I've always been pro-life. I've picketed, marched, and helped out at pregnancy centers. I've prayed fervently for an end to the multiple tragedies of abortion and always will. I've never doubted the clarity of God's heart towards the unborn, but death often reveals what we actually hold to be true of life. Therein, often lies the chasm. I was faced with this harsh reality when our baby boy was delivered stillborn. His tiny heart stopped beating at twenty-eight weeks in my womb when a cord accident ended his brief life here on earth. We named him Leyton. A year and a day later, I miscarried another little one just weeks into the pregnancy. We named her Lydia. My already dissipating world dissolved into full grief.
Not long after, I ran into a friend. I knew her to be a verbal and active pro-life advocate who, like me, had experienced the pain of miscarriage. When she asked how I was doing, I summoned all the courage I possessed to share our most recent loss.
Her response stunned me.
"Well, Julie, you're young," she said. "Your marriage is good. You'll have more."
Was she actually telling me my little ones were easily replaceable?
I was dumbfounded by the inconsistency between what I knew she believed and what she had just said. I recoiled and returned to my dark shell of grief.
Unfortunately, my friend's sentiment was reiterated many times over by many others. Most of the comments came from followers of Christ who held to the same pro-life ethic I did. Though time has passed and I now live free from unforgiveness towards these individuals — and with a greater awareness of my own sin and ability to hurt others as I've been hurt, I might add — I remain troubled by the inconsistencies we hold in regards to the sanctity of human life.
If we believe that every life matters to God, how can we so easily dismiss the lives of precious ones who go before us into the arms of Jesus?
The most telling answers don't always lie in the ballot box or in our fervent defense of the truth in the digital atmosphere. They are fully unveiled in real-life relationships and challenges where the depth of any conviction finds its limits.
So how can we change this? How can we affirm the fullness of God's true and pure pro-life heart for every child when we find ourselves in the awkward position of walking beside someone who has lost a child? Here are a few ways.
1. Take spiritual inventory before you say or do anything.
I'm often asked, "What should I say to my friend?" by those looking for advice in navigating this tough situation. My answer usually surprises them, "Ask the Lord to examine your heart, first." While there are plenty of practical things to say and do (as well as what not say and do), the most important one is to lay your heart bare before the Lord. Quite often, we are motivated by our own pride and fear. Those motivations can blanket a good deed or a good word in a destructive spirit. We cannot be an instrument of the Great Healer if we permit our flesh to choke the flow of His life, love and power. Ask Him to reveal what is in your soul first, before you seek to comfort another.
2. Use your words to acknowledge what is valued by God.
One of the hardest things about losing a child is that over time and sometimes even in the beginning, your child seems to be invisible to others and no parent wants their child to be forgotten. We can continue the process of "weeping with those who weep" by affirming that child's life and value as time goes on. For example, if a friend has publicly acknowledged a miscarriage in social media and posts a picture of their family, you can acknowledge their child by counting them. You say saying something like, "What a beautiful family you have — all five of you." When you intentionally count all the members of that family, it is a personal gift of remembrance to them and a declaration regarding the tearless eternity to come for others.
3. Offer the physical to honor the eternal.
Physical objects can be such a blessing especially when you have a child who was not here for long. After our son died, a dear friend of ours had a bracelet engraved with his initials and gave it to me for Mother's Day. I'd run into a burning house to retrieve that. She and her family continue to honor our little boy by giving us a Christmas ornament each year for him. I smile when I look at them because it reminds me that others see him as a blessing both in this life and in the one to come.
What we say and do either illuminates or darkens the light of truth — truth the world desperately needs to hear about our worth in the eyes of God. We are all prone to moments of poor articulation and in need of extravagant grace, but we must think deeply about what we say and do as well as what we avoid. For we are changed by it as are those around us.
I love what Scottish author, poet and Christian minister George MacDonald said, "...For to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking." What a beautiful truth. May we extend this truth wholly and well to every precious human life in anticipation of a glorious eternity to come.
Julie Neils is passionate about living a real life in a fabricated world. It's what gets her up out of bed in the morning. That and five kiddos under the age of eleven. She's a contributing writer at Ungrind Webzine and a media consultant who has spent more than fifteen years advising ministry leaders, policy makers, and authors on communications strategies. She's married to a great guy who endures her endless DIY projects and stories of high school phone pranking. They live in the Rocky Mountains.