Guardians of Life

Madonna and Child by Raphael

Madonna and Child by
Raphael

Sometimes the mind-boggling fact springs upon me: I can grow human beings in my body. It seems like fairy tale magic or a science fiction movie. A human being that will have eye lashes and finger nails, desires and talents, buttons to be pushed and flaws. My very body is made to be a guardian of life. Heartbreaks, pride, anger, first kisses, a love of raspberries, bad eyesight, bad tempers, good heart, a good singing voice, best friends… All of that lies in waiting inside of me.

Sometimes, when my family is home, I look around the table and marvel that my three siblings and I once were housed safely in the refuge of my mother. We, the towering Clarksons, we were once small. We stretched and pained her, and she bore us. Each of us scratched lines in her belly so she wouldn’t forget we’d been there. And now…we are an alphabet of personality types, a instagram filter of colorings, a Thomas Hardy novel of burgeoning desires.  A solid 24 feet between the 4 of us. And I look at my mother and I am astounded. I wonder if she ever knew that we laid waiting inside of her.

The womb seems to me the most powerful feminine space. I have at times thought it unfair that women bear all of the ramifications of pregnancy, but I think they bear most of the glory too. Miracles can grow inside of us, and I think that makes us rather miraculous. For many, this miracle is their greatest fear, and that makes sense. It is not my fear, but give me a few years and a belly full of a human and I may change my mind.  2 Corinthians 4:7 says “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels…” It was perhaps not the intention of the verse, but as a little girl I intuitively connected this verse to women. Treasure in earthly vessels. It reeks of the sacramental.

What wonderful, mighty, and mysterious creations we women are.

When I dwell on the miracle and mystery of life, pregnancy, and birth, I am filled with a sense of awe. I feel I should take off my shoes for fear of treading on holy ground.

Lost in this wonder, I am brought down with a thud. In this most holy and feminine place, people come wielding sharp tools and vacuum cleaners. What I see as the someday ENFP’s and ADHD’s, someone sees as “tissue donation.” I balk and gag at the horror, but am told not to worry: It’s all quite legal. When did something being legal ever make it right?

“Safely”, “legally”, and about 1.2 million times a year, life is sucked from the womb. The miraculous is swallowed up in death. I can’t comprehend it. I don’t know what it means. I fear I might break in two if the reality of it fell upon me.

Have we grown so cold and calloused that we can speak of these miracles and massacres in forensic terms? How can anyone, while crunching salad, speak of crushing bodies with a careless, old-hat sigh? How do our stomachs not turn? How do we not cry out?

I used to think that some things were universally indefensible. Though it never particularly came to my mind as a salient possibility, selling (or compensating or donating or whatever rhetorical term you want to try and give it) the body parts of crushed infants seemed to me to be on that list.  It baffles me with what nonchalance these allegations have been received. It is not as though these actions have been denied; no, indeed! They have been justified, qualified, given different names, and made out to be actions which might make a woman feel like her “experience” was more meaningful. Rhetoric certainly is powerful, but I can’t help but think that plain old self deception wields an even mightier grasp.

Surely, we have eyes, but do not see.

We have ears, but we do not hear. (Jeremiah 5:21).

Could there be any greater violence against women than this?

With my ear against the wall of my country’s public sphere, I hear angry voices shouting “LIFE!” and “CHOICE!” Perhaps we have forgotten what these words mean.

Life.

This gift we all receive and do nothing to merit.

Choice.

Power which shapes our lives given to us with our first breaths. Yes, choice is a grace we could not have were it not for the gift of life given to us in the womb of a willing woman.

And so, we as a Nation choose to use the gift of life to enable us to choose those we deem able, deserving, and convenient of this gift, and those we deem unfit, undeserving, and inconvenient. Oh, we are presumptuous on the mighty power that has wrought these choices in us. We should tremble.

Sometimes the mind-boggling fact springs upon me: I can grow human beings in my body. It seems like fairy tale magic or a science fiction movie. More than this, it is a grace and a holiness. One which shapes who I am. And I find myself fierce with the desire to protect these holy spaces, to be awake to their majesty. I want to be a guardian of the mystery, the grace, and the right to life.

For You formed my inward parts;

You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works,

And my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:12-14

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