I just finished Abby Johnson’s astonishing account of her move from being Director of a Planned Parenthood Clinic to a Coalition for Life spokesperson. I treasure so many moments in this book. I heartily recommend Unplanned.
I did not plan on encountering such a sympathetic, understanding portrait of the pro-choice, pro-abortion movement coming from one who had chosen to leave it. Abby clearly knows what it is to love your enemy. Or perhaps that is going too far – for she wouldn’t use the word enemy.
Since she was once on their staff, she can truly empathize, and she does. In this way Unplanned is a different kind of pro-life apologia. And, I think, she is on the right track, just as the prayer vigils outside abortion clinics are a better approach than showing graphic photos of aborted babies and name-calling.
One of the remarkable insights I received from Abby’s book, and there were many such flashes of sudden understanding, is how language is used to promote a viewpoint. As an avid reader and novelist, I have been long attuned to the use of language. But the power of word substitution such asfetus for baby, or termination for abortion, struck me forcibly. When we call that person growing in the womb a fetus and not a baby, a mindset change takes place. When we call the taking of life a medical proceduresolving a disease-like problem, a mindset change takes place.
I considered how we all lie to ourselves, how we all avoid some of the hard truths of life. We avoid thinking about our own deaths, for we might need to examine our own lives. We avoid examining our own lives, for we might need to admit fault, an admission that suggests, even demands, change. We avoid God, sliding away from proofs for his existence, for we might need to obey his commandments, beginning with regular Sunday worship. We slip and we slide, many times without being aware of it. And often our culture encourages the sliding.
“The unexamined life is not worth living,” Socrates said. While I would argue that every life is worth living, I see his point. Man needs meaning and direction, and such meaningful direction comes from an examined life. We become whole when we understand where we are going and why. We experience joy when we come to know the author of that path. Without God, we wander and we wonder. Eventually, we despair.
The Church’s season of Advent approaches, the four weeks that prepare us for the coming of Christ, Christmas. Some call it a “mini-Lent,” although our culture discourages such observance, particularly in the December frenzy of shopping and parties. Even so, it is a time to examine one’s life. It is a time to return to God, to seek order and meaning in our choices each and every day. It is a time to go back to church to find him.
I find that Advent and Lent pull me into reality, return sanity to my life, particularly if my time on earth has not been recently examined. They are seasons of preparation for the great acts of God among us – the Incarnation in a cave outside Bethlehem, the Crucifixion and Resurrection on a hill outside Jerusalem. Advent is a time to examine my life, hold it up to God’s standards and repent of the slips and slides that I may not have recognized during the year.
As I read Abby Johnson’s powerful and sympathetic first-person account, I gave thanks to God for his working among us. I was reminded that each of us can be manipulated by words, propaganda, and societal pressure. Do we want to be blown about by others? I think not. Only God can give us the strength and wisdom to live a true life, an examined life, a life-welcoming life, a life planned by God, if perhaps unplanned by us.
Thank you, Abby Johnson.