Anyone who has spent any amount of time in our movement knows how hard it can be to keep the batteries charged. I am, of course, talking about the many defeats we seem to experience – even though our cause is a righteous cause.

After all, are we not trying to be a voice for the voiceless? None of us garner anything for ourselves … we have no self-interest here. It is, and always has been, a cause dedicated to the establishment of human rights for the unborn.

As I look back upon 15-plus years of pro-life activity, I am reminded of the many lessons that I have learned, some of them kicking and screaming, but learned nonetheless.

Frederica Mathewes-Green related in a Christianity Today article in 1994 her thoughts on the lessons we learn better than anyone I know. She wrote: “After 20 years of seeing success slip out of our grasp, maybe it is time to stop being surprised at the unfairness of it all. Maybe it is time to wonder if God has lessons for us to learn in this time of fasting from jubilant victory. While pro-lifers feel deeply that God loves the babies lost to abortion, we may have forgotten that God loves us just as much. We may not recognize that love because we like to think of God as a pal, always trying to make us happy. We forget that he is our Father, who ‘disciplines whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives (Heb. 12:6).’

“For now, our chastisement seems to entail having to pay for a deadly mistake, having our words distorted and ridiculed, and seeing political victory repeatedly go to our opponents. It was, after all, within the power of God to give the pro-life movement easy, early victory within months of Roe v. Wade. We cannot say why he did not. But as the long years pass without the victory for which we have hoped, perhaps we ought to look for blessings we never thought to pray for: humility, broken pride, loss of trust in our own power.

“These are not the kind of blessings that make it to our prayer lists. We prefer the more utilitarian blessing of power to change things; power that is able to fix what is broken. Someone once said that when we imagine God dealing with the world, we think of a giant hammer driving a giant nail. This is, in fact, how God did heal his broken world. But He let that nail be driven into the hand of his Son.”

Strong words, to be sure. But Frederica reminds us, in her writings, of the bigger picture. I am constantly amazed at the goodness of God, how He is so involved in the events of everyday life and how He knits and weaves his way into the lives of people.

Looking for that big parting of the Red Sea? Looking for God to perform a victory so mightily that there is no doubt as to his power?

If we insist on looking for only these big things, we miss the footprints of God all around us: the people He sends our way so that we can touch them. The angry newspaper reporters that need to see the “real.” The young pregnant teenager. The annoying board member. The ever-belligerent pro-life leader. All these people God sends our way to test us, to mould us, to … well, the list goes on.

Frederica continues in another essay she wrote in 1991: “You see, God does not only want to save babies. He wants to save us, wean us from our self-love, break our hearts so that his love can pour in, and then out to a hurting world. Throughout history, God has used the uncomfortable tools of rejection and persecution to change his people and to change his world; it was the path He chose, himself, on the Cross. This is the first chance our generation has had to taste this bittersweet lesson, and it is a precious gift if we will only receive it. The martyrs before us were torn by lions, burned, impaled; we are only being asked to endure frustration, misunderstanding and ridicule. Apparently, God does not have a high estimation of our endurance! But whatever we share of that ancient lesson, let us embrace it as a path to the centre of his heart.”

These are lessons I am slowly learning. How I wished I knew them when I was 23. But, no matter. God has a plan for the pro-life movement, for Canada, and even for each one of us. It may not be what we want, or expect, but it will be just what we need.

Now I understand what Mother Teresa meant when she talked about being faithful. It is not a copout for not doing our best. It just means to keep our eyes focused on what really is important in life. And that means that God loves us just as much as He loves the children we are trying to protect.