When St. John Paul II walked out onto the balcony after being elected pope in 1978, the first words out of his mouth were, “Be not afraid!!”
Those were strong words back then, when many Christians across the world, including in his home nation of Poland, were being severely oppressed under Communist rule. Under those conditions, operating without fear was a tall order, and likely felt impossible for many. However, St. John Paul instilled in people a knowledge that there were greater powers at work, and that “the power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear” (Threshold of Hope, 1994).
With John Paul II’s encouragement, the faith of a fearless Polish nation sparked the end of Communism in that nation–no small feat.
I can’t help but think this is still appropriate today, albeit for entirely different reasons. When a woman finds out she’s carrying a child, perhaps one that was far from planned, I imagine that a crippling fear is the first thing to surface. The same goes for a young father–the thought of life being forever changed is often the scariest thing that person has ever encountered. I can speak from experience, having nearly had to deal with it myself at 18.
The natural instinct anymore is, “How can I get rid of this?” and sadly, with abortion being as readily available–even encouraged–as it ever has been, the short-term solution is the one that’s picked nearly 1,000 times a day.
Though it’s substantially more difficult to endure, there is another, better way to wrestle with the fear that accompanies an unintended pregnancy:
Let your baby be born, then love the child fiercely.
Like John Paul II’s exhortation to Christians to “Be not afraid!”, this too is a tall order. When making your decision, don’t forget to consider these reasons too:
1. You CAN do it.
In a lot of ways, the deck is stacked against you. It’s increasingly the case that you’ll be encouraged to abort your child so “the problem” won’t exist any longer far more than you’ll be encouraged to keep it. Pregnancy itself will incredibly difficult. And after you carry the baby to term, it’ll be hard as hell a lot of times, and you might not know what you’re doing at first, but you can do it, and there are lots of people out there willing to help you care for that little life inside of you.
2. Living people are a gift to those around them.
Everyone (literally EVERYONE) walking around today has one thing in common: they were all carried in their mother’s womb and delivered into this world. Many, if not most, were surely conceived and born in good circumstances, but the sad reality is that many others weren’t. Some people have been conceived out of wedlock, others carried by a teenage mother, and still others have been conceived in horrific circumstances like rape or incest…but they’ve been given the gift of life, and we can be sure that person has had a positive impact and brought joy to at least one person. That alone should be good enough.
3. You were there once.
Referring to No. 2 above, the “one person” is nearly always the child’s mother (or father). I have a favor to ask: Next time you see a baby, ask the mom or dad if you can hold him/her for just a second. Then, being completely silent, reflect for a second on the child you’re holding in your arms. Think to yourself that you were once that small, that the smile you feel forming on your lips was once shared by the person holding you, and that you relied 100% on someone else for a good chunk of your life to allow you to be where you are now.
4. You’ll never know how much joy your child will bring you.
There’s a reason videos of babies laughing are the best. As Larry the Cable says, “I don’t care who ya are…” when a baby smiles at you, there’s a darn good chance you’ll want to smile back. Why is it that even the most hardened, grizzled, tough guys are melted by a little baby? The joy you’ll find from even the smallest things–their first words, playing peek-a-boo, them getting birthday cake all over their face, when they start to walk, that dandelion “flower” they picked you from the yard, the masterpiece they painted in kindergarten art class–an abortion takes away the chance that any of those things will ever happen.
5. Your child could change the world.
I recently read a story about a young man whose birth mother canceled her abortion appointment and decided to give her son up for adoption instead. Now? That young man became a priest for the Diocese of Lincoln (Nebraska).
In 1936, a 17-year-old girl found herself suddenly pregnant. Instead of finding a way to abort her child, the girl’s mother and father offered to raise the child, and the little boy grew up thinking his birth mother, June, was his sister. The child? Jack Nicholson.
The most striking story, in my estimation, is of an Eastern European woman named Emilia Kaczorowska. When she and her husband became pregnant in 1919, Emilia was suffering from the after-effects of rheumatic fever. Due to her illness, her doctor worried about the strain to her heart valves and advised she abort the son growing in her womb. Emilia said no to the advice and gave birth to a son, Karol, on May 18, 1920. Karol became a priest, then a bishop, and in 1978 became Pope John Paul II.
There are lots of other stories of famous people who were nearly aborted, and I realize that few children will grow up to be rich and famous. But the reason I share these stories, and the rest of the reasons above, is that giving a child the opportunity to live gives them the opportunity to make the world better, an opportunity they wouldn’t get otherwise.
The first letter of St. John reads, “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). With the 2015 March for Life in Washington D.C. happening this week, and during a time when so many around the country are joining 650,000 pro-life attendees in prayer and solidarity, John Paul II’s message is alive and well, the perfect remedy for one of life’s most difficult situations.
Be not afraid.