Monday, January 23, 2012

An Arrow of Humility

I had the privilege of hearing a woman tell a story of vulnerability. Her mouth was dry, a sign of nervousness which seemed unusual because she had spoken many times in front of groups. She swallowed hard and striped pretense away, she talked of her struggle, her thoughts, but still her nerves were gripping her. I respected her honesty and her willingness to share- it was a beautiful thing to witness. It was a dark moment in her life- she had an ectopic pregnancy with a heartbeat. She would have to remove it or die.

By a stroke of luck or by the hand of God, she was on the operating table when it ruptured perhaps taking some of the sting out of her decision to be on the table. Losing a pregnancy, whether it was wanted or not, has undone many a woman. By sharing her struggle, she brought each of us to a place where vulnerability, fear, and uncertainty hold court. Each one of us has been in a dark place at some point, but perhaps we have not had the courage to share it with others.

She trusted each of us to take something good, something valuable from her story. I did, but I also took something from the story that might be hard for her and others to hear. I call it the arrow of humility.

The arrow of humility pierces our thoughts that we have carefully arranged and reviewed. It strikes well defended beliefs, arguments, and thoughts inside of us. It deflates the falsehoods so that they can fall away. We may not admit that it has touched us to others, but the arrow lingers and where it has contacted us things begin to seep in and out. In this wounded place, humility touches us and reminds us of things we have forgotten. Namely, we don't have it all figured out, and, despite the best laid plans, we are vulnerable.

The talk started with the scripture from Matthew (4:1-11) about Christ's temptation in the wilderness and of his vulnerability after fasting for forty days and forty nights. Jesus responded to his tempter by quoting scripture. His tempter went away.

In telling her story, she expressed that she had wanted the baby and that she wanted the baby to know it was wanted, loved. That it "wasn't like those other abortions." This is where I wanted to send in the arrow of humility.

She doesn't know the stories of those other abortions or those other women or perhaps those other teenagers or even those other children in some cases who find themselves for a multitude of reasons, beyond my pen, getting an abortion. If she was feeling pain, what of women who cannot talk of it or feel afraid to admit their pain for fear of judgment? That kind of pain wrapped in shame, cloaked in fear, is the worst kind to bare- secret shame.

I saw that her desire was to differentiate herself from those others, from something she clearly opposes, but it is a fallacy to think that this separation is possible. We are all in this together.

We don't build a better world with walls, by differentiating. Jesus loved lepers and outcasts. He loves women who get abortions too. I loved that she shared her story, but I must throw the arrow and hope it opens us up to this: we need to love each other and leave the judging to God.

"Love your neighbor as yourself," (Galatians 4:14).


  1. Kim, thanks so much for this. Have been thinking similar thoughts following the right to life march here in Washington DC, where teens and preteens marched past my office window shouting "we love babies, how about you???" As you point out, we don't know the stories of every woman who struggles with this issue, and it's not as simple as whether babies are loved or not. By judging we lose the opportunity for conversation, understanding, and healing.

  2. I remember it now but did not notice at the time. I guess you are more sensitive to this with all the anti-abortion stuff in the US. I took the message as a message of hope for all who have had abortions for whatever reason! It never occured to me that she thought her embryo was being favoured above others. It is always interesting to hear the different messages people receive from the same words!

  3. It really stuck out for me. It is a lightening rod issue in the States plus I lived in the South in the town where a doctor, working in an abortion clinic, was killed ironically by a right to life activist. It was hard to write the post because the talk was so rich and full of many things, but this particular point gnawed out me for two days. I know about that arrow of humility because it has whapped me over the head a few times. I didn't want to take away from what she did, but I felt I had to push it open, make it bigger. Words matter. I don't always get them right, no one does. I so appreciated her telling the story, but for every woman who heard her story to heal from it, it needs to be about love, only love.


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