There comes a time in people's lives when they find their words. It's as if they plowed diligently through the fog to see the tip of the ocean waves and they realize that the sand, water, and sunlight was just the beginning of their love for this world. Their yes, their fortitude and courage, brought them to their ocean, even in the midst of not seeing what was in front of them. I've sat in a lot of fog, but man, what beauty there is in this world, especially in truth.
At mass this morning, one of my favorite preachers, our beloved Deacon Al, who retired because of serious health problems, blessed us with some massive truth bombs. There's something within Al's voice that draws you deeper in every moment of mass and he's uniquely overcome with his love for Jesus. You can't be distracted; you lean into his words and his deep gentle voice revives you. Before retiring, Al preached in June, giving us some insight into his struggles; how the Lord had miraculously protected him through tours of war, through heartache, suffering, through the joys of marriage - and I wept. I didn't weep because I was sad about his suffering, I wept in gratitude that God had ultimately saved him just for us and that my boys saw and heard this wise man speak truth into their hearts. Today when he preached (no surprise here) I wept again. He disconnected his oxygen tank, slowly made his way to the ambo, and took as deep of a breath as he could. "THERE ARE FOUR MACHINES KEEPING ME ALIVE RIGHT NOW, BUT I AM NOT FEARFUL", he said. His voiced boomed. My boys' ears perked up and they sat, quietly, listening to our wise deacon. He spoke the truth of the dignity of every human person - the dying, the persecuted, the prisoners on death row, and the unborn. "Fear", he said. "People can't see the light of Jesus when we're fearful. Do not be afraid, the world needs to see the light of Jesus." Through his slow, steady breath and the words that proceeded forth, sometimes taking a second to catch his breath, I wept. He was right. And as for me, I've been needing to say yes more. Isn't that my job as an artist? To bring the light of Jesus to people through music? My oldest son randomly looked over at me, making sure his mom hadn't totally lost it at mass, and I became so thankful for God's mercy. That man...he reminded me of what courage looks like.
Reality check...I've thought a lot about fear lately. Am I being a holy wife? Am I able to give my kiddos the tools they need to live within a culture that mocks their faith? Do they know how much they're loved? Do I know how much I'm loved? Am I doing my will, or God's will? I could go on and on, but as I sit here in the adoration chapel with Jesus staring me in the face, Deacon Al's words resound in my head, "they cannot see the light if you live in fear." So, will we say "yes"?
This Sunday specifically reminds me of someone who was also very courageous, someone who suffered. As the prophets, Mary, and Jesus did, this person said "yes" to God. She's my birth mother. This Sunday is Respect Life Sunday, the day that we as Catholics pray for the end to abortion, the death penalty, and all things that strip away the dignity of human life. I've always tried to seek her courage. No one knows the pain of a birth mother unless you are one. We have all suffered. We have all felt pain. It seems as if it's something that binds us together in the solidarity of life. But my birth mother, even though she was fearful, even though she knew she would have unsurmountable pain - she said "yes" to my life. She changed the trajectory of her heart, accepting unnatural heartache. It was selfless. It was courageous. And most importantly, it was the biggest example of love that I've had in my life.
Her yes gave me a unique outlook on life and allowed me to see the beauty and the good in people before the pains of cynicism. It allowed me to see a glimmer of heaven within the eyes of the children we created. It gave me the gift of painfully satisfying belly laughs and the constant urge to unite my brothers and sisters in the love that God gifted her to pass on to me. My adoption story allowed me to understand why and how life should be protected and that, no matter what our stories, we are worthy of life. It taught me that words and actions matter, that gentleness and compassion aren't things to be ashamed of, but rather things that allow your heart to mend and see how simple life can really be. What a glorious and gracious gift. What love. What courage. And with just one word, "yes".
This isn't a post about urging people to not be pro-choice or urging my fellow pro-life advocates to numb themselves. This is a post about living courageously, loving deeply, and finding the places where we firmly say yes; not because of how it makes us feel, but because we were given gifts and uniquely created to love fearlessly. I've battled through how, as a society, we mask the slow tarnish and denigration of human dignity. It can exhaust you, but for me, that's the Lord's work. My job is just to run to Him. I wasn't given the gift of life to change policy but I don't doubt that some people were. I, without a doubt, believe I was given the gift of life to love hard and when things get crazy, to love even harder and more fearlessly. I'm thankful today because she said "yes".