Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Mothers of Anguish

Relationships are fundamental to the identity of the human person. Each of us is made to love and to be loved, and this reality is inscribed in our humanity. Even as we come forth from the hand of God, we are conceived in flesh and blood drawn forth from our ancestors.

We are made for love, and so we are given our very existence within the context of a human relationship.

We come into the world in a state of complete dependence and reliance upon another person to whom we have been entrusted in the most intimate and fundamental way. That person, in turn, is invested with an ineradicable and unique responsibility for each one of us, a responsibility that she will never be able to separate from her own self.

This is the radical bond that unites the child with his or her mother.

Some would have us believe that this bond can be cast aside or terminated by a procedure that in reality is a terrible act of violence. This act, known as abortion, succeeds in killing an innocent human being.

But it fails, utterly, to break the bond between the mother and child, a bond that is more profound than physical death.

This is not a case in which the child ceases to live due to some undesired, tragic accident. Rather, here the mother seeks to put aside the very existence of her child; this is true to some degree even when she does not fully understand what she doing, or when she is acting under extreme distress. Nevertheless, there is a profound sense in which what she seeks is impossible. Even if her child dies by a procured abortion, the woman remains a mother, and she lives with this fact no matter how much she may deny it, and even if no one else knows about it.

The relationship remains; it is greater than any human power, and it cannot be unmade by any human power.

So often these mothers find themselves in frightening, awful circumstances, enduring abuse, hounded by the pressure and manipulation of others. But in being separated from their children by abortion, they find not freedom, but a weight of emptiness. They become the mothers of anguish.

These mothers are everywhere; they live on your street, they pass you on the sidewalk or in the aisles of the grocery story, they are your co-workers, they are sitting in the subways you ride, they are at the gym, the restaurant, the tennis court, the pool. They are in every crowded room, in the building where you work, they are your doctors, lawyers, teachers, classmates, they are members of your church, they are your friends.

They are often accomplished women; they may be full of warmth, genuine affection, and empathy. They may be social, outgoing, witty, expressive and full of laughter and smiles. They hide from us their haunted dreams and their tears. Sometimes they succeed in burying their anguish, blocking it from their own awareness even for years. But it never goes away.

Millions of these people wander through all the world. We hear statistics about abortion, and we should remember that behind every one of those numbers there is a mother who has failed, and who carries the weight of that failure. It has become her awful burden. But it also remains as a possibility for hope.

The relationship between mother and child remains, and so there is the possibility for reconciliation and healing. Still, the mother needs help. She needs others who are willing to listen to the agony and sorrow that pour out of her soul. She needs to know that she is loved, not in a condescending way, but in a humble companionship that affirms that we all depend on an ineffable and inexhaustible mercy.

So many mothers hide from their pain, distract themselves, and pass through life with a dark sense that their loss is forever, that they carry a deep and excruciating wound that must remain hidden, that the world refuses to recognize, and that they cannot speak about even to themselves.

But there are roads to healing, and places of healing. We must all do what we can to help people find the way. We must invite them to be with us and to walk with us on the path of love. But there is no place on this path for the self-righteous, for we all stumble, and we all fail in our responsibility to accept and bring to fruition the gifts that have been given to us.

We cannot "help" anyone except out of the awareness that we ourselves need forgiveness and healing for so many things. Our task is not to put ourselves forward as superior to others, but rather to indicate -- in poverty and humility, but also with unshakable conviction -- where hope can be found.

Who am I to speak of any of this? I'm just a poor man with a blog, a disabled man, still crushed by the fact that he is incapable of doing the job he loves. What do I have to offer? I've tasted the bitterness of life, but I have been healed and wounded (in a different way) by mercy; I have a heart, I can listen, I am not shocked or surprised by anything, and I condemn no one.

I know that every person I meet is broken and yet loved by an Infinite Love. I haven't always known this. I've had to learn it, and I continue to learn it every day. I know that the road of mercy opens up before me, and I know that I must share it with others. I must share with them this unconquerable hope that is greater than all our failures.

Mothers (and fathers) who are in anguish for children lost through abortion can find hope and healing through programs such as Project Rachel and Rachel's Vineyard Ministries. Never give up hope.