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Bearing God's Beloved Children On Our Backs

The third Sunday in January is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, and the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) is pleased to offer resources for your church to honor the day. Synod has encouraged Christian Reformed churches to commemorate the day’s significance (Synod 1981 and Synod 1995). OSJ would like to help churches commemorate the sanctity of human life in ways that are sensitive and mindful of the impact abortion has on society, our churches, and members of our congregations. As you prepare to commemorate the day, we invite you to read the reflection below and explore more worship resources on our website.

I recently spent my lunch hour beside Lake Ontario on a blustery day.  In the pounding waves, two loons bobbed in the water. The current seemed unyielding. I wondered why they weren’t waiting out the wind onshore when three small heads emerged from beneath the female’s wings. Young chicks rode their mother’s back as she paddled hard against the waves. It was lunchtime for the little ones. To keep their new swimmers safe, the father loon dove off to fish. He paddled back and forth, emerging from the deep with his catch and returning to his mate to drop morsels into utterly dependent mouths nestled between her wings. After more than an hour, their paddling slowed as fatigue set in and bellies grew fuller. 

The loons’ care for their young reminds me of the weights we all carry. Whether or not we are parents, there are times our loads feel heavy and the waves relentless. It usually isn’t until the waves settle that we can begin to see the weights as more than mere burdens. Only after the storm can we see just how the weights have grounded us, slowing us long enough to bind us to each other. A holy intimacy emerges when we are weighted together in a storm.

My mother was a single parent who endured seasons of intense paddling.

As I left the loons in their struggle against the waves, I thought of parents I know who face storms alone, one parent carrying all the weight.  My mother was a single parent who endured seasons of intense paddling. She often played both roles, fishing for food while carrying her babies on her back.  When I was young, single mothers couldn’t rent apartments, get credit, or find jobs that matched their skills.  Single mothers were treated harshly, sometimes mostly so in church spaces. As chicks, my siblings and I watched the storms our mother faced, the life and death decisions my children will never fully understand in our two-parent household with food security. My children were spared the cycle of poverty through church and community supports that provided help.

I learned recently most abortions in North America involve adult women from a Christian faith background. Most people forced to make hard choices about ending pregnancies are already mothers caring for children. Despite above average education levels, the strong majority live below the poverty line.  The women point to financial stresses over affording another child and lack of support from their partners and community. I thought of these mothers as I watched the mother loon swimming upstream. From the data, it appears we still struggle in the same storms as my mother faced a generation ago.

Let the weight hold us down so we might hear their burdens.

Any good psalmist or psychologist would say, growth comes out of an ability to lament.  My grandmother’s favorite lament was, "It’s a crying shame." It was her response to mild maladies like a skinned knee or inadequate checkouts at the grocery store. Perhaps the expression is better suited for the injustices that shake the foundations of what we hold sacred in our way of life. 

To the burdens of a mother overwhelmed by the weight of her children, bobbing in the relentless waves of a storm alone, we can bear the weight of her pain and say, It’s a crying shame.  When a mother must choose between her born and unborn children or when a father is burdened with weights without adequate supports that equip him for the beautiful work of paddling for his family, it is a crying shame.  

Men and women experiencing poverty in every community have faced life and death decisions for their born and unborn children in a time of historic abundance. Let us hold this weight long enough to go beyond the quick response of crying out in anger. Let the weight hold us down so we might hear their burdens. Let us sit in the crying shame long enough to stir our hearts to act, bringing to light the many root causes of poverty and the breakdown of supports for parents in communities and churches.  Let this crying shame weigh heavily on our collective backs to bind us to one another. Let us together bear the joyful gift of God’s beloved children on our backs. 


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