Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Writer's Challenge (NOT the FaithWriters Challenge) (06/10/10)
TITLE: Dedicating a Cemetery
By Steve Fitschen
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The problem was that I had no idea what to say. Oh, I had given many pro-life speeches. But that was part of the problem. What sermon should I deliver to the choir that it had not heard before?
But, I wasn’t sure that only the choir would be present. Our town’s lawn would be that of First Baptist Church, whose property fronted on the town square. Would the dedication, especially with its promised-to-be-more-than-adequate sound system, attract folks from the square? Maybe pro-choice advocates? Maybe folks from the mushy middle? Maybe post-abortive women struggling to deal with their actions without Christ?
What should I say to them? If I preached to the choir, would I alienate those I needed to reach the most? Or was this a prophetic opportunity? Should I just lay the truth out there and leave their reactions in God’s hands? How could I, how should I, meet this challenge?
The week before the dedication, I started writing my speech over and over again. Each time I triple clicked in the margin and hit “delete.” Finally, out of desperation, the day before the dedication, I drove to First Baptist to view the crosses.
At the far end of the lawn, the last crosses were being hammered into the earth.
I walked between the rows. First came the tears. Then came the racking sobs. Then came something else, something visceral, something struggling to move from the subconscious to the conscious.
In another moment recognition came: it was the sound. The sound of the hammer blows. No, the deathblows. As executive director of a crisis pregnancy center, I knew more that I wanted to know about the various methods of abortion: medically induced abortions; vacuum aspiration abortions; saline abortions; D & C abortions; and that monstrosity of monstrosities, partial birth abortion. I knew that in none of these methods was there a single physical “deathblow.” Rather, each involved a long slow agony. But when I heard those hammers, I knew that spiritually I was experiencing crashing, crushing deathblow after deathblow.
I stopped. I scanned the crosses. I recoiled as something more that sound waves assaulted me. And I knew what I would write, what I would say. I hoped the words would meet the challenge.
The next day I approached the podium, silently praying that, for the sake of the message, I would be able to utter my words without garbling them in sobs. God was gracious. This is what I managed to say:
Ladies and Gentlemen, did you eat breakfast today? How long did it take? Ten minutes? Fifteen?
Ladies and Gentlemen, please turn and look at the Field of Crosses. Do you see this row of crosses closest to us? Those crosses represent the babies who died while you buttered your bread or poured milk on your bowl of cereal.
How long is your morning commute? Twenty Minutes? Thirty? The crosses in the next two rows represent the babies who died while you drove to work.
What do you do with your mornings? Do you sit at a desk, work in a factory, home school your children, something else? These crosses represent the children who died before you stopped for lunch.
And while you ate that lunch? These children died.
And then you return to your job or your teaching. But these children, represented by these crosses, will never turn their hands to any task.
On the drive home, the lives of these two rows of babies were ended.
What do you do after you get home? Do you enjoy your family? Do you sit in front of the TV, maybe for too long? Think about the rows upon rows of babies whose lives ended during that time.
And then you go to sleep. The rest of these babies will die while you sleep. Can we stand the metaphor: How many babies will die while we sleep?
That was it. I deliberately ended abruptly. I sat down. I silently prayed, as the sobs set in, “Oh, Lord, I hope I met the challenge. Please, Lord, add your power to my poor words.”
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