Two Words

“And yet, and yet. Who knows what treasure life may hold for even such children as those, or what treasures even such children as those may grow up to become? To bear a child even under the best of circumstances, or to abort a child even under the worst — the risks are hair-raising either way and the results incalculable.”
~ Frederick Buechner

It’s easy to be dogmatic until the dog barks at you. Sunday morning began much the same as any other: two cups of coffee, a blueberry bagel slathered with lite cream cheese, numerous read-throughs of the morning’s soon-to-be-delivered sermon, and intermittent prayer. Like clockwork we traveled down Rock Creek Road to our little white frame church where nothing memorable happened during the worship service that followed, especially my preaching. We returned home just like we do most Sundays after church, I changed into jeans and an old college sweatshirt, and set about to do nothing in particular-one of the reasons I love Sunday afternoons. During the interlude leading up to lunch I received a text message from my high school senior daughter. Text messages are common occurrences these days and notoriously void of emotion, but this one conjured up plenty on my part: “Dad, I need to talk to you. Please call when you can.” Without knowing what she meant, I did what she asked and placed the call. She answered and said, “Dad, I don’t want to tell you. Can’t you just guess and I’ll let you know when you get it right?” All I could think to say was what I honestly believe: “No matter what you have to tell me, nothing will change the fact that you’re my daughter and I will always love you.” Interminable silence followed, broken finally by what I somehow already knew, “I’m pregnant.” Two simple words, but profound enough to change the world.

I appreciate anyone’s honest struggle with what to do with those two words, but must confess a vested interest in every human outcome of the debate. I was born to an unwed mother in 1960 and would have had a damning designation on my birth certificate were it not for the tireless efforts of Edna Gladney on behalf of children like me some twenty years before. As bad as it would have been to have a prejudiced label on my birth certificate, the good news is that I had a birth certificate. The even better news is that my birth mother had the courage to enter the Sellers Baptist Home in New Orleans and gift me to Henry and Lois, a couple with hearts large enough to allow a child to flourish in the arms of great nourishing love. I would never denigrate that poor young woman’s angst over yielding her child, and, in fact, attempt consciously to live in such a way as to validate the outcome of her own soul debate. Two things get lost in the debate over choice versus life: the enduring turmoil of the mother-in-waiting and the enduring destiny of the child-in-waiting.

For those who uphold the individual’s choice as superior to the unborn child, you will, no doubt, abhor my opposition to your position. For those who vilify the individual in support of a moral dilemma, you must excuse my sensitivity to the turmoil of the woman. I have been and continue to be profoundly altered by the courage of my daughter who followed the first two words with four others, “I’m having this baby.” The bottom-line is this: I write not on this critical issue as a physician or a scientist or a theologian or a liberal or a conservative; I speak as a survivor and write as a father.

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