Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Calloused Heart

I remember the moment I decided to become a runner.  It was January in Chicago and for anyone who has ever braved the Midwest in the winter, you probably understand when I say that as a "non runner", there was no way in hell you were going to convince me to run. Period.  Let alone through the muddy, black slush, braving sub-zero temperatures and the literal pain that the wind of the "Windy City" causes as it whips across your face. 

And yet, as I stood in the kitchen that cold January day, something changed for me.  In my hand I held a flier from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  It was an advertisement for the group Team In Training.  Their proposal to me was this:  If I agreed to fundraise on their behalf, they would help me train for a marathon.  Sold.  -- Really?  It was that easy?  Yes.  My younger sister, Kelsey, is a childhood leukemia survivor.  And in that moment, all I could think of -- all I can still think to this day is -- why would I not run on behalf of those who can't run?  Why would I not run for life?
So in February, I joined the ranks of the "crazies."  I became one of several hundred to huddle beneath the bridge off the Wilson Avenue exit of Lake Shore Drive.  And together we would run.  And as the miles began to grow and the running began to get harder and harder, I continued to return to the real reason that my feet first began to hit the pavement on that cold February day.  I was running for life.  
Here's the thing about running that I've learned over the past eight years --  running can be incredibly painful.  The pain can come in many forms but most evidently running has been hard on my feet.  I have lost many a toe nail and have nursed my feet in more ice baths than I can count. Running has often caused blisters to form on the backs of my heels from a new pair of running shoes. Eventually when I've endured the pain and gritted my teeth through enough of the rubbing and bleeding, the blisters form calluses.

A callus is defined on Web MD as, "Small areas of skin that have become thick and hard from rubbing or pressure." Because I am a runner, the calluses on my feet don't faze me much anymore.  But as of late, I've started to realize that calluses have the potential to form elsewhere.  And I've actually begun to wonder if calluses of the heart are easier to form than those that are caused by running. 
The callus on my heart is what has kept me from feeling the pain and the stinging of social issues and injustice.  I gave up media (television, the news and magazines) this year because I was concerned that the media was causing me unnecessary anxiety.  What I'm wondering now, eight months into my cleanse, is if this venture wasn't just the start to one giant callus over my heart. 

But thankfully (And I mean that) -- no amount of a media cleanse has been able to shield me from the articles, blog posts and videos that have been flooded my way about the dismemberment of babies within the walls of Planned Parenthood.  I've spent the past several months trying to remain even keel about this issue... I've been justifying my silence and reasoning my way out of using my voice.  But for fellow believers -- isn't that the beauty of how the Holy Spirit works?  His voice speaks truth to us louder than the voice of the enemy. And the voice that keeps nudging me keeps bringing me back to the same reason that I began to run.  This is about lifeWhy would you not speak up for life?
I'm finished people pleasing and trying to remain Switzerland.   I'm through cowering in fear of what others might think of me if I take a stand they don't agree with.  I'm done thinking that just one more voice thrown into a pot of voices won't matter or do any good. 
My voice does matter.   

A few months ago, I received a text from one of my very best friends.  She wrote, "At my appointment today, we were told that the baby's heart stopped beating at 14 weeks. We are being induced tonight to deliver."   

Standing in my kitchen that day I just wept.  Uncontrollable, ugly tears.

And later that evening another text came through.  "Well, we had a little boy.  Sawyer Wesley.  He was born perfect with 10 toes and 10 fingers."   
Friends.  I just can't even comprehend that.  My sweet, precious friend delivered a babyNot a fetus.  Not a blob of tissue.  A perfectly formed and whole little boy.   
And yet in our very own backyards, babies, with perfectly formed beating hearts are being mutilated and ripped to shreds.  Living, breathing children with 10 fingers and 10 toes are being butchered before they are given the chance to take their first breath of life.  And then their parts are being sold. Their lives are being reduced to that of the value of mass packages of cutlets that we find in our local grocery stores. And all because money speaks more than the value of life.  
Truthfully, I’m not looking to change any minds on the issue of abortion.  I’m well aware that no amount of argument from me will change someone who is pro-choice into believing that life begins at conception or that a baby's life should be valued over the mother’s choice.  The people pleaser in me has always been okay to sit on the fence trying to understand both sides of this argument. As my friend Kristin so well put it, "What we need is the gospel of Jesus Christ preached boldly before all men.  And to pray that God would give them ears to hear and eyes to see so that their hearts would be changed by His grace." 
I write simply to ask each of us to examine our own hearts. All of us. Male and female. I don’t care about race – whether you are Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Asian or Indian. Let’s look past religious beliefs -- whether you are a practicing Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or atheist.  This goes beyond the straight or the gay or the bisexual.  Can we each examine the issue at hand and determine for ourselves -- have our hearts become calloused? 
Have we seen too much and heard too much? Have our eyes seen so much evil and devastation on the news, so much violence in our movie theatre horror films and so much corruption in politics that when something so blatant and morally bankrupt as the butchering of millions of babies flashes before our eyes, we are content to put on our rose colored glasses, take our own healthy, whole babies to the park and pretend as though we aren't aware of these horrors taking place in our own backyards.  It is difficult to hear the videos, to read the transcripts. So we justify. We make excuses. We call the videos fake or concocted. We flat out ignore them. 
Have we experienced so much friction that we’ve allowed our hearts to become calloused and hardened?   
Friends, these acts far surpass any pro-life or pro-choice arguments.  Because really, if you’ve done any research into what’s been going on, you probably know that Planned Parenthood is being accused of dismembering the bodies and then selling the parts without the knowledge of the mothers involved.  The pro-choice argument isn’t even on the table anymore. The “choice” that so many of us argue for these women to have is being taken from them!   
Micah 6:8 is a wildly popular Old Testament verse that Christians love to quote or put up in their homes.  This verse reads, “He has shown you oh man what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  But to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?”   
It isn't enough to order an art print of Micah 6:8 from Etsy or to create a pretty chalkboard piece for the living room wall during our toddler's naptime.  Do Justly.  Take action.  CARE more about the injustices of human life than we do about Target's choice to gender neutralize their toy aisle.  Care as much if not more about this holocaust of murdered babies than of the murder of one beloved lion in Africa. 
Please hear me -- I am not saying these issues don't matter.  I'm not arguing that the horrific nature of the death of Cecil the Lion wasn't wrong or shouldn't have caused outrage. I'm just asking why Cecil's death has swamped our newsfeeds and caused far greater outrage than that of the carnage, bloodshed and selling of the body parts of human babies.  Why is one dentist from Nebraska condemned for life while Planned Parenthood locations all over the United States are still open for service pending government funding?  
Do justly. There is nothing just about a baby’s skull being sawed into by a cleaver.  Love mercy. There is no mercy found in the dismemberment of a baby, in the laughs and heckles mid procedure, in the cynical announcement that, "It’s a boy!”   
Here’s the cold, hard truth.  The humbling part.  It is easy to point a finger and to call it foul and despicable when another human being has so clearly committed an act of evil.  To lure a lion out of a game park, kill and then behead him. But to call humanity as a whole out on an evil, on one massive cover up of evil – acknowledging this would require each of us to take responsibility and to admit that we ourselves have played a part in such ugliness.  
Pastor and best selling author John Piper has written a powerful article called "We Know They Are Killing Children--All of Us Know." The title alone can be hard to swallow
But the truth is we do know.
Piper writes, "We cannot defend ourselves with the claim of ignorance. We knew. All of us.  Hardness of heart, not ignorance, is at the root of this carnage." 
And as I acknowledge this truth and really allow the words to sink it, I am convicted by my own silence, by my lack of empathy, by my calloused heart. The blood of millions has been on my hands. It's been on your hands too. The blood is on the hands of each of us who know of these horrors and yet choose to remain silent.  Calloused.  Unless we speak up for life. 
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