This past week has been a cause for some personal reflection. Just a day or so ago we vicariously celebrated with our son and daughter-in-law the seventh birthday of their youngest son, our sixth grandchild. The reality of that, coupled with his struggle with autism, has brought about a lot of introspection. This wonderful youngster, as much as he copes with something of which he is not aware, could have been aborted, simply to avoid the pain and the difficulty which daily life with him brings into the lives of his parents and grandparents, not to mention his older sister and brother.
But then I recall the birth of his father. Because of the advanced age of his mother, my beautiful bride, during her pregnancy with him, she was repeatedly advised to consider aborting the “fetus.” The doctors claimed they were just concerned that the pregnancy and birth could jeopardize her own health and safety. That was over 36 years ago and we still recall those conversations and how adamant she had to be to say to the doctors, “No!”
This week we have just celebrated Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, the challenge is in the hands of each individual state. Psalm 139:13-17 repeatedly points to the fact that God formed us in our mother’s womb. Each individual fetus, from the point of conception, is indeed a human life, created in the image of God.
The famous atheist Richard Dawkins once claimed, “[The universe] has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” The late Stephen Jay Gould described human life as “a momentary cosmic accident.” According to these atheistic scientists, we are just complex organisms programmed by selfish genes to act purely out of self-interest.
But when Philip Yancey went to visit Newtown, Connecticut shortly after the tragic school shooting that left 26 dead, he said, “The new atheists’ assumptions [about human life] rang all the more hollow.” Yancey asked people impacted by the tragedy, “Is that what you’ve experienced?” One Newtown survivor told Yancey: “I have seen an outpouring of grief, compassion and generosity, not blind, pitiless indifference. I’ve seen acts of selflessness, not selfishness: in the school staff who sacrificed their lives to save children, in the sympathetic response of a community and a nation. I’ve seen demonstrated a deep belief that the people who died mattered, that something of inestimable worth was snuffed out on December 14.”
Yancey added: “In the midst of trauma even a sternly secular culture recognizes the worth of individual human beings, a carryover from the Christian belief that each one reflects God’s image. I recalled that after Sept. 11, 2001, the New York Times committed to running an obituary to honor each one of the three thousand people who died in the World Trade Center attacks, as if they mattered and were not cosmic accidents in a universe of pitiless indifference.”
[Adapted from Philip Yancey, “The Question That Never Goes Away” (Creative Trust Digital, 2013)].
Every year about this time, my bride calls our son to wish him a happy birthday. His birthday occurs just a few weeks prior to the birthday of his youngest son. And every year in that conversation the same statement comes from her mouth: “If you would like, I can tell you the story of your birth.” Every year, our son politely but lovingly declines.
But I recall that day as if it were yesterday. The details of getting to the hospital and going through the delivery process are not for this time and space, but one thing does remain: When I first held that young boy in my arms, just a few moments outside his mother’s womb, at that time no bigger than a small loaf of bread, drooling on the hospital gown I was forced to wear, I found myself incredibly, unaccountably happy!
I cannot help but recall the words of our Savior when he said: “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because the hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.” (John 16:21)
Now let me ask you a question: Do we ever acknowledge the presence of miracles in our lives enough? Philosophers and theologians down through the ages have debated the question of whether they ever occur. But just holding a new-born infant should be enough to convince us that indeed they do occur. Through no outside provocation, this little boy breathes, his chest expanding and contracting with every breath. That’s a miracle! Every aspect of his body from the few hairs on his head to the small nails on his toes and fingers are a miracle! I have been able to witness the birth of each of our three children, and each of those have brought a sense of sheer astonishment at the perfect, moist, glistening beauty of each of those tiny miracles.
But, don’t you know, there are miracles all around us, aren’t there? Every breath we take is a miracle. Every word we speak. The birds that sing, the dawn that comes every morning, the rain (and yes, even the snow) that drenches our lives – all of these are miracles.
Poets and songwriters wax eloquently about all sorts of miracles and if we are honest with ourselves, in the privacy of our own hearts and minds, we do, too. But may I suggest, encourage and challenge each of you to pause this week, bow and thank God for the miracles He has given you, and then to sing, in your own key or pitch, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” I guarantee you there will be a smile as you do.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at email@example.com.