In honor of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (January 20), I want to tell you a true story.
My friend Cassandra was pregnant—with twins. They were eagerly anticipated, and already named.
At three months along, Cassandra got a call at work. A nurse was informing her that it appeared that the babies were going to be born with Down syndrome.
My friend was stunned. Twins would be a challenge, Down syndrome would be a challenge—but all together? She called a cousin and they began to pray. Her cousin first thanked the Lord for the babies. “Lord, we are going to love these children, and we know you do too,” Cassandra remembers their saying to Him.
“What I needed was love,” she says now. “If I had love for these children, it didn’t matter what they had or didn’t have; I could face the future. My cousin’s prayer was just what I needed. I told Him, ‘Lord, we are here for your plan.’”
I can only imagine Cassandra’s thoughts and emotions as she drove to an appointment to discuss the news with her doctor. Her husband came too, wiping away tears as he did.
The doctor mentioned to her that most women faced with giving birth to a child with a chromosomal anomaly choose to “terminate.”
Cassandra was ready with her response: no way. Abortion was not an option.
Thankfully, her doctor was both affirming and supportive. They encouraged each other with trust in a sovereign God, and he guided her through such a smooth pregnancy that she actually needed less bed rest and medication than do most mothers of twins.
Cassandra’s choice to love was a choice for life, and her choice for life has brought much love into this world. I also inspires me every time I look at the pair of two African-America girls worshipping—or giggling—in the pew ahead of me.
Despite the predictions, these twins were born without Down syndrome. They are now beautiful and accomplished sixteen-year-olds.
Lab tests fail. Planning our kids’ lives fails. But Paul says in I Corinthians, “Love never fails.”
Had my friend’s babies been born with the disability the doctor expected, those children would be loved and cherished because they are image bearers of our God. Life is sacred and has great value. And that’s the point of Sanctity of Life Sunday, isn’t it? All life is precious.
I have begun volunteering at a ministry that offers day center services for adults with intellectual disabilities. These dear students inspire me every time I go, and I plan to write more about my journey with them. Suffice it to say that I hope their mothers, who chose 20 or 40 years ago to bring them into the world, know the value of the young lives that God entrusted to them.
My closing gift to you in honor of this celebration of life is a work by twentieth-century author Edna St. Vincent Millay. She was prompted by pacifism at the time, but the poem applies equally well to the protection of the unborn:
I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth….
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.
I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.
About the Author:
Leah Farish teaches college courses on law, language, and public speaking in Oklahoma. She also heads a nonprofit which encourages volunteerism. She and her husband attend Christ Presbyterian in Tulsa, when she is not working on behalf of women in North Africa or the Middle East.