What Gosnell and the Gospel Mean to the Brave …

Dear Son,

So your GPS can say that it’s about 5 hours and 24 minutes from Steubenville to Gosnell’s clinic in Philadelphia?

But you’d be about right if you said Gosnell and Steubenville were right around the corner from one another.

And you were about right when you said that Gosnell is as much about us as Steubenville ever was.





That’s how you and I sort of began.

I had bent over the tiles of the doctor’s office like I might hurl.

Like I might lose everything and the leaves, they’d clung to the rain splattered window.

And it’s not like I saw the doctor spin her chair or saw her lean forward. I just heard the mechanics of her rotation, the spinning of everything.

Just will be forever razed with what she said next, the way she’d said it like you could simply snip off light and not long feel the dark:

“Have you considered an abortion?”

I had just blown out the candles on my 21st birthday cake. Married 90 days. Starting my third week of my third year of university. Terror can make people feel like all they have is terrible choices.

Here me, Son, and remember it every time you hear the word abortion: Abortion isn’t so much about a woman having choice — but a woman feeling like she has no choice.

For one lifelong moment, the atoms of everything split and spun and hung.

And then my heart pounded out words out loud, words my synapses hadn’t even formed: “No — religiously impossible.”

And with three words — you fluttered and unfurled.

I don’t know how to say it — that you received what one million other aborted human beings every single year in the United States don’t get.

You received a gift.

You received the gift of inhaling and exhaling and unfolding and being enfolded, and walk through a place like Gosnell‘s and this is the gift we can never get over — all that might not have been. A million families unspoken grief. Your lungs fill even now with the oxygenated impossible.

We take for granted what should be taken as gift.

That’s what Stanley Hauerwas, named by Time magazine as America’s best theologian, had said,

The Christian understanding of life as a gift… this is more fundamental for determining our stance toward life preservation than the language of sanctity or right to life.”

Life preservation. In the dark. In the terrible. In the seemingly impossible.

The understanding of life as gift — is more fundamental for our stance toward life preservation than the language of right to life.

The understanding of life as gift isn’t overwrought eloquence — it’s understanding how we overcome the enemy.

Life as a gift isn’t poetic lyricism — it is powerfully literal.

Life is literally a gift — precisely because the Giver wasn’t required to give the gift at all.

Precisely because when we speak of life as a gift, we don’t see our bodies as our own, our lives as our own, our interests as our own — when life is a gift… it’s not about you but the Giver.

This isn’t semantics. This is salvation.

This Life as a gift tenderly, brazenly, shows you how to grieve and how to breathe and and how to believe. Because the thing is, when we use the language of Right to Life — we inherently and inadvertently think of our life as ours, a right we possess, so we too can determine when and how our lives will end.

Life isn’t a right to do with as we want, but a gift from God for Him to do with as He wills. There can be leaves and rain and seeds that grow bold out of the thickening dark.

You were four days old when your father came in from the barn and found me bent and weeping over your soft head.

He asked me if everything was okay? And all I could choke out was that everything is miracle.

And sorry. A thousand sorrys for belittling grace.

Where does Gosnell fit into Gospel? into grace?

When I read of the blood and the babies and the snipping of necks, I wanted to wish it all away, close my eyes to sin and not bear witness. But in bearing witness, we bear the weight of glory, of God who bears sins and rises, and redemption requires testimony.

So I read to the end and shattered and there was that girl I stood up with in a wedding, a Christian girl, who found herself on a lonely night looking for love in the wrong places, looking into the eyes of a guy who poured her a drink and some flattery and went taking what wasn’t his to have.

She found herself pregnant. He found a number to a clinic.

And hear me, Son — our voice about women’s abortions lacks authenticity unless we speak of male promiscuity.

Male promiscuity is about power and pleasure and no presence.

Male promiscuity is about sensuality and fertility and no responsibility.

Male promiscuity is about cultural instability.

So that guy she never knew told her all he knew was where to find a clinic and all he was ever going to give her was a number to erase one night.

We all get to decide that — between erasing sin and embracing grace. One’s impossible — and the other makes everything possible.

And I don’t know — How does a girl show up at church in maternity clothes with no man covenanted?

When we’re all about the best looking good instead of the broken living grace, some don’t think they can take the shame. Some take an appointment. We can shame a woman for getting pregnant and we can shame her for aborting that baby but it’s shame for sin that bullies into further sin and what if instead of shaming, we weren’t ashamed of the Gospel of extravagant Grace?

Grace isn’t ever a paltry thing — Grace is always the very power of God. Grace never negates obedience. Grace always initiates obedience.

Shame bullies and grace shields and when you are covered in grace you uncover hope.

My mama, she booked a flight.

She raced the clock and an appointment at a clinic and she flew out someone who the girl trusted. Someone who would sit with the girl and cry prayers with her and pick up the phone and book an ultrasound at a crisis pregnancy center just before that appointment at the abortion clinic.

And when a heartbeat throbbed on that ultrasound screen, that girl heard the heart of God. This made her brave.

God-given life was in that heartbeat and when you give a cup of water to the least of these, you give it to Him. This is the difference, Son:

For Christ followers, it’s more than being pro-choice and pro-life — it’s about always being pro-the-least-of-these.

The abortion debate draws women and children as unexpected enemies; the Gospel defends both as unexpectedly vulnerable.

The abortion debate offers that a woman is ultimately responsible alone for her child; the Gospel offers that no woman is ever alone and the Body of Christ is response-able to both woman and child.

The abortion debate is not so much about how we can somehow change the law, but right now change how we love. To have credibility in lobbying for laws against the abortion of babies, we must have the dependability of opening our doors for the welcoming of children.

If the compassion of the world is “We do not unwanted children born into the world,” then the compassion of the Gospel has to be far more powerful. The compassion of Christ-followers needs to literally and practically and sacrificially be: “We do want all the children born into this world.” 

If we are truly pro-the-least-of-these: How does each and every Christian live in a way that witnesses to wanting all children, to welcoming all children, to wrapping around all children?

And how do we value the worth of every single woman?

You and I, we have to. Because ultimately this isn’t a debate and we can’t turn away indifferent — When we turn away from vulnerable women and children, we turn away from the venerable Christ.

And the truth is — We turn away from Gosnell because it’s our high school friends and it’s our sisters, its our daughters and our sons, and our children, our stained hands. It’s our grief of loss and our sins of neglect and our failure as a community. The tender mourning of it is that: Abortion is a sign of failure of community.

You and me together — we won’t turn away.

This is as messy as a bomb on a street corner on and this is as much a national tragedy and this is our collective loss — of women and children and families and men and in standing with those who bear witness, we bear the weight of glory, with the God who bears sins and rises, and redemption requires testimony and we will be the people who do not turn away.

And when you met her last month?

When you shook her hand, that girl who’s tall and lovely now, that heartbeat on an ultrasound screen who’s become that shy smile?

I wanted to turn away for everything brimming, how both of you who might never have been, how women are held in lavish grace….

But in not turning away, everything begin to turn…





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