Running and the Pro-Life Movement
I got involved in the pro-life movement in high school. I was very calloused at first, firmly convinced that “my way” was the right way. In my narrow-minded mind, I couldn’t imagine how anyone with good intentions and any sort of moral compass could consider having an abortion. The first time I ever prayed at an abortion clinic, I left feeling sad, scared, and shaken. The issue of abortion took on a face for me—no longer was it something merely to argue about with my “pro-choice” classmates. It was affecting real people, real babies. Something inside of me changed when I realized what was happening before my eyes. After this experience, I decided to do whatever I could to be as pro-life as possible.
Even though I had great resolve to be pro-life in high school, it wasn’t until college that I understood what being pro-life actually means. As a student at Franciscan University, I was a part of Students for Life, an outreach that, among other things, prays and sidewalk counsels at an abortion clinic in Pittsburgh every Saturday. After my first abortion clinic outreach as a student at Franciscan, I didn’t leave feeling shaken or sad. I left feeling humbled. When I saw the way the sidewalk counselors looked at the women going in to have abortions, when I noticed the love and tenderness with which they spoke to them, I realized being pro-life means way more than trying to “save babies,” as I had originally thought. No, being pro-life can’t only be about babies. It has to be about everyone.
Being pro-life means loving the baby and her mother. It means acknowledging that this woman may be under pressures that I’ve never imagined having to face. It means loving her even if she isn’t under all of those pressures. It means being patient with my roommate when she forgets to clean her dishes again. It means initiating a conversation with my husband instead of turning on the TV when the kids are finally asleep and all I want to do is put my feet up, drink wine, and relax. Being pro-life means perseverance to an often very bitter end. It means fighting battles that always seem to end in defeat. It means trusting in God, that he can bring good out of the deepest darkest situations. It means being confident in myself, in the abilities God has given me. It means surrendering—surrendering control, surrendering fear, surrendering pride, surrendering others, surrendering self—to God. It means that every little action matters. Every action we perform either upholds the dignity of life or denies it.
As runners, we face the never-ending challenge of putting our shoes on to get out on the track. People are always talking about how difficult it is to make the decision to work out and stick to it. It seems like a battle that reaches across time periods and geographic locations—no matter where you are, working out takes discipline and perseverance. It’s the same with being pro-life. Being pro-life in our society isn’t easy. It takes perseverance. It doesn’t simply mean wearing a t-shirt once a year or passionately marching in D.C. every January. Being pro-life means acting in a way that’s pro-life. We can’t just wear the t-shirt; we have to live out what the t-shirt promotes.
There’s a very popular athletic company in Louisiana called Louisiana Running Company. If you buy a pair of shoes from them, you receive a complimentary t-shirt that reads, “Louisiana Running Company,” on the front. When I first started running, I would see these shirts all over the track and wonder how I could get one. But I also felt like I didn’t really deserve to wear one, because I didn’t consider myself a runner. I wasn’t consistent, I certainly didn’t enjoy running, and I wasn’t disciplined in making time for running. A few months ago I was 7 months pregnant and visiting family in New Orleans. I was running close to 4 miles about every other day at that point, and had been for a few years. I bought my first pair of shoes from Louisiana Running Company, and you can bet that I now wear my t-shirt with pride. Because on the days the weather was bad or I was recovering from injury and taking forever to get back to my original pace, I persevered. In the small things, I persevered. That’s what makes me a runner.
If we’re not pro-life in the small things, how can we stand up before others and expect them to be pro-life in the most serious situations (like abortion)? If we want to be pro-life, let our every action be pro-life. If we want to be runners, let our actions support our resolve to run. When we make the decision to be runners, to take care of ourselves in this way and to rise above the challenges we face, we are being pro-life. We are acknowledging our dignity and upholding it.
Let’s be pro-life in all that we do. Let’s run and run well. Let’s love our roommate, dirty dishes and all. Let’s choose love in the little ways. Let us take encouragement in the reality that Christ has already won this battle for us. Let us persevere, amidst our humanity and failures, in valuing the dignity of life in every stage. And “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)