This week the 36th Annual March for Life happens in Washington. Over 200,000 Americans will travel, at their own expense in the dead of winter, to stand in witness to the brutal killings of their smallest brothers and sisters, and to let their elected officials know of that witness.
Because every single life matters – from the moment of its conception. Each of our lives affects the lives of others, sometimes just by the fact of our existence.
Often we don’t know when or how we have affected others, but once in a while a situation arises that makes the impact of each individual life startlingly clear.
The woman had 5 children – all by C-section. The doctors had told her not have another because the damage to her uterus made another pregnancy a life-threatening possibility. She did not intend to test the doctor’s warning.
But God saw otherwise, and 2 years after the fifth child, she discovered she was expecting. The initial conversation with her doctor included the statement, "Nobody might survive this."
Her husband actually had people arguing that abortion was the only intelligent option because there were 5 other children, and what would he tell them if she died. He would reply that he would tell them that their mother loved them enough to die for them, and they would know that it was true.
She decided to share her story as she lived it. She wanted to tell people that living the ultimate exception was more about the identity of the mother than it was about the identity of the child. Her husband’s words were correct. Mothers let children know that they are, from the first moment of their existence, loved completely and unconditionally, no matter what the cost of that love might be.
That is how God loves each of us. We first encounter that love in the gift of life that we received from our mothers.
And so she shared her thoughts and feelings with audiences across the country. One of those audiences was in Chicago.
Then she had a healthy son. One of the attending physicians visited her in the recovery room after the delivery and told her that he couldn’t believe what he had seen, that she should not have survived, and that, "God must really like" her.
Two years later, she was in Texas when a young man approached her and asked about the baby. She told him that everyone had done well.
And he explained that he had been in Chicago when she had spoken. He had only come because his own mother had asked him to attend as a gift to her. The man had lost all faith in God, but the woman’s words about unconditional love had become the seed that ultimately changed his life and restored his faith.
Those words were only spoken as a result of a pregnancy that the world would have considered a mistake, and even many who would self-describe as pro-life would have labeled an exception.
Yet that child’s life healed a man’s soul before that child’s face ever saw the sunlight. A young man saw God’s image in the person of a tiny child whom he never actually met.
Those who stand in Washington this week remind us that each of us is also made in that image, and each of us, from conception onwards, is just as precious and necessary to God and our society as that tiny child.