Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) took my words this week, for like many other women, I am heartbroken. The recent news of the overturning of Roe v. Wade has brought deep grief to my soul. Unlike Ms. Obama, I do not grieve for the fact that this decision signals to her that women have “just lost the fundamental right to make informed decisions about their body”; I am heartbroken about other things. I am heartbroken that we live in a world where the choice whether to end another human’s life is seen as a right at all. I am heartbroken that we live in a world where women feel an ‘unplanned’ pregnancy is losing a future. I am heartbroken that fellow Christian brothers and sisters would perpetuate hate speech on people leaving abortion clinics in the US now by the droves. I am heartbroken that abortion is so tied up with the absence and silence of fathers. I am heartbroken that around one in six Australian women in their thirties have had an abortion (The Conversation).
Surrendering the Right
When I see the noise surrounding this ruling, both in Australia and the world-at-large, there seems to be a common thread- an outcry that a women’s right to choose has been taken from her. In a world where we hold tightly to the rights we have, and fight for those we perceive to lack, choosing the harder road, where we surrender our rights seems foreign.
As a young lady, I had a to-do list as long as my paper supply was. I wanted to travel the world, conquer the career ladder and find financial security before I had children. I believed it was my desire and my right to achieve these things. Sure, I wanted children, but that was a ‘one day’ kind of thing. My future planning all came to a grinding halt when my husband broached the topic that perhaps we should contemplate having children. In the sexual oneness I shared with my husband, I realised that procreation was a joint decision; a joint discussion. While it was my female body that would carry, grow and feed the baby, a new life would change both our lives and was up to both of us and God.
After this initial discussion, I spent a weekend wrestling with God. I brought my to-do list before him, pleading with God to give me the desires of my heart- there was so much still for me to accomplish- surely, children would limit that. So, I bargained with God like Gideon- I’d lay down my to-do list for one month and if I wasn’t pregnant during that time, it was a sign that God agreed with me and we needed more time to do the things I wanted before having children.
Nine months later, our firstborn, red-head beauty blazed into our hearts and lives the evening our little town went into flood. From the very beginning my carefully laid out plans were upended. Parenting has and continues to be the hardest thing I have ever done. My to-do list hasn’t been complete for the past decade, yet my focus for life has changed and I am the better for it. In the surrendering of my wants and desires in the bearing of children, I have shared in one of the most significant experiences of my life. Since these early days of parenting, I have welcomed two more babies into the world and have grieved the miscarriage of another two; I have seen the beauty and heartache of life and death from the womb. It is fraught with emotions; highs and low but through it all one thing is clear- God ultimately controls life in and from the womb.
Choosing to bear children requires laying down your own wants for a time; a surrendering of rights for the sake of another. It takes sacrifice. It is hard; but in the pressing beauty can bloom.
Ms. Obama urges us, “When we don’t understand our history, we are doomed to repeat its mistakes” She is right. But there are older lessons she has forgotten—like the lesson of Genesis 4 that attempting to overcome our disappointments with violence will bring terrible consequences. For Cain, eliminating Abel is the solution. For “the teenage girl, full of zest and promise, who won’t be able to live high school or live the life she wants because her state controls her reproductive decision,” (M. Obama), abortion holds out the same false hope: it is another manifestation of sin crouching at our door, desiring to control us (Gen 4:7).
Saved by an Unplanned Pregnancy
We live as a product of, and as co-creators of, the sin-sick world around us. We make decisions about what we do with our bodies; we make plans and want to control them; we are impacted by deceptions, lies and gross evils—both our own and those of others. In this world, children are conceived in sin; they are born in sin; they live in sin and die in sin.
But at just the right time, light burst into the darkness. A virgin womb became the home of another unplanned pregnancy. A poor, humble, lowly young woman is told she will conceive a child. This child isn’t part of her plan: she has a marriage and a home on her to-do list. How will she tell her betrothed? How will he respond?
Yet Mary surrenders her rights to God: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” she says in Luke 1:38. There is a cost, but in paying it she takes her part in God’s great plan.
But her surrender is nothing compared to the price paid by her son. In Jesus, we see the ultimate giving-up of rights: we see him falsely convicted by a callous government; we see him tortured to death; we see God’s wrath poured out unjustly on him for you and me.
At the cross, we are all called to bow our knee at the one who can offer forgiveness—no matter what we have done. He can mend the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds (and some of us have very deep wounds and a profound sense of guilt—especially on this issue). Our Saviour beacons. Jesus lovingly places his spotlight on guilt and shame and calls to it.
Jesus and the Birth of Compassion
He also offers a new and better way to his people, the Church. No longer are we to hurl stones of condemnation; instead, we are to extend hands of gospel hope. We are to provide a haven to the fatherless and a village to the mother raising a child on her own. Yes, we can be grateful for the abolition of Roe V. Wade, but we also need to be ready to offer practical and emotional support and friendship to the mother who was looking to abortion as a saviour. As we love our community, we must point them to the true Saviour who will never forsake them.
Michelle Obama says that “Our hearts may be broken today, but tomorrow, we’ve got to get up and have the courage to keep working towards creating the more just America that we all deserve…” The future God shows us we deserve is a little less bright than the one Ms. Obama imagines. For all fall short of the glory of God, all have sinned, no-one is righteous (Rom 3:23). But the good news doesn’t end there:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4-8)
What a hope to hold on to! And to be able to hold out!
As Christians, may our cry be that of the miracle of new life born from the blood shed at an old wooden cross. May we advocate and minister to the voiceless, the downtrodden, and those without hope. May we shine the love of Jesus on the darkness of abortion, and may we loudly declare the love of a Saviour who laid down his rights so that we might have new life. May we bring our lives under the authority of a God who calls to us in our sin and offers us a way out. May we bring our broken hearts to Jesus as we fix our eyes on him, not looking to the system of the world but having our thinking transformed in light of his glorious grace. May we also celebrate the beauty of children- biological, adopted, fostered; and may we speak the truth of the joy and challenge of motherhood.
image: Unsplash- Gayatiri Malhotra