Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Response to #ShoutYourAbortion

There is currently a hashtag trending on Twitter known as #ShoutYourAbortion. The hashtag consists of 140-character testimonies from those who have had abortions, praising the decision and the freedom that has resulted.

Here are a few (authors omitted):
so thrilled to see women standing up for themselves, sharing stories, and resisting stigma

I've never wanted to have children, so I had an abortion. I'm thriving, without guilt, without shame, without apologies.

In 1988 a late-term abortion got a teenage me back on track for college, career, & motherhood.

My abortion was in '10 & the career I've built since then fulfills me & makes me better able to care for kids I have now.
Seeing these tweets evoked quite a reaction in me, one that I'd like to share. Although I'm still finding the words for how I feel about this, I'll try to articulate my thoughts as best as I can. 

Let me start by saying that I am pro-life. But I will not spend this post shouting at those who are pro-choice. Let me also say that I am Catholic and that this is a Christian blog. But I will not mention Jesus or Catholicism once for the entirety of this post. 

Now that that's clear, some background to my stance:

If you don't know the story of my birth and how I got my name, I was nearly aborted. The doctors told my parents it was the best option, that if giving birth to me didn't kill my mother first, I'd likely have severe chromosomal defects, maybe Down Syndrome, too. 

Why risk it? She had two healthy children. She had a loving husband and family. How could a defect ever be worth that risk?

Thank God she did risk it.

Thank God I'm here, alive and kicking. Thank God I have a voice. 

Because of my close call, I find it easy to associate myself with all the aborted babies in this nation (57 million). I consider myself one of the ones who almost met that fate.

So, suffice it to say, the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag makes me feel sick to my stomach. 

Women who have had an abortion: I don't want you to feel shame. I don't want you to crash and burn. I love you. I pray for you. And because of this, I want you to change the way you think about abortion.

Shouting and reveling in your abortion will not convince me. Perhaps it will make you feel better, but it does little to change anything. And I doubt me shouting back at you will do much either. 

So let's talk. Let's have a civilized discussion. But, when we do so, keep in mind that when you say "fetus," when you say "inconvenience," I see myself. 
I could have been the child you aborted. 

But let's make this more concrete. Let's say I was your child. Let's say you faced the option: abort me or not. 

I'll use my mom to model specifically what life would have looked like for both of these options.

Option #1:
You choose abortion. The doctors raise a valid point. You have a family that depends on you. You were looking forward to having another kid (or maybe you weren't), but this choice is the logical one. You make an appointment. You tell yourself that it has to be done. You abort me. And then you go about your daily life. You have a family, a good husband, a pleasant life. You hardly even remember me. Give it a couple years, and you stop wondering what life would have been like with me there.


Option #2:
You choose life. The doctors raise a valid point, but you can't help but think I'm worth it. Even if I come out with defects, you'll take care of me. Even if it puts financial strain on the family, you'll do it. Even if the birth will be risky, even if you may lose your life in the process, you'll risk it.

July 12th rolls around. The doctor thinks you're making a mistake. Your husband loves your unborn child, but has his doubts; what would he do if he lost you? 

It's 2:52pm. I am born. I am perfect, the doctor says with shock. The doctor starts to cry. Your husband starts to cry, you start to cry, and eventually, my newborn sobs are just one of many in the room.

I'm an easy baby. You take me wherever my brother and sister go. I learn to crawl and walk and talk--boy, do I love to talk. I have trouble saying "yellow." I call it "lellow" instead. My sister likes to make fun of me for that. 

I go to school. In 3rd grade, for career day, I say I want to be a mom when I grow up. It makes you happy. In 5th grade, I join a program for talented and gifted students. You're proud of me. In middle school, I come to you with boy troubles. You laugh on the inside, knowing how insignificant my woes are in the grand scheme of things.

In high school, I play lacrosse. You come to my games and cheer me on. When I mess up, you tell me it's no big deal. When I do well, you tell me how proud of me you are.

I start getting into music. I can't sing, so I rap. You think it's silly, but you support me nonetheless. You make me cookies when I'm stressed; I love chocolate chip. 

I graduate high school as Valedictorian. You tear up when you hear my speech. You laugh when I end it with a rap. 

I go to college. You're sad to see me leave, but I call you often. I want to be a doctor. I'm studying neuroscience. I want to help people. I want to do international medicine or maybe join the Navy; who knows. You tell me you'll be proud no matter what I do. I even work on a rap album, and you ask for a CD. You play it in the car while I'm away at college and tell me that the songs I created are stuck in your head. I don't know if you're just saying that or if you actually like them that much. But it doesn't matter. Either way, it reminds me how much you love me.

I'm also loved by my dad. He's always there for me, even if he's there to push my buttons. He knows my personality inside and out, and would do anything to make me happy. My brother and sister, too, make sure I know how loved I am--even if they do so by messing with me. My grandparents love me, too, along with my friends from high school and college. And I love all of these people, too. I try to brighten their days. I try to make them happy, to give them the love they give me.

In these past 19 years, a lot has happened.

But if you had aborted me, none of it would have happened.

You would have gone on living just fine. You very well could have had a normal life, as if I had never existed. You could have made lots of money, had lots of friends, changed lives. 

You would have been just fine. But you would have missed a lot.

That's the problem with abortion: it leads us to believe we have fixed a problem, that we have nothing to worry about. That things can go back to normal now. It blinds us to what could have been.

And it's not just how things could have been for us. That decision affects everyone else: the future classmates, the future siblings, the future husband or wife of that baby. 

My mother could have had a great life if she aborted me. But only because she did not can she now see the even greater life she has because I'm here (or so she tells me).

Thank God she saw that I was worth it--I was worthy of radical and irrational love. Thank God she saw that I was human--that I existed from the moment my cells began to multiply. Thank God she thought about not just who I was at the time--a helpless and dependent baby--but also, who I would grow to become.

I could have been aborted. 

I could have been the child you aborted. 

As such, I ask you--no, I beg you--don't look at me as a burden to be free of. Think of me as a kid who could have done a lot. Think of me as the kid who can't pronounce "yellow." Think of me as the kid who will go on to be a doctor. Think of me as the kid who will have kids of her own, who will have your grandchildren. Think of me as the person I am, and always have been.

Think of the what-if's, the could-have-beens.

It is here that you find peace. It is here that you find dreams and hopes come into fruition. It is here that you shout triumphantly.

Not in the broken shadow of abortion.

Please, my friends, do not make a death march your anthem. Do not make a gunshot your war cry.

Shout love, not whatever this is. You are worth so much more.

I love you, and I'm praying for you.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Battered & Bruished

"If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever."
St. Thomas Aquinas

Catholics believe in "one holy Catholic and apostolic Church." So, let's unpack this:

One: We are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 2:28). To claim one Church means to recognize that the Body of Christ extends across time and across continents. Our brothers and sisters are all humanity.

Holy: This one is kind of a give-away, but it means virtue. We're called to be holy and perfect, as our heavenly Father is holy and perfect.

Catholic: Well, it's the Catholic church so this one isn't really a shocker....Jk. Catholic means "universal," so to be Catholic means to extend across all things. It is the universality of the Church that allows us to walk into Mass anywhere in the world and, despite the language difference, know what is going on. We receive the same Word of God and the same Bread of Life, no matter where we are in this world.

Apostolic: from the Greek apostello, meaning "to send forth." An apostolic Church reaches out to all, seeking to make known Christ's love across all corners of the earth.

BINGO. Apostolic. Let's tackle this one today.

We're called to be apostles, but what does this look like?

It means venturing out into the unknown. It means speaking up when our culture wants nothing to do with us. It means standing up for what we believe in.

It means courage, and bravery, and one heck of a journey. If you're looking for comfort, this isn't the way to go.

But, then again, when we worship a King who died on a Cross, do we really expect a world full of comfort?

Our life as Christians isn't about surviving. It's not about avoiding causing offense. It's not about keeping our mouths shut, even if we do so out of respect for others' beliefs or lack of belief. No, it's exactly the opposite.

Being a Christian means making joyful noise. Not out of spite for others' beliefs. Not out of hatred or pride or ignorance. But out of joy: We have such a great love. We have such light. If, then, we receive so much, shouldn't we give it out? Shouldn't we share the Good News (the Gospel)? Shouldn't we tell the world what we have seen?

That's what the early disciples did. They emerged after Pentecost on fire for Christ. They shared His message to all nations. People thought they were wasted, but nope, they were just high on the Most High.

"It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard," they said (Acts 4:20).

They ran to all corners of the earth to share this news: Jesus was dead, but He has risen. The powers of hell cannot prevail against Him. What love He has for us to die for our sake. What power He has to overcome the cruelest of deaths.

Despite arrest and persecution, they preached with love and joy and passion. It was impossible for them not to do so. Many died at the hands of those unwilling to believe them. But they died in the embrace of a God who knew their suffering. And, like Him, earth's suffering soon ceased to have a hold on them as they found their eternal rest in Heaven.

Let's imitate the early disciples. Let's run from the tomb like chickens with our heads cut off, announcing that Christ has risen. Let's run from our homes to all corners of the earth, bringing others to know the Good News.

We are not a ship meant to remain pristine and safe. That's not why we're here. We're here to fight.

So, don your armor. Prepare for battle. And run out with reckless abandon. The harder your fight, the bigger your wounds, the better. Then, like St. Paul, you can look back at a life well lived and say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"Dear Future Husband"

Today, I was scrolling through the Top 50 songs in America right now. I recognized very few; however, one unfamiliar one stuck out to me in particular: "Dear Future Husband" by Meghan Trainor.

I was curious. Part of me hoped it was a beautiful ode, a song that nodded to the noble idea of living with your future spouse in mind, something along the lines of "6'2" by Marie Miller. I first heard 6'2 on mainstream media and was so pleasantly surprised that it portrayed a good message. However, as I read the lyrics, "Dear Future Husband" seemed to portray a different message.

Dear future husband,
Here's a few things
You'll need to know if you wanna be
My one and only all my life

Take me on a date
I deserve it, babe
And don't forget the flowers every anniversary
'Cause if you'll treat me right
I'll be the perfect wife
Buying groceries
Buy-buying what you need

Let's start here. I just picture Meghan Trainor forcibly sitting a young man down in a chair with a spotlight on his face and handing him a list of demands. Romantic.

You gotta know how to treat me like a lady
Even when I'm acting crazy
Tell me everything's alright.

Okay, this part is good. Treating a lady like a lady is noble. Maybe I was wrong about the song.

After every fight
Just apologize
And maybe then I'll let you try and rock my body right
Even if I was wrong
You know I'm never wrong.

Okay, I take that back.

I'll be sleeping on the left side of the bed (hey)
Open doors for me and you might get some kisses
Don't have a dirty mind
Just be a classy guy
Buy me a ring.

Alright...so I don't know Meghan Trainor, but I'd assume a lot of this was playful humor, not meant to be taken seriously. I'd like to make that disclaimer. However, the message of this song really hits the nail on the head with the way we view relationships.

For example:

"I deserve it." How much of our relationship is focused upon us--what we deserve, what we are feeling? When we look at a relationship only from the lens of "what can I get out of it," there's bound to be issues. Then, what happens when the going gets tough? What happens when the initial feelings of love fade? Do you end it? Is that all it takes to fall out of love?

In Edward Sri's Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love, a commentary on St. JP2's Love and Responsibility, he gives an example of two couples he knew. I'm paraphrasing because I don't have the book right in front of me, but basically: these two married couples lived within blocks of each other. Around the same time, both of the wives developed serious illnesses. One husband could not handle the stress of taking care of her; he no longer had time for himself and always had to worry about watching after her. He left the family and divorced her. The other husband dedicated his life to caring for his progressively ailing wife, bathing her, dressing her, and retiring early so he could be with her as much as possible. That is love. Maybe he didn't get the warm and fuzzies, but you can't doubt he loved her.

Life is going to get difficult at some point or another, and for a relationship to persist amid this stress, it must be about giving all that you can, not getting.

"Don't have a dirty mind, just be a classy guy." Trainor makes this comment after offering her hubby kisses for being polite and sex for apologizing first after a fight. So, let me clarify: sex and kisses are not bad things for a married couple. In fact, yay go you; love each other and celebrate the sacrament and the procreation and unity that results (I could go on, but this isn't a post to explain why Catholics love sex, marriage, love, etc.). Furthermore, being a classy guy isn't a bad thing. In fact, that is SO great!

Buuuuuuut. You can't hand out physical pleasure like candy and expect your spouse not to struggle with classiness and purity. Purity is a two way street, for sure, but regardless, if your relationship is only based on kissy time and sexy time, not having a dirty mind is incredibly difficult--for both in the relationship.

If you want to be able to tell your significant other "don't have a dirty mind," then don't make your relationship about the physical. If a relationship is based on loving an individual for their whole person (looks....AND soul and character and personality and intelligence, etc.), then the physical aspect isn't the priority. Being a classy guy or gal is easier because the relationship is about enhancing the dignity of the other, respecting and loving them--as a person to be cared for, not an object to be used.

Self-sacrifice, a focus outward, and respect for the dignity of the human person and the human body are just a few elements of authentic love. However, I only touched the surface. Each of these are interconnected to each other and to countless other elements of pure relationships. Perhaps I'll write on the topic more later, but to those interested, definitely check out Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love.

Now, to leave y'all with the most important point I want to make: We should be writing "Dear Future Spouse" but we shouldn't be following it with a list of demands. Rather, let's pray for him or her. Let's let them know that we're aware of the fact that one day we'll vow ourselves to them. Let's live with intentionality, not throwing away our bodies and souls to every individual we encounter. Let's practice self-giving, person-centered loving right now.

“Love is willing the good of the other…and then doing something concrete about it.  It’s not an emotion, it’s not an attitude.  It’s a move of the will.  To want the good of the other, and do something about it.  That’s love." Fr. Robert Barron