On March 11 the nation of Japan experienced a 9.0 magnitude earthquake along its northeast shore. It was the most powerful earthquake ever to hit that country. Indeed, it was one of the top 5 recorded magnitudes world-wide in modern record-keeping history.
As the earth buckled and split apart, the ground shook for 6 minutes. Current estimates are that approximately 9,000 people are missing; 13,500 are known to have perished. Thousands are injured. Those numbers will only climb in the coming weeks, for sure.
An earthquake of this magnitude is classified as a megathrust quake, one of the largest that can occur. The surface energy of the quake could provide power to a city like Los Angeles for a year.
The shifting of the tectonic plates on the ocean floor that caused the earthquake led to a tsunami, which occurred within the hour. The tsunami did more damage to the island of Japan than the earthquake itself. The wall of water was so powerful that the waves it generated were observed along the Pacific coast of Chile, 11,000 miles away.
The final large-scale blow to this Asian nation has been the damage to its nuclear energy plants. Lack of electricity has led to rising temperatures of the radioactive fuel rods, fires and the release of radioactive material into the atmosphere. The fall-out is spreading, carried by the wind to surrounding areas, affecting crops and cattle. There are concerns that it could cross the Pacific Ocean and reach the United States, and bring its toxic waste to our shores.
None of this would be new to the United States. After all, we have nearly 4000 earthquakes each day in this country. Followed by devastating tsunamis. Then there is the fall-out, the invisible toxic mist that coats the land.
Where? You’ve not noticed, you’ve not heard? I’m talking here about abortion. And it’s aftermath.
Nearly 4000 times each day, a woman in this country experiences the most devastating, cataclysmic event of her life: the unnatural, often violent death of the child within her. It can be a surgical procedure, sometimes administered without anesthesia, which takes her child from her, early or late in the pregnancy; or a chemical that stops the growth of her child or makes her own body suddenly an inhospitable harbor. Make no mistake about it, though, whatever the method or stage of pregnancy, when abortion enters a woman’s life – body and soul undergo an upheaval like the earth when its foundations shift, shake and collide. It’s the megathrust category of human tragedy.
And the tsunami? The wall of devastation that crashes into her life? It can come immediately or be delayed, but it will most assuredly draw itself up from the unfathomable depths of an ocean of grief and slam down hard upon her life. When it reaches her, it may be depression, anxiety, sleeplessness or anger. It may carry away the relationship that conceived the child, her self-esteem, her physical health (infertility, miscarriage, premature birth of a subsequent child, substance abuse, eating disorders) and leave what remains a shambles, an odd mix of familiar and chaotic. It will certainly shatter her plans for the future – hope will be replaced by despair and uncertainty and regret – deep, deep regret. She will question her ability to make sound judgments, to invest in future relationships, to trust. Boundaries may be difficult to maintain, or even establish. The waves reach far and long. Make no mistake about it: abortion leaves a tremendous amount of destruction in its wake, and the wake often stretches for years, maybe even her lifetime.
The fall-out from abortion – hot, radioactive and toxic – affects all of us – we can’t escape it or hide from it. We can’t wear masks, go underground or insulate ourselves from it’s effects. “If one part [of the body] suffers, we all suffer with it” (I Corinthians 12:26). It spreads and spreads across the culture. It hangs heavy over a nation that sees such upheaval day after day after day. It’s a cloud of death and despair and confusing violence, pain and free-floating anxiety that says something is just not right. “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10, Evangelium Vitae, n. 10) We hear those cries deep in our spirit. Those closest, at the nucleus of the procedure, providers and abortion center workers, are naturally the most deeply contaminated. They are often living shells of human beings, not realizing how darkened are their consciences, how terminally wounded are their souls. Yet all of us live under the mist as it dissipates and settles across the culture: missing members of our families, churches and societies. Tainted, we try to live life as if everything were okay, but we can’t move forward in quite the same way, either.
Today the victims of that 9.0 megathrust earthquake must begin to make sense of the catastrophe that befell them. They wonder how they can rebuild their lives, find anything of the past, reconnect with loved ones as they bury the dead. And what of the future? While a sense of ‘normal’ will one day return, it will not be the same as in the past. What’s done is done. What’s gone is gone. That which they rebuild will recall the tragedy they survived. Yet there is hope for the nation of Japan. There is always hope. God promises it: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)
And the woman who has had an abortion? Her life, too, will forever be marked by the tragic death she has experienced – of her child and, in a way, of part of herself. Her future will always carry with it a part of the profound loss she has experienced. Just as nations and agencies rush to assist the survivors in Japan and aid them in recovery and rebuilding, so too must the Body of Christ be willing to rush in with compassion to assist our sisters (and brothers!) who have had abortions. We cannot undo that which they’ve encountered, but we can help to repair the brokenness, clear the path for moving forward and in that process cleanse one another of the toxic residue that coats us all.
Her future can be bright again, with healing and hope restored. Her memories will always recall a time “when I….” but her heart can be made whole. May we be the rescuers of this segment of society, and in so doing, rescue ourselves as well. May we be ready and willing to be our brother and sister’s keeper.