By Jonathon Van Maren
Autumn is a strange time of year, when color erupts from every hillside in an explosion of death and beauty. As I drove the backroads to work the other day, the trees caressed by the Midas touch of approaching Winter seemed to dance and glow in the morning sun, and I couldn’t help but think of the words of Robert Frost:
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
There is something about Autumn that seems to be a reminder of mortality. The trees flame with orange and auburn color, proving that all of these years later, God still speaks through burning bushes. Soon, Heaven will drape a pure white blanket over the dead foliage and black skeletal trees just in time for Christmas, and we will be forced to remember that Death’s days are numbered.
Almost every Autumn, the mood of nature seeps into my mind and I catch my thoughts wandering in strange directions. Autumn captures the contrast between life and death, but also seems to remind us that these they are so fused together that we cannot really separate them. And that’s what doing pro-life work is like, too—in the midst of a red sea of carnage, we try our best to rescue those that we can. The number of those who die still far surpasses those who are saved, but we still must be thankful for the precious children who get the chance to see the Autumn leaves turn scarlet because their parents came face to face with the crimson corpses of the abortion victims who were not so fortunate.
Sometimes, when the sheer numbers of violently discarded little babies just seems overwhelming, their presence in the periphery of a pro-life activists’ mind starts to color everything else. Red roses no longer represent love—instead, I idly wonder if perhaps the white rose of innocence has drawn the blood of the innocents out of the ground where it cries out for justice and has made even the rose of love bloom scarlet. A beautiful sunset tinged crimson seems to be reminding me that not everyone who began the day with us is still with us. We have killed some of them, and they are gone.
But then I go home, and I pick up my own little daughter. Her sparkling eyes and enormous, spontaneous smiles remind me that sometimes sunsets are just sunsets and that flowers do mean love. And it reminds me of a story a veteran pro-life activist once told me, when he found out that my wife and I were expecting our first baby. “I used to be hard at work doing pro-life work every day and nearly every night. The thought of the injustice drove me,” he said. “And one day, a few months after our first daughter was born, I came home and nobody was there. There was a note on the counter: ‘Don’t make us compete with dead babies for your attention.’ They never had to again.”
And then I remember one of my favorite lines from Tolkien: “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows, perhaps, the greater.” There are parents who throw away their children, and there are those who love their children more than life itself. And there are those who love the children nobody else does, and sometimes they get to see their efforts rewarded with the beautiful smiles of girls and boys who are too young and too innocent to have ever heard the awful word that almost destroyed them: abortion. For as Helen Keller once said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
Autumn is a strange time of year.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.