“She keeps hanging on.”
I remember hearing my dad’s weary voice on the other end of the phone. I was in New Jersey and he was here in Tennessee. My grandmother, his mother, was actively dying of cancer. She was unconscious in a hospice center. I had never before prayed for someone to die, especially someone so dear as my Grandmother Jones. She was everything a grandparent should be: supportive, loving, always available, and ready with a supply of vanilla ice cream and Hershey’s syrup for her five grandchildren’s weekly Tuesday evening visits.
Yet there I was, praying that God would take her home to Him as quickly as possible. God chose not to answer my prayers the way I desired, at least not at first. Although she was in the hospice center for only a short time, in the present, it felt like years. My parents took shifts with my grandfather, making sure she did not die alone. All were weary.
Dying is hard. Dying is inconvenient. Dying is unnatural. In Genesis God designed Eden, a place for His creation, to dwell with Him. But only three chapters later, His image-bearers chose death over life. Nothing was done outside of His sovereign will; however, the consequences for Adam’s disobedience were played out in that hospice center years later.
I now deal with dying almost daily, working in a life-affirming pregnancy resource center. Daily, we encounter unexpectedly pregnant women and their partners, who believe the easiest way to get back to normal is to stop the life inside them from growing. This, too, is the consequence of Adam’s disobedience. The stories we hear are often heart-wrenching. We cry with the woman as she talks of the man who threatened to walk out on her if she carries the life inside of her. We weep and pray fervently for those who see their little one through the ultrasound and choose not to allow the little one to grow to the next natural stages of life. Life is hard. Life is often inconvenient. But life is not unnatural.
The saying “I’m pro-life from the womb to the tomb” has become popular the last several years. It’s a rallying cry for many Christians, but how do we truly live this out day to day? How do we instill living and dying well in our children? It all starts with Whose we are.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness'” (Genesis 1:26). We are image-bearers of God—all of us in the human race. It’s not that we look like God physically because God is a spirit (John 4:24), but we are His because He made us. Psalm 139 is full of this truth. He knows everything about us, even what we are going to say before we say it (v. 4). We were knitted together in our mother’s womb by our Maker.
Francis Schaeffer said, “If man is not made in the image of God, nothing then stands in the way of inhumanity. There is no good reason why mankind should be perceived as special. Human life is cheapened. We can see this in many of the major issues being debated in our society today: abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, the increase of child abuse and violence of all kinds, pornography.” Starting at this foundation, daily submission to the Holy Spirit leads us to respect our fellow image-bearers—from showing kindness to those in line at the grocery store to caring for our hurting neighbor who has no one close. It also moves us to share the gospel with them, knowing God desires for them to come to a saving knowledge of Him through His Son.
Being pro-life from the womb to the tomb isn’t something you set to achieve but is instead a result of living a Spirit-filled, intentional life. Yes, it means working or giving so that pro-life organizations save babies. But it also means seeing those hurting women and knowing they need Jesus just as much as you. It means caring for your elderly loved ones all the way to the end, even when others are telling you to move on with your life. Seeing life as precious as our Maker sees it is not easy; but it does make us different in this dark world, a world of image-bearers who desperately need to know Whose they are.