Humble Imposition

Many women rebel against the idea that they are obligated to carry and birth a child they have conceived. Witness the current pro-abortion twitter fad on this subject: an embryo is an invader which we are justified in killing in self defense; violent retaliation is a right; no government nor man has the right to force birth upon a woman.

I’ve given birth several times so I won’t surprise you by saying that I think that line of reasoning is childish and frightening.

But whence comes this trouble, these heavy trials women must endure? Why in particular is childbirth such a horror?  I have borne several babies and I say this: we should never minimize carrying nor bearing a child.

If we go back to its troublesome origin, we must go all the way back to Eden and the fall of mankind. In Masaccio’s fresco on this subject, Adam and Eve have been ousted from paradise and thrust into a troubled world in which they must struggle and suffer. That they understand their own culpability does not lessen their grief.

Look at their faces. They are heartbroken and incredulous that their perfect, intimate relationship with their Creator is now estranged. They seem cast outside of their Father’s bosom like a child thrown on the streets.

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Yet their estrangement was not rejection. The seeds of redemption were within the bodies of the ones cast out of Eden. There would be total restoration; the Savior of mankind would come from their progeny’s bodies, and He would crush the devil who hated them and their God. That blessing was an expression of fatherly love.

The catch was that they would have to strive and suffer and work, and die before they would see the restoration. Adam would work himself to death in providing sustenance for his family. Eve would bear children in anguish and pain.

A simple story. It’s true and glorious. Notice this: it really is a burden to carry a child.

Every pregnant woman feels it if only for a few minutes: the shock that you will have no choice but to go through childbirth. It’s something that will happen to you, like it or not. There is panic for a moment.

So I understand that impulse to draw back from the huge burden of carrying another person, from going through childbirth in order to bring her into the world.

It really is humbling to be burdened with the responsibility of another’s life. You watch helplessly as your body goes through an incredible transformation and some of the changes are unwelcome. Childbirth is sublime but also as gritty as it gets.

It’s the first signal that your life is no longer your own. Your whole being will be stretched so far out of shape that you will never spring back to your old normal. Your life has changed. Your priorities are upside down. Your center is no longer you.

But isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t becoming an adult essentially the acceptance of the responsibility to put others before oneself? Philosophically and practically, when we take on the well-being of dependents, we have become actualized people.

As most women throughout human history have learned, the burden is worth bearing. The result is lasting joy and the pain is all but forgotten.

It is sad that there are so many women ready to agitate for the idea that any burden thrust upon them, no matter how tiny and defenseless the nature of the imposer, is too outrageous for them to be expected to bear. That we may not expect a woman to sacrifice one iota for another, no matter that that other was meant to be her particular and precious responsibility to nurture.

The imposition is the most weighty there is; the bearing is as close as we get to mortality even as we give life. Such a burden could only be a privilege. It is a gift not to be refused.

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Fringe

I am a total geek over a little five-season thing called Fringe.

Fringe is like a Korean historical drama (another interest) in complexity. I immerse myself in its five-season character arcs and brilliant storytelling. Only serious Fringe fans will follow me here.

I was watching the series for the…eighth time? And I just figured out the Peter disappearance dilemma. I never understood why must Peter be erased, exactly? I could never quite get it til now.

Peter was supposed to die falling through the ice. (Walter’s Peter really died and was no more. Walternate’s Peter, in the alternate universe, was to be cured but September distracted Walternate and prevented that cure. Alternate plan: Peter-alternate was to die falling through the ice. There could be no Peter in this world.

But September saved him.

Peter’s presence in this world adjusted everything, very much not in accordance with The Observers’ intended future.

If he had died then, none of the trauma between worlds would have occurred.

It wasn’t that Walter broke the universes when he crossed over. That was not the irreversible act of destruction, though many burdened Walter with the guilt of it.

No. It was the unintended consequences of Peter’s continued existence which was at the center of it all. If both Peters had died, there would have been no one to find little Olivia in the field of tulips (Subject 13), who was the first person who seemed to care about her in her lonely life, who insisted that she tell Walter about her father beating her.

And so Olivia, full of fear and love, burst into Walters office and pleaded with him to help her. Except she had just crossed over into Walternate’s office without realizing it, having crossed universes through the combined powers of fear, love, and cortexiphan, and had unintentionally revealed to him that there is an alternate universe, that she had come from it, that we all have doubles there.

By which Walternate instantly understood what had become of his kidnapped son and who was responsible, setting off the chain of events for the next 20-some years.

So then Peter was needed, with occasional guidance from September, to right things via The Machine. Once he had done that, all was on the path where the Observers believed the world was supposed to go. And so he was erased because he had accomplished the Observers’ purposes — put everything back to where it was supposed to be in a world in which he didn’t exist.

Peter was not supposed to be here. Without the meddling of super scientists, including Observers, our Peter would be dead. That is why the Observers returned him to non-existence. Observers pat selves on backs for a job well done, the end.

But.

The observers are not godlike omniscients. They are self-interestedly guiding the world toward the future which THEY have created.

The other thing is the core and the heart of Fringe, and the reason I so appreciate it.

We cannot erase people whom we love. It cannot be done. Love transcends all. Conflict, estrangement, madness, death. Non-existence. Science. Megalomania. Human will. Universes. Love transcends and conquers all these things.

The lesson of the show is that when we love someone, we do not let them go. Walter could not let Peter go. (Walter’s first unwillingness to give Peter up—after his death—was selfish. He stole a Peter who wasn’t his. Walter’s journey was not to learn the selflessness of letting him die but the self-sacrifice of putting a universe of people before his own loss. Love is true when we love not just our own but when that love extends outward.)

And even after Peter was erased, Olivia could not let him go. Olivia willed Peter back into existence because she could not let him go, no longer through the power of cortexiphan, but because of transcendent love.

I’m a Grandmother

This is my view right now:

Little Girl is 11 days old. My beautiful daughter has a beautiful daughter! I’m at my daughter’s house holding the baby so she can take a nap. Ahh these days again, of putting the rest of the world on hold while you do something actually important.

We Are Haunted

Most of us are fascinated by accounts of hauntings. I know people who believe they’ve been visited, in some way, by a departed person. Genres of literature and film are devoted to the idea that the dead interact with us. I do not believe it.

I do not believe in ghosts. I do not believe that dead people haunt us. If there are supernatural visitors breaking through to our physical existence, they are not people who have passed on but something else.

But I think I understand why human beings have always imagined that they were haunted. It’s because we are haunted.

My mom passed away a year and a half ago at the age of 96. She had lived a full life but she was spent. We had time to prepare ourselves and it was not a shock, neither do we have the regrets of wondering why she had to die.

And yet I am, more or less, haunted. She visits me many times a day. She is with me, or more precisely I am with her, at another time and another place. I find myself in her house watching TV with her, or sitting by her bed in her room at the nursing home.

Or I am living at home, because I’m younger than I am now, and my mom is in the kitchen baking. Or watching her stories while she irons. Or cutting out a skirt.

It’s been over a year since I’ve been in her house but I can close my eyes and walk into her house and I can smell its familiar smell and see the sunlight coming in the bay windows and feel the temperature of the air and hear the TV in the next room. I can go upstairs, I can feel the emptiness of no one being up there anymore, I can hear every creak on the steps, and see every box and bag and pile on the third floor. It is all vivid, fresh, and real, like I was there an hour ago.

I can distinctly hear her voice, I can hear her faux-operatic singing of Happy Birthday to You over the phone. I see her crooked fingers holding a cookie at the breakfast table. I see her straight fingers applying foundation to her face as she gets made up at that same kitchen table, getting ready to catch the train into center City to use her season ticket at the Academy of Music.

As I go through my day, she is there. I am in my kitchen and I look through my window toward her house, and for a split fraction of a second, almost wonder if I should walk down and see her.

I am haunted by my mom because she was the first person I lost who I could miss in this visceral way. I helped take care of her during her last three years and I saw her almost every day. Every day, navigating my way through the ever-changing stream of her dementia. I needed to map that stream, to understand its habits and its surprises, in order to relate to her in a way that made sense to her. In other words, I was trying to think her thoughts.

We are haunted because we still feel the presence of people we have lost. We are haunted by their presence because our senses still remember them as though they just left the room a minute ago. We are haunted by their absence because we miss them and only our factual processes understand that they are gone for good.

Are we haunted because we want to be?

I think the idea of hauntings took root because we really do continue to experience being with our lost loved ones. My mother was not someone whose memory will easily fade.

Guest Post: “Jesus, I Am in Your Hands”

Let me tell you a bit about our friend from church, Steve. He is unusually pleasant, always friendly, and an outspoken witness for gospel. Steve engages you in conversation with intensity. I don’t know anyone with more energy. He would do anything he could for anyone he knows and very often does. You can trust his memory and his truthfullness— when he says he was not afraid you can believe him.

One Monday morning last summer, we were shocked to learn that Steve was in the hospital, after having a probable heart attack. I am glad to tell you that today Steve has been restored to us, healthier than ever. The following is what he shared at church a few weeks ago. I will add a few comments after his testimony.

Steve’s Prayer Update

The year 2018 started like any other year. On April 13, I turned 61, and considering my age I thought I was in pretty good health. That all changed June 3rd after returning from a weekend retreat. It was Sunday evening shortly after dinner, I started getting sharp pains in my chest. My first thought was I was having a heart attack. I went to Delaware County Hospital by ambulance, but after they did an EKG on me, the doctor said it was normal.

That is when my memory of my brother John dying from a dissection of his aorta due to the doctors misdiagnosing his condition caused me to tell the emergency room doctor to scan my aorta. Upon scanning my aorta he discovered my assumption was correct. He said I had a major leak near my heart and I needed emergency surgery or I would bleed to death.

I was then transported via ambulance to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, where they had an operating room waiting for me. Upon entering the operating room the doctor asked me medically pertinent questions, I was hooked up to IV’s, and just as I was going to be put to sleep, I overheard the surgeon stating to the OR staff that they had six minutes to open me up to save my life.

Upon hearing this, due to my faith in Jesus, I had no fear. I immediately said a prayer saying, “Jesus, I am in your hands.” The way that I felt was that Jesus would bring me through the operation, or,  if it was the Lord’s will that I go to be with him, I would wake up in heaven with Jesus. The Bible says: “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Consequently it was not my time to be called home yet; I believe God is not finished with me on this earth so I have more time to serve Him.

When I was in the hospital they gave me a heart shaped pillow for the purpose of holding to my chest when I had to cough to relieve the pressure on my incision. I used it as a reminder to me of what God has done for me. I wrote on it “6/3/18 — The time God saved me yet again!”

When Mark, one of the elders of our church, came for a visit, I asked him to put a Bible verse on my pillow. He chose John 10: 28-29: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

When my friend John came to visit me, he pointed out something I had not noticed. My room number was 1029! It was as if Jesus was reminding me the entire stay in that room that he had me in the palm of his hand.

I spent 12 days in the hospital and was released June 15. I had a few challenges due to the operation. Due to the tubes being down my throat for two days, it paralyzed one of my vocal chords and I could only talk with a whisper. The same condition of the vocal chords not closing properly gave me an aspiration risk so I was put on thickener to be able to drink liquids safely. I also felt very fatigued and lacked my usual endurance. I now have to go see cardiologist which I never needed before. I also was seeing an ENT doctor for my paralyzed vocal chord and aspiration risk assessment. I also had to follow up with the surgeon after the surgery and for further tests that he deemed necessary.

For the past seven monthsI have been doing many things involved in my recovery. First I completed 24 sessions of cardiac rehab therapy, finishing on November 30th. Due to my prayers and many other prayers God has removed the aspiration risk. Due to the working vocal chord compensationg for the non-working one, my voice has been restored. My last visit to the ENT was on December 3rd, and she stated at that time that there is no other procedure I needed to do, and she added, “ There is nothing else we can do to add to what God has already healed.”

I have a lot to be grateful for— the willingness of God the Father to send his Son for all mankind! Jesus is the greatest gift anyone can receive. I’m thankful for Jesus’ willingness to die on the cross to save us from our sins, and by the shedding of his blood washes us as white as snow and gives us everlasting life. 

I am thankful to God for bringing me through my surgery successfully and for being with me every step of my recovery process, for restoring my voice, and my stamina is slowly improving over time.

Steve told me that his cardiologist had expected that he would need further surgery to correct some weaknesses in his cardiovascular system. However, this doctor more recently told him that no more treatment would be necessary because, remarkably, his body was healing on its own.

The Sunday after Steve’s release from the hospital, less than a week after his release, he was in church. He looked pale and weakened, and frankly like he should have been at home. I was quite nervous watching him while he stood through every hymn and every song, raising his hands in praise.  But Steve could not wait to show everyone what God had done for him.

He did spend the next couple of weeks recovering at home, and looked much heartier when we saw him again. He continues to help wherever he can with amazing energy, and he continues to be a walking, talking representative for Jesus Christ, his Savior.

 

 

 

Two Lessons from Evil

In Cambodia are the Killing Fields. There, the Khmer Rouge committed 1.5 to 3 million political murders in the late 1970’s.  The Killing Fields are so named because many thousands of victims were mass-murdered and immediately buried there. Many victims were buried alive.

Evil is real.

Is the determination of evil a mere social construct? Can 3 million people’s deliberate killings be rationalized? Do we simply fail to comprehend the perceived necessity of the termination of 3 million people?

Do you believe the actors thought that they were achieving something good? No they did not.

The most dedicated relativist knows that atrocities like this are abhorrent. All people know this is abjectly wrong.

If the moral relativist or the multiculturalist can claim that anything is objectively wrong, relativism goes out the window. The relativist cannot acknowledge that atrocities were done by Khmer Rouge then walk away and claim that absolute truth does not exist.

The first lesson that evil teaches us is that objective truth is real. If there is anything objectively wrong, you must admit that there is an absolute moral standard; there is good, and there is evil.

The worst evils are proof that human beings everywhere understand that good and evil are objective and real. If the relativist still disagrees, take his wallet and see if he appeals to some ethical standard he expects you to know about.

The second lesson that evil teaches us is this: if you can recognize that the murdered of the Khmer Rouge were victims of evil, that Rwandan genocide victims died because of evil, that six million Jews died at the hands of an evil final solution…then you are also able to recognize that sixty million pre-born children have died by the same kind of evil.

Our modern and enlightened culture, to its shame, struggles hard to rationalize these killings away.

If you cannot recognize that the abortion of unborn children is unequivocally wrong, (and let us recognize that every abortive method is violent), then you ought to be concerned. If you can rationalize away such death, such injustice, such evil, you have cause to examine yourself.