standing vigil 4.0: a formidable presence
I went to Friday Nights at the GRAM (Grand Rapids Art Museum) with Amanda Vernon. We saw a lot of beautiful and interesting artwork, but there were a few that really stood out among the rest. There was the one that reminded Amanda of Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers – she took the concept of abstract art to heart; a small etching of a couple dancing caught my eye – no surprise there; another abstract painting reminded both me and Amanda of football; but the one that inspired the most reflection was another etching. It was a version of the Pieta.
We discussed whether or not the thieves crucified with Christ were still alive when He was removed from the cross and placed in His Mother’s arms. We know that the thieves’ legs were broken, but did they die instantly or linger a while longer?
“What if they were still alive when Jesus was taken from the cross?” Amanda said. “I wonder what they would have been thinking if they saw Christ cradled by His Mother.”
We concluded that the bad thief would have looked on the beautiful sight with disdain; his heart hardened to the last. The good thief, we decided, was moved by the scene. In his last moments, he must have drawn hope and courage from the loving embrace, knowing that would soon be him in the arms of his Father as Christ had promised.
The more I thought about it the more I could see a parallel between our little contemplation of the Pieta and the 40 Days for Life. We have become a formidable presence on Fulton St. Some people who see us are disgusted and angered: they honk their horn, stick their middle finger in the air and wave it around as they shout their disagreement. And then there is the other reaction.
I have had a few people passing by stop to ask what we are doing. After explaining who we are, why we are there and what the dank, unmarked building is, the person has offered their encouragement: “I’m against abortion, too.” “Keep it up!” “We need more people like you.” During Friday’s vigil, there were five of us in front of the clinic. A black pickup truck pulled into the drive and stopped at the sidewalk. The man driving rolled down his window and beaconed to me. I walked over.
“How long are you guys out here?” he asked. “A couple of weeks?”
“40 days,” I replied.
“What is this place?” was his next question.
“It’s an abortion clinic.”
He nodded gravely as he looked at the building. “That’s what I thought.” Then he turned to me and said, “What you are doing is great. Keep at it.” He pulled into the parking lot, turned around and drove away, nodding his appreciation as he turned onto the busy street.
It was a simple exchange, but I was struck by the fact that he stopped. Sure, people walking by stop to ask questions, but not many drivers. I realized then the influence we have had. Our example, our presence has emboldened others. Many people have drawn strength from our vigil, knowing if we have the courage to stand against abortion, they can have the courage to admit they are against it too. If anything, our impact has been silent and subtle, quietly changing hearts with our boldness.
They all see the same image: people outside a building with their heads bowed in prayer, but we get two very different reactions. It is beautiful seeing the dedication and faithfulness of the prayer warriors, but not everyone can appreciate the beauty. It was the same with the thieves as Amanda and I reflected on the Pieta later that evening.
God is using us, my friends and fellow prayer warriors, for His glory. Take heart! “Commit your way to the Lord; trust that God will act, and make your integrity shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday.” Psalm 37:5-6