I never really understood the story of Rip Van Winkle. Until recently, that is. It seems the more I look around, the less I recognize any more. It's not that progress or change bothers me. In fact, I'm a huge fan of many things new and emerging, but I've come to regret some of the things we choose to abandon. Namely values.
Back to Mr. Van Winkle. When he awakens on a mountain after a 20-year nap, he discovers shocking changes: his musket is rotting and rusty, his beard is a foot long, and his dog is nowhere to be found. He returns to his village, where he recognizes no one. He arrives just after an election, and people ask how he voted. Never having cast a ballot in his life, he proclaims himself a faithful subject of King George III, unaware that the American Revolution has taken place, and nearly gets himself into trouble with the townspeople until one elderly woman recognizes him as the long-lost Rip Van Winkle.
When it comes to music, entertainment and even transportation, I'm completely on board with the changes. I like the new. I like the path we're taking, and can still enjoy the fruits of a harvest gone by without bothering anyone else with my sense of melancholy. Technology? A little different, but I am usually quick to embrace the latest, and keep my eyes peeled for whatever is coming over the horizon. It's just that the devices we used before become more quickly obsolete.
Then we come to values. I can't really discuss values without mentioning how closely aligned they are with the morals I live by. Those morals come from the Bible. Love God. Love others more than you do yourself. Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. These are not catch phrases to me – they are the basis for the moral code I feel like we've begun to abandon.
One Sunday a couple of years ago, I found myself having insults bounced off me while I was saluted with a single finger more than once by numerous passers-by. The offense? Holding a sign which simply read, “Pray to end abortion.” Four written words. I didn't speak a single one. I didn't confront anyone. I wasn't blocking an entrance or a roadway. Just standing on the public right of way near a closed clinic at which abortions are offered.
This February my wife was at the same spot, with the same four words on a sign and was approached by a young woman who beckoned her to her car. Hesitant at first, she moved closer to the car as the woman said, “I want to show you my miracle.” She said that four years ago she was at the clinic to have an abortion, but stopped to talk with one of the people with a sign, and changed her mind. And that changed her world. The miracle was a child.
After a 20-year career standing in the gap for the defenseless as a soldier, standing in a similar way for the unborn is somewhat natural for me. It's how I pray. It's how I think. It's one way I place value on others more than myself. When I observe our legislators considering whether a human child in the third trimester of gestation is worthy of drawing its first – or second – breath outside the womb, I am grieved at what we've abandoned. Our culture lines up for programs promising a better future for children, while granting legal access to murder of the very children who could have taken part in that future.
As for us, we'll continue to stand. That's our choice. And it's a choice we can all live with.