Empty Arms

child who was never born

by Rebekah Maxwell

“There is, I am convinced, no picture that conveys in all its dreadfulness, a vision of sorrow, despairing, remediless, supreme. If I could paint such a picture, the canvas would show only a woman looking down at her empty arms.”  Charlotte Brontë

Every day, we feel it. The angry sun shining through the blinds,  too early, demanding we rise.  The dull routine  of household nothings to be washed, mended, cared for. The rush to work, after all, someone must manage this spinning world. The pressure to smile among people, as though everything’s fine, always fine, why shouldn’t it be?  There’s only a hole in our hearts.

Since you’ve been reading this, two American children have died. We will never know their favorite color, or whether they’re good at math. We won’t know if they were graceful or clumsy, social-butterflies or still-river types. But we know they were here with us…because we feel them missing. In the next 60 seconds, two more little children will disappear from our world. The minute after that, two more…on purpose. Because we think we want them gone.

We’ll go on with our day, distracted and undeterred. By nightfall, we’ll sink back into our beds, another day worn old. We’ll surrender to sleep for a few hours. We’ll wake again to an angry sun, which another 3500 children will never see. We wonder why our arms feel empty.

The arguments abound. The culture wages war, adults vs. children. Our children. We could express our casualties in a  myriad of ways: the economic loss of 1.3 million new citizens each year, the biological consequences of destroying our own progeny, the moral dilemma of finding personal worth when we declare other persons worthless at whim. But statistics and politics cannot fully express this emptiness we’ve crafted for ourselves.

Empty arms don’t fill up with wishing. They can’t be explained away or legislated into normalcy. Self-interests and rationalizations pale when compared to the ache we feel each day. Culturally convenient or not, a truth remains: if we reject the promise of our child’s presence, we’re left alone…with the burden of their absence.  No arguing, no excuses, no anger will make that loss disappear, or the regret less real. Only love can do that.

Pray today for those with empty arms. Whether you see it or not, we carry the burden of loss, constant and crushing. We don’t need to be “normalized,” or “stigmatized,” nor do we need especially to be criticized (we’ve done a great deal of that ourselves).  What we need is to be set free: redeemed from the guilt and despair. We need to know there is hope and forgiveness, a second chance. We need to find our voices, amid the pain, and declare the truth of our world…that though we rejected His precious gift, our Father hasn’t cast us away. In fact, He freely gives  us life through His Son, making all things new and whole again.  And He is not yet finished with us…there are a great many beautiful things ahead.

In the depth of our sorrow, we are not helpless, my friends. We will bear our pain until we stop our crimes. Until we learn from our scars. Until we cast aside the patterns of death for the promise of life. Empty arms are reaching out today for hope all around you. Don’t let them stay empty any longer.

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