I know myself, and I know that I couldn’t be any more angered by abortion. So, when I first started seeing things about the 2013 Gosnell trial, I skipped right over it. I am sure that many of you felt the same way afterward. What could we possibly do about it, and how could reading about the horror of what happened in that “clinic” help us be any more faithful in our own lives?
But when I finally did read a bit about it, I found myself surprisingly challenged and encouraged, and here is why. The Gosnell situation shone light on the darkness of abortion in a way that nothing else had in a long time. Stories like this one make me realize that I am just far enough away from the reality of abortion to forget to fight it, and that I needed this kind of reminder. Let me try to explain myself.
Feeding the Volcano of Self
Abortion in our country is not a stand-alone moment, brought about by women who somehow haven’t heard of adoption. Abortion is that dark crisis choice served up to millions of women every year, courtesy of our cultural religion of self-fulfillment. It is the bloody path taken by many women who feel that they really “had no choice” (at least if they were going to finish law school, if they were going to have a career, if they were going to be slim in their bikinis in time for spring break). Everyone acts like abortion is a sad thing, but a necessity. But the truth is that abortion is the sacrifice that our religion of selfishness requires.
“Abortion is the sacrifice that our religion of selfishness requires.”
In an ancient pagan religion, the volcano would periodically require that its worshipers throw in a virgin. She would have no choice, and sometimes even she could understand that. The god had to be fed. Abortion fills that place for us. Our god is a stupid volcano of selfish desire, sexual “liberty,” freedom from God’s law, and a refusal to accept responsibility or live our lives for another. This god requires a sacrifice, and so we offer it the unborn and their tragic mothers.
The Gosnell case has forced people to see what it is like to die in the volcano — how long it takes on the way down before you die, what the body looks like afterwards, what it smells like, and how it feels to stand on the edge in fear.
The True Sacrifice
While the pro-life movement absolutely needs to be working hard to save the virgins from the brink of the volcano, we have to understand that it is not the brink that brought about the crisis. The crisis is made by the worship farther down the mountainside. The people who are busy promising us that there will be no break in easy access to abortion don’t care about the victims. They are promising that to each other — to men who want sexual pleasure but can’t be bothered with fatherhood, to women who want to be desired and consumed like playthings without ever seeming used. Our god will continue to be appeased. We will ensure that it stays satisfied. We will ensure that we have a steady supply of the unborn to feed it — because if we ran out of infants, we would have to go in ourselves. We would actually have to sacrifice ourselves for others.
So, here is our culture — deeply involved in the worship of self, of “life,” of freedom, and this worship requires a death sacrifice. It requires blood. It is a sacrifice of death, from the dying, in the name of life. But we are Christians! We are not on that altar! Our lives are lived on the altar to the living God. We are not required to sacrifice with death, but with life. Jesus Christ was our blood sacrifice — our blood sacrifice that rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and now sits with God the Father.
Choosing Life in the Big and Small
Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
“Every day we can lay down our desires, our selfish ambition, our self-importance, and choose life.”
God does not want us putting death on his altar, but rather life. We are called as his children to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Choosing life is not only about not aborting when you get a positive pregnancy test. God wants us to continue to present our bodies as a sacrifice of life, for all of our days.
Far from having done our part when we carry a baby to term, we can continue to choose life every day. Every day we choose the life of another over our own life. Every day we can lay down our desires, our selfish ambition, our self-importance, and choose life. And of course this is not unique to mothers — all Christians have the means of fighting for life by laying theirs down for those around them.
Everyday Lives of Sacrifice
Right now, in our culture, in our time, there is something uniquely potent about mothers sacrificing for their children. As we lay down our lives for them, presenting ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, that sacrifice makes an aroma. That sacrifice directly contradicts and blasphemes everything the world is fighting for. As you care for your children, on the long days and in the tired moments, disciplining yourself, sacrificing yourself for them, you are reaching out to the world. When you present yourself as a living sacrifice, the aroma of that sacrifice cannot be contained.
We do not turn inwards toward our children and toward our homes because we do not care about the world. We turn inwards because the world needs to smell this sacrifice. It can be easy for mothers to feel like no one can see us in our daily labor — like it doesn’t really matter. We can feel like picketing outside of an abortion clinic is the only way to stop such horror, and unfortunately we are burdened with little children so we can’t do it.
This is why I write for mothers about the small opportunities in the normal days, in the normal kind of lives that so many of us live. Not because I think more peaceful afternoons would be nice, and I can help you find them (I can’t). Not just because I think women need encouragement to love their children more. Not just because I think we need to value our own work and calling. I write about these things because when I became a mother I saw things differently. I realized that the opportunities to choose life are with us all the time. It is a continuous choice. A choice that never naps and never stops growing; it is a choice that can only be made in faith, by the grace of a Savior who showed us how to live on an altar.
This Will Change the World
Motherhood is the big leagues of self-sacrifice. Millions of women kill to avoid it. In our culture of self-gratification, to embrace selfless motherhood is a revolutionary act. To see the sacrifice and rejoice in it. To recognize that the cost is your own life, and to willingly lay yourself down. The world hates the smell of that sacrifice, because it is the smell of grace. They hate it because it is the smell of something living and burning at the same time — something that is impossible without a risen Savior.
“Being pro-life means putting the life of another ahead of your own.”
There are times to stand on sidewalks and hold signs, but holding a sign isn’t what makes a mother pro-life. Being pro-life means putting the life of another ahead of your own. It means being daily grace to the small souls nearest to you. It is not just an opinion or a position or a lobbyist group. It is the glory of maternal self-sacrifice that begins at conception and runs through labor and midnight feedings and diapers and sandwiches and crayons and homework and flu seasons and graduations and on into grandkids. It is an avalanche of small and large sacrifices. It burns bright in kitchens and bedrooms and backyards. It is the real life of the pro-life movement, and it will change the world.