Monday, 23 October 2017

Stand Fast

It is Monday. The beginning of a new week after a weekend of family time. Multiplied. We got off to a smashing start, literally. Earlier this morning, with a warm berg wind billowing the curtains, my husband decanted milk into a glass jug. As he turned around to put the bucket back in the fridge, the sound of shattering glass broke the sweetness of the morning. An oblong marble slab, balanced against the windowsill had somehow tipped over, leaving demolition in it's wake... Milk flowed unchecked from the counter, spreading into a wide white pool around the sharp shards. We stood staring at opposite sides of the pool on vulnerable feet. And then as if on cue, we both sprang into action. In less time than the degree of chaos suggested, the mess was cleaned up, shards and splinters retrieved and peace restored.

Over the last two months, there have been a series of incidents and situations which have decidedly unsettled my composure, challenged our comfort. Each time I considered writing about it, and each time shied away from it. Mostly it seemed too personal, and I had grown weary of exposure. But yesterday a subject came up, which cut to my heart. It was time.

At the age of 42, I had accepted that we would not have children. It saddened me, especially since I knew how dearly my husband wanted us to have a baby. I had prayed about it for some time, and I'm sure he did also, so I had to accept that it was not to be. A short while after my 42nd birthday, I started feeling "different". The day before Christmas, the pregnancy was confirmed. We were both elated, although apprehensively so. Carrying life was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. The quickening, the sweetness of another heartbeat under my own, filled me with awe. As the weeks and months progressed, I followed the development of the child in my womb with growing wonder. When our son was born, it was as if God himself had placed this gift of life in our arms. And He did. I was completely in love with this boy, his eyes the hue of a clear winter sky. He consumed my days (and nights) and there was little room for much else but this boy child and his needs. I was 44, completely surprised and overwhelmed by motherhood. The second pregnancy knocked me backwards. I was not up to it, neither emotionally or physically. Yet, there it was, the sweet ripple of life across my belly. I feared for this little being, for the chaos that was our lives at that time, that he/she would be born into. There was one dark night, adrift among the flotsam of my own doubt and fear, when I thought the unthinkable. Would it not be better if this child was never born at all? In the sober light of a new day, the conviction of what I had allowed to enter my thoughts, brought me to my knees. I allowed forgiveness to flow over me. For hope to push away the dark shadows. We still had a long, thorny path to cross, but Jesus, who once bore a crown of thorns on His precious head, would walk it with me now. Our second son was born on a cool April morning, in the warmth and comfort of our cosy home, and with him, came once again, that sure touch of heaven as he entered our world.

It could have been so different. Our boys, now aged 8 and 6, continue to be a real joy and a blessing to us. Many wounds have been healed over the years. But after all these years, when abortion is mentioned, I still feel the sting of that thought. When we drive through East London, the nearest city to Hogsback, posters advertising safe, quick, cheap and pain free abortions scream at you from lamp posts and crumbling walls. It is legal, it is justified, condoned. A woman's right to choose, they call it.

A website for "Planned Parenthood" encourage woman to "decide on the right way for you to end your pregnancy." There is the option of in clinic abortion or an abortion pill. Both said to be safe and "very common". Their slogan is "Care. No matter what." In 2015, the same "caring" abortion providers were found to be making fetal tissue (baby parts) available to researchers.

The legal position in South Africa is that "any woman of any age can get an abortion by simply requesting it with no reasons given if she is less than 13 weeks pregnant. After 13 weeks, she may get an abortion if her own physical or mental health are at stake, if the baby will have mental or physical abnormalities, she is pregnant because of incest or rape, or if she is of the opinion that her economical or social situation is sufficient reason for the termination of pregnancy..." Quite a wide scope. "A woman under the age of 18 will be advised to consult her parents, but she can decide not to inform them if she so chooses. A woman who has a life partner or is married will be advised to consult her partner, but she can decide not to consult or inform him..." Two sections of the Bill of Rights in our country mention "reproductive rights". Section 12(2)(a) states that: "Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right to make the decisions regarding reproduction..."

"The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1996 is the law governing abortion in South Africa. This Act has been described by the Guttmacher Institute* as "one of the most liberal abortion laws in the world."

In 1998 the Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court ruled that a foetus is not a person and does not have a right to life. This ruling however, does not have any scientific or religious grounding.

It is difficult for me to read laws, statistics, personal opinions, and so-called scientific justification for abortion without experiencing a deep sadness as well as anger. Even in a world that has no time for absolutes, for the ultimate reality, truth and decrees of a living, loving God, "thou shalt not kill" is still (arguably) the most basic moral and legal principle in any society. When did it then become "okay" to terminate life in the womb? As the redeemed of Christ, we should ask ourselves: Is an unformed life less precious to it's Creator? Does the bible even teach that human life begins at conception?

Every culture's view of when human life begins changes as society's values, moral standards, and knowledge about the process of embryonic development change. Prior to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed abortion on demand, developing embryos were considered unborn persons. Now, even a foetus that could survive on its own outside its mother's womb could be aborted, under certain medical circumstances. This demonstrates that the world does not consider an unborn child to be a true human being.

Even science tells us that human life begins at the time of conception. From the moment fertilization takes place, the child's genetic makeup is already complete. Its gender has already been determined, along with its height and hair, eye and skin color. The only thing the embryo needs to become a fully-functioning being is the time to grow and develop.

Most importantly, God reveals to us in His Word that not only does life begin at conception, but He knows who we are even before then. God says in Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." King David wrote these beautiful words about God's role in our conception: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb . . . your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:13, 16). Samson said, “I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb” (Judges 16:17). He refers to his unborn self as having already been what God planned him to be - a Nazirite.

Society continually seeks to devalue the lives of the unborn, creating its own definitions of humanity based on distorted views of morality. But the undeniable fact is that life begins at creation, and a human is created as soon as he or she is conceived. God is present at our creation; He is the Creator. Our value as human beings created in His image is conceived even before we are.

Is abortion murder? The Bible considers a foetus to be an unborn child, a planned human being that God is lovingly forming from the moment of conception. This being the case, it doesn’t really matter what human jurisprudence (the theory or philosophy of law) says, or how socially or politically acceptable abortion is. God’s law takes precedence. A mother who decides to abort her child is unilaterally making a decision to end another person’s life—and that is and always has been the definition of murder.

Some pro-choice advocates argue that they are not pro-abortion. They say they hate abortion, but support a woman's right to choose... This makes as much sense as saying that you personally hate rape, but support a man's right to commit it. The rhetoric sounds nice - the mention of  “choice” makes it more appealing - but underneath is a direct conflict with God's Word.

Pro-choice advocates often state that their position is "compassionate" and that pro-lifers don't care about the woman or her child. This argument is a red herring for many. But whether pro-lifers “care” or not is not the issue, just as it is irrelevant whether those opposed to robbery “care” about the banks being robbed. Robbery is against God's moral law. So is abortion. And that’s the issue.

The Bible is clear: since God is the Creator of human life, only He can determine who lives or dies. And every person who claims the name of Christ has the obligation to make certain his or her views line up with His Word. Is it possible for a born-again Christian to be pro-choice? Unfortunately, yes. But is it likely that such a person will remain pro-choice? Not if he or she is allowing God’s Word to transform and renew his or her mind. (Romans 12:2).

One of the things that nobody talks about is the fact that when women have an abortion, they will incur guilt, and many of them will experience self condemnation. They will begin to feel the need for forgiveness pressing in on them. This is an issue we have to address because so many of us may know a woman or women who have had an abortion. You may be one of these women. Or like me, a woman who in a moment of despair, had one terrible thought of ending her unborn child's life. There was grace for me, there is grace for all of us. In the light of day, I was brought face to face with my own sinful state and how close I came to giving up. We need to minister to one another so we can know what forgiveness looks like in the aftermath of abortion, or even the thought of it.

Earlier today I read a very honest and touching blog, written by a woman who was persuaded by her parents to abort her baby at the age of 16. She writes: "Its been 19 years since I had my abortion. Even though I have been forgiven and set free from the bondage I was once in, the memories of that time in my life and my fateful decision still hurt so deeply upon remembrance."

She was eager to keep the baby at the time, but pressure from parents as well as grandparents, wore away at a teenager's resolve and she gave in. She writes:

"I went to see the doctor who would perform the abortion. He had the nerve to tell me,”only a fool makes the same mistake twice.” He seemed so wise…I wonder how many mistakes he’s performed over his lifetime."

The night before the “procedure” I asked the baby to forgive me. I held my tummy and cried."

During her senior years at college the years of shame and guilt took their toll. She writes:

"Tears were pouring down my face as I fell to my knees sobbing, crying out to the Lord, “what is wrong with me?! I am at the bottom and can’t go any lower. Please help me.” Darkness crept all over my spirit and I was worn down. My eyes were going dim and my bones could barely hold up my flesh. I was in a pit of despair. Then, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry…”

She finally had the chance to grieve. She was led to a crisis pregnancy clinic where a kind, loving woman took her under her wing as they went through the bible study, Forgiven and Set Free.

She writes: "I was able to admit my sin, mourn my loss, and accept forgiveness and grace. I finally felt like my feet were beginning to be planted on something…Someone real. “He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand…”

"I am now able to watch pro-life commercials and not leave the room. I can smile when I see little children instead of tear up. I can fully embrace my own children, knowing that it’s okay to enjoy them, God isn’t going to punish me for my sin of abortion – Jesus Christ already took that punishment for me on the cross. I am free. You know what else? I can tell my story. I am covered in grace and protection…I am loved and forgiven. The shame I once carried lies at the foot of the cross; Satan has no power over me. God is the only one who has the authority to tell me who I am…and I am His."

We are His, from before we were formed in the womb. Jesus has chosen us, and we have the choice to choose Him. If we choose Him, we choose his commands. When our feet are set upon the rock that is Jesus, we need to know that on that firm place to stand, we will be called to make a stand. My prayer is that as more and more laws are passed in our country that attempt to take away the freedom wherewith Christ has set us free, that we will not be blinded or afraid. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16 "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."

The world was, then as it is now, hostile to believers - not incidentally hostile, but purposefully hostile. Jesus said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." (John 15:18,19) Jesus has chosen us out of the world, and that choice cost Him his precious life and blood. There are choices which we will all have to make, sooner or later. Whether it be pro-life, or how to school or discipline our children. These choices may be very difficult, they may cost you dearly. But:

Be not dismayed whatever betide,
God will take care of you!
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you! God will take care of you,
Through every day o’er all the way;
He will take care of you;
God will take care of you!

Through days of toil when heart doth fail,
God will take care of you!
When dangers fierce your path assail,
God will take care of you!

All you may need He will provide,
God will take care of you!
Trust Him, and you will be satisfied,
God will take care of you!

Lonely and sad, from friends apart,
God will take care of you!
He will give peace to your aching heart,
God will take care of you!

No matter what may be the test,
God will take care of you!
Lean, weary one, upon His breast,
God will take care of you!

* The Guttmacher Institute is a research and policy organisation committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States and globally.