perfect life—completely infallible. He loved the weary and healed the sick. He spent the majority of his ministry with society’s outcasts: tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, and the like. He loved the individuals whom the religious leaders of that day deemed unloveable. Then he became the ultimate sacrifice and died so that everyone could have life—and not only eternal life but a life of freedom here on earth. When I say everyone, I mean everyone, including those who persecuted him. He didn’t care. They were his children. He loved them with an unfailing, unconditional love.
He died for us while we still hated him. He was beaten, bruised, tortured, and hung on a cross. I’m sure we can hardly imagine the brutality of it all. I understand that is offensive. But the message those individuals were preaching, that wasn’t the Gospel. That was a message of hatred and condemnation.
As Christians, I believe the purpose of our lives is to become more like Christ and to bring a picture of heaven to earth with every action we take. Will we fail sometimes? Yes. Let us not forget how human we are, but we must strive to live in such a way that neither our speech nor our actions cause another individual to experience pain. For who are we to support a cause and put God’s name on it, only to have it lead to the brokenness of even just a single individual?
Unfortunately, however, that tends to be human nature. We like to condemn others, because we think that in highlighting the faults of others, attention will be drawn away from our own. I’m included in this. We’ve all been there.
The message Hank wrote extends beyond a group of condemning Christians. It is a message for all of humanity. Our words have the ability to break or to heal. As constituents of this hurting world, it is both our responsibility and honor to support others in times of pain. We never fully know what other people are walking through, but I do know that we all experience pain. Every individual to ever walk the earth has experienced heartache of some kind. Perhaps we all deal with the pain in different ways, but each of us can unite on the common ground that this world is hurting. Whether you just lost a loved one or feel as though there is nothing good in you, you aren’t alone.
May we all take upon ourselves this opportunity, which is more a responsibility, in my opinion. The pain of this world is overwhelming enough; so may we never let a word escape our lips that will increase the burden of another individual. May love be our standard of living. For who are we to criticize, belittle, or reject another individual for his or her decisions, simply because we do not agree with them?
I would venture to say you would not want all of your faults placed on the front page of the New York Times—adultery, anxiety, alcoholism, fear, lies, idolatry, whatever your vice or failing may be. In accepting the fact that we do not want to be defined by our faults or the inevitable circumstances in our lives, it is my hope that we would not limit others to theirs. For if we continue to take part in such characterizations, we will continually miss out on one of the most beautiful parts about this world. We’re all so imperfect, and yet we have an incredible opportunity to love and accept others despite our imperfections. I know it’s a lofty idea, but I’m willing to place my faith in the hope of what might be considered unlikely but incredibly beautiful.