Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

The Blessing of Choice

By Taryn Strauss

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” 
—Luke 1:42, 45 (NRSV)

What if the angel comes to you and tells you not to have the baby? The message is instead: Our Savior will be borne to a different person who has the desire for this great responsibility.

That changes the Christmas story, doesn’t it? Are you still “blessed among women”?

A worn, chipped statue of Mary, pictured from the shoulders up, with a weary expression.

In this version, the shepherds outside the stable shout curses. They demand retaliation for the audacity of a lowborn woman who wields Godlike power, deciding who lives and who does not.

What we endure to end a pregnancy is like the underbelly of a miracle. You traveled far, and found the only doctor for miles who would do it safely. You held out your thumb on the side of the road, following a star.

Each Advent, my empathy for Mary’s situation returns. Every birth story is precarious. I draw strength from the blessing she proclaims as I prepare to preach about abortion in the Deep South, where both our bodily autonomy and safety when we speak for it are precarious.

People often talk about the size of a fetus in vegetal terms. Fear can be carried like a baby in utero. Once the fear was just a little bean, then grew to the size of a tomato. The cells multiply until our backs ache and watermelon-sized fear gestates in our bellies, kicking us from within.

If I preach dangerously, can I keep the sanctuary safe? If I preach the fulfillment of the blessing of choice as I understand it, will I endanger myself and my congregation?

There is no true sanctuary, not really. Only back rooms: country stables where people give birth to secrets with no choirs of angels singing “come let us adore ye” about the miracle of choosing the one life you have to fight for—your own.

Prayer

Mother of us all, grant us grace for the complex choices we make and the precious secrets we care for tenderly. Keep us safe and well loved when we lay our burdens down. Give us the courage to fight for dangerous causes; remind us the life we save may be our own.

About the Author

Taryn Strauss

Rev. Taryn Strauss (she/her/hers) serves as senior minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, Georgia where she lives with her husband James as they wrangle twin six-year-old boys Townes and Langston, and longs for a single dull moment.

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