Tag Archives: life

Life as Gift

Christianity teaches that life is a gift from God. It is a gift given and taken away under His authority.

I think seeing this truth is important because it protects against two seemingly opposite errors at both ends of life.

On the one hand, seeing life as a gift protects against the idea that a life that is not wanted is disposable. This error has led to abortion and infanticide at the beginning of life and assisted suicide, “mercy” killing, and neglect at the end of life.  If life is a gift, we accept its entrance into the world at any time and in any form. If life is a gift, we treasure it while it is here and do not throw it away early.

On the other hand, seeing life as a gift protects against a clinging, clawing, grasping for it; it protects against the idea that life is worth preserving at any cost.

With life as a gift, techniques like IVF and surrogacy that separate the marital act from the beginning of life are seen as wrong. If children are a gift to be received, then children are not a right to be manufactured.

At the end of life, if life is a gift, we can recognize that while life is a high good, it is not the highest good.  This prevents us from errors like that of the villain in The Wolverine who grasps and claws at staying alive such that he changes from a kind grandfather to an evil… thing. (Surely there are other, better examples?)

(Edit: OH MY GOODNESS.  Voldemort.  Voldemort was the example of an ugly, grasping, clawing at life that I couldn’t think of the first time.)

I’m currently watching the 6th season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in which the Federation is at war with the Dominion. There have been multiple arguments where a character argues for doing a certain reprehensible act because it will save x number of people. If we see that life is a gift, and that it is knowing Christ that is the highest good, then we can reject that faulty logic. It is acceptable for people to die – there is a higher good. (This article, with the phrase, “Better two deaths than one murder,” espouses a similar idea.)

… what do you think?

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In a place where new souls see the world for the first time, I expected a more positive attitude towards life.

I did not expect the first question upon admitting a laboring woman to be, “What kind of birth control do you want after you deliver?”

I did not expect the doctor to sweetly and gently suggest, “Well, the IUD lasts longer and you don’t have to keep coming back for a shot.”

I did not expect the nurse to condemn women for getting pregnant after a C-section.

I did not expect the mom who was about to lose the baby conceived with an IUD in place to request another IUD.

I did not expect to hear a labor nurse say disdainfully, “I don’t understand why these women with young kids get pregnant again.”

(I had similar musings last time I was working here.)

While I think many of these attitudes are common across the country, I can’t help but wonder if part of the attitudes are due to the fact that I’m working at a public hospital, largely serving low income populations.  The notion that we can “solve poverty” by stopping the procreation of poor people is an old one – certainly dating to Margaret Sanger and the founding of Planned Parenthood, continuing through Nazi Germany, and now showing up in even the most respectable Melinda Gates*.  I think the devil would like nothing more than for this horrible notion – killing people we perceive as problems – to become normal, sanitized, and out-of-sight.  How can something be bad when our doctors or our cultural heroes recommend it to us as normal?

Walking through the US Holocaust Memorial Museum recently, I was stunned by how familiar so much of Hitler’s pre-war propaganda sounded.  Like the evil Dr. Zola stated in Captain America: Winter Soldier, “HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom.  What we did not realize was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist.   The war taught us much.  Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly.”  The things Hitler forced on people – sterilization, death to those who are disabled – we in America ask for now!  “Please give me a vasectomy.”  “You must give me free birth control.”  “My fetus might have Down’s syndrome – kill it.”

Killing the disabled or the people of the wrong race is (rightly) abhorrent to us when they are adults; we all reject what was done in the Nazi concentration camps.  However, when we kill them young or prevent their birth entirely, using “nice,” distancing words like terminate, or abort, or contracept, we don’t have to see what we’re doing.  Their tiny bodies get whisked away by the doctor and we don’t have to stare at the piles of bodies we’ve accumulated.  In the U.S., the babies killed since Roe v. Wade number over 57 million, and the number prevented from being born due to sterilization or birth control is uncountable.  The people killed by Hitler number “just” 11 million.  I think the devil fights for the holocaust of abortion to stay hidden, forgettable.

I recently watched this stellar speech by Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor.  Her testimony – her life! – brings the ugliness and injustice of abortion into the light.  Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service responded to this shocking tale by stating that there are now laws in place to prevent such a sad story, referring to the replacement of saline abortions with other abortion procedures that are more difficult to survive. She seems to be saying, “This was a terribly uncomfortable speech.  Thankfully, we have laws now that will ensure we kill all people who could grow up and give similar speeches in the future.”

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion in the US, and the 41st March for Life.  Remember.

If you label yourself pro-choice, pro-woman, pro-sterilization, or pro-artificial birth control, please continue to read, research, listen, and learn.  If you are a Christian, pray that God would open your heart to the truth, no matter how uncomfortable (I do the same).

As I sit here in Obstetrics, I’m reminded that the solution is not simply, “Love babies more” or “Make abortion illegal.”  The solution to this problem, as with all problems, is Jesus.  Everything is broken; He is the remedy.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.

* To be clear, limiting family size due to health concerns, financial concerns, etc. is totally acceptable and sometimes good – but the God-honoring and spouse-honoring way to do so is to abstain from that-which-leads-to-children, not to kill the children.  The recent much-taken-out-of-context comments by Pope Francis explain this.


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Life Lessons from Math Undergrad

I feel like I’ve learned so much more than theorems in these years of earning a B.S. in Mathematics.
For example:

Lesson 1: Things aren’t always what they seem.
2 + 2 doesn’t always equal 4. In the ring of integers mod 3, it’s the multiplicative identity; in integers mod 2, it’s 0. (Math is weird, people.)

Lesson 2: You have to start somewhere.
The way to start a proof is this: Write P-r-o-o-f.
If you’re still stuck, write, “Let ε > 0 be given.”

Lesson 3: If plan A doesn’t work, try plan B. And plans C, D, and E.
First, you try proving a theorem directly. Then you go for induction. Then, when all else fails, you assume it’s false and contradict yourself (hoping the universe doesn’t disappear from existence in the process).

Lesson 4: Know when to give up.
If it’s 1:13 am on Wednesday night and you’ve tried plans A through Q with three of your closest friends and whiteboards and none of you can speak English anymore (though you still understand each other), it’s time to give in and ask your professor in the morning.

Lesson 5: If you write strange things on whiteboards, you will get strange looks.
(Maybe this one isn’t so much a life lesson as a study in library anthropology.)

Lesson 5: The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
“But Dr. Professor, the undergrad contingent just left your office asking for homework help, and we haven’t had time to write it up. Can we have an extension?”

Lesson 6: Sometimes, you’ve just got to dance.
I mean, really, Abstract Algebra occasionally requires that you break out into the macarena. You may get strange looks from other people in the library, but what can you do?

Lesson 7: Humility.
“What are you working on?” “Advanced Calculus.” “Oh, is that like Cal 3?”
No, honey, no.

And certainly not least:
Lesson 8: If you look, you can see God everywhere.
Everywhere, even in math theorems (the false etymology of which is theo- -rems: God things). Parameterizations remind me of worship songs. Mathematical truths are true because, somehow, their truth glorifies God. My friend Austin sees God’s existence in the proof that .9999… = 1.

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On death and Life

My family and I serendipitously stumbled upon Trinity Church today in New York City. My mother loves walking through old cemeteries, so we stopped for a visit.

Trinity Church Wall Street

Wandering through these cemeteries, the old ones, gives me a sense of peace and a sense of perspective. These antique tombstones were custom made, and most have inscribed upon them undying confidence in eternal Life with Jesus.
For many of these people, all that remains to mark their life on earth is a simple tombstone in the churchyard. Those tombstones that proclaim their ultimate faith in Christ are all that I can use to recreate their life in my mind. I see groups of people living in New York before the Revolution, living each day with faces turned to God and hands doing His great work. Dying was just walking through the doorway that they had been approaching all their lives.

Many of the headstones are so old that nothing remains but the stone itself. No name, no date, no epitaph to identify the skull buried under it. The only clue to the person’s life is that he or she chose to be buried or had a family member choose to bury him or her at Trinity Church in New York City. What a reminder that, though many of our obligations and duties may be worthwhile, the choice for or against Jesus is the one that matters for eternity.

The memorial for Augusta Egleston particularly touched me.
Augusta Egleston

“She was not ashamed to confess the
faith of Christ crucified, and manfully
fought under His banner against
sin, the world, and the devil,
and continued Christ’s
faithful soldier and servant
until her life’s end.”

What an honor. I strive to make those words true about my own life.

I also love what is said on the tombstone of William Bradford.

William Bradford

“… and being quite worn out,
with Old age and labour , he left his
mortal State in the lively Hope of a
blessed Immortality.
Reader reflect how soon you’ll quit this Stage.
You’ll find but few atain to such an Age.
Life full of Pain. Lo here’s a Place of Rest.
Prepare to meet your GOD, then you are blest.”

I especially love the phrase, “and, being quite worn out, … he left his mortal state in the lively Hope of a blessed immortality.” I read it in a very happy, light tone, as if the writer is stating something like, “And, being quite hungry, he went to the kitchen for a bit of cake.” It also sounds like Enoch, who walked with the Lord and simply was no more.  Death was nothing to be feared.
How beautiful a picture of who Christ is! From the dawn of consciousness, humans have worried about death. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest recorded human story, follows Gilgamesh as he travels to the ends of the earth to find a cure for death, and subsequent literature has only continued to attempt to make sense of death. The idea revolts us. We know innately that we are meant for eternity, yet to so many people death appears to be the end of it all.
Yet Christ is Life! He comes to bring us Life, and what abundant Life it is! For His followers, death has no sting. We walk through Hades’ now-broken adamantine gates and into the arms of our souls’ One True Love. Instead of the fearful spectre that has haunted the human race for thousands of years, death is simply the gateway to True Life. Like the infant emerging from the darkness of the womb into the world, death allows us to “shuffle off this mortal coil” and proceed into true Life.

I know that when, like these tombstones, all record of my life on earth has been eroded away, my Life will be hid with Christ on high. Amen.

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