Choosing Life in Abundance

The pro-life movement is extremely important, but often times I believe it is vastly misunderstood, even by some of its greatest advocates.  We need to realize that to be for life is bigger than just saving babies or fighting to recognize the rights of the elderly (all of which are extremely important).

If I claim to be truly pro-life, then I must be willing to uphold the dignity of life…first and foremost within my own heart.

 

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:28).

 

If my heart is a wellspring, then it is deep.

This is not just about my heart, though.  It’s also about yours.  This is about each of us coming to terms with who we are in our innermost being, in the depths, in our heart of hearts.  All of this language is a reference to man’s inner life, his soul.  We often refer to the soul as “the heart” of a person.

 

Before having to do with anyone else, it has to do with each of us as individuals.

 

Even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, it doesn’t mean that Abortion will suddenly end.  Murder is illegal, but it still happens everyday.   I obviously am not saying that I want Abortion to remain legal.  I am simply reminding everyone that the reality of Abortion goes deeper than any presence or absence of law.  The reality of Abortion begins and ends within the hearts of human beings, like you and like me.

 

I am writing this as an invitation for each of us to look deep within ourselves, into our own hearts, and to ask the question, “Do I harbor life or death within my own heart?”

 

What do I actually mean by this question?  …come still deeper with me.

 

And [Jesus] said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man”

(Mark 7:18-23, emphasis mine).

If that doesn’t make enough sense, let me say it this way.

Watch your thoughts, for they become your words. 

Watch your words, for they become your actions.

Watch your actions, for they become your habits.

Watch your habits, for they become your character,

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

 

Where does all of this begin and end?

…within my own heart and mind…within the depths of who I am.

 

So, too, where does the battle for life and death really begin?

…within my own heart and mind…within the depths of who I am.

 

The question I invite you to ponder is this:

 

What are the thoughts upon which you are chewing as you go throughout your day?

 

Are you chewing on images, memories, words, or ideas that bring you peace or that bring you anxiety?

 

In other words, are the things upon which you are focusing your energy breeding life for you…or sadness, anger, and eventually death?  …from within.

 

If we can know a tree by its fruits, then tell me–what are the fruits of your thoughts?

 

Nothing ever just happens.  For there to be murder, there must first be hate.  For there to be hate, there must be lack of love or maybe jealousy.  Some seed must exist upon which I chew and ruminate.  If that seed is the disease of hate or the disease of jealousy, I give not life but death when I share it…when I act upon it…when I allow that same hate or jealousy to be my foundation.

 

Imagine your heart to be a kingdom.  What is typically built around a kingdom?  …sturdy walls.  Oftentimes, there must be some kind of gate by which you can enter said kingdom.  One of my favorite novels, Father Elijah, contains a conversation between this priest and his spiritual director.  Here is a piece of their conversation, beginning with a question from Elijah’s director:

“Father Elijah, how are you?”

“There is so much to tell you.”

“So! Tell me, how are the gates?”

“The gates?”

“The gates of your heart.”

“Battered but holding firm.”

(Father Elijah)

 

If we imagine our hearts as having gates, then we can see more clearly what is being asked of us.

We must be the gatekeepers of our own hearts.

We must decide who and what and when and where is allowed in and allowed out.

We are the only ones who can choose what to do with the gift of our interior freedom.

 

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:28).

Fr. Elijah is told that Truth must stand watch at the gates of his heart.  So, too, is it with us.

 

Recall that God told Cain before he killed his brother (a.k.a. the first murder) that sin was lurking at the door of his heart, but that he could master it.  (Genesis 4:7)

“The First Mourning” (Adam and Eve mourn the death of Abel)

The only way for something to enter into my heart is if I allow it entry.

I can be assailed by temptation.  I can be assailed by anger or jealousy.  I can be tempted to see the other person as the problem or the only thing standing in between me and my happiness.  But all of that is unreality!  All of that is false!  

TRUTH must stand watch at the GATES of MY HEART!

I am still only and always the only one who decides what exits and enters my inner heart of hearts.  If Truth stands guard, then I refuse to let in and give control over to that anger, jealousy, etc.  The temptation is not the sin.  The struggle is not the sin.  The sin is when I hand over my freedom to that idol and allow it to be the king of my heart instead of the true King, a King of Truth and Freedom.

Here, I want to challenge you.

Upon what are you focusing your thoughts?

Into what are you investing your time?

Where are you pouring your energies?

If social media or the news or certain friendships are toxic for you, then why do you persist in those spaces and places and allow them entry into your heart?  It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever use Facebook or be friends with certain people, but it does mean that you need to be mature enough to be honest with yourself.  To everything there is a season, and if this relationship or habit or even addiction (definitely addiction) is unhealthy for you, then do whatever it is that you need to do to shut the door to it.

Yes, arm yourself with the Word of God and fight that battle because it is real.

The spiritual battle is real.

We are both body and soul, however, so I also encourage you to take the very real steps for you to take care of you.

If you struggle with an addiction, get help!  Talk to a professional.

If you are doing too much, decide what is most important.  There are lots of goods, but what is best?

…remember that your life is not and cannot and should not be compared to anyone else’s.

Only you can answer these questions for yourself.  It isn’t about what everyone else is doing.  It’s about what you are doing.

If we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, then we first must learn to love ourselves.

If I refuse to say fight for Truth in my own inner heart, then how will I ever be able to go out and love those I am called to love?

…how will I ever be able to go out and receive love from those called to love me?

It first begins with me.

Let us rally around the pro-life movement, but not because of a blanket statement about babies.

Let us rally because the life of a child matters.

…the woman in crisis matters.

…the young girl stuck in an abusive relationship matters.

…the man or woman addicted to pornography matters.

…the boy searching for answers in all the wrong places matters.

…the human family matters.

…you matter.

As your sister, I beg you to fight.

Together, we can defeat the darkness, but only when we choose to allow His Life and His Light to enter and permeate us so much from within that we can’t help but overflow and spread it to those without.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”

(Proverbs 4:28).

 

“I have set before you life and death…; therefore choose life, that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

 

Posted by Sarah Denny

Sarah Denny earned her B.A. in Theology from Our Lady of Holy Cross College and her M.A. in Theology from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. She is currently studying for her PhD in Bioethics at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome, where she travels a few times a year for intensive classes. She has a Certification in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center and has worked at the Woman’s New Life Center in many different capacities since 2010. Whether working as a para-professional counselor for women in crisis pregnancies or teaching women about their cycles with the Creighton Model System, Sarah is passionate about the gift of what it truly means to be a woman and about how a woman’s awareness of this can positively influence our culture. Seeing the world through the lens of John Paul II’s authentic feminism, Sarah enjoys speaking on various topics related to bioethics, sexual ethics, Theology of the Body, and the gift of woman’s fertility from both a biological and theological standpoint. She currently works as a FertilityCare Practitioner with Hope Woman’s Clinic and hopes to focus her dissertation in the area of authentic women’s healthcare.