I walked by the chapel on my way to lunch. “Come in,” my heart whispered. It was still racing a little. I didn’t want to stop. The adrenaline was still flowing after meeting at three different offices on Capitol Hill. At each office, I was with colleagues with the Healthy Families Healthy Planet project. Surrounded by my sisters in Christ, we made our case on behalf of women around the world in front of two Senators and a Congressman.
We walked the halls of the Temples of Power, and strode purposefully across the Capitol. We talked about the 222 million women that wish to delay their pregnancies, but cannot gain access to contraception. We spoke for the 270,000 women that die each year from complications to child birth and pregnancy. We spoke for the thousands of mothers that can be saved. We reminded the staffers that funding international maternal health and family planning initiatives could prevent 54 million unintended pregnancies, 26 million abortions, and 7 million miscarriages a year.
In just my second trip to Washington as an adult, I gained access to some of the most powerful people in the world. As I walked into the Dirksen Senate Office Building, I felt a sudden surge of desperation. I knew my facts. I knew the stories. Yet I was suddenly faced with the grandeur of it all and doubted. “Who am I?” I thought. Surrounded by so much marble and glass, I could not help but feel the power of my own insignificance. Then something funny happened. Each meeting was a little easier than the last. Each time I looked at my notes less, and looked into my heart more.
Now back from the three meetings in 90 minutes, I was still in high gear. Still breathing a little heavy. My mind did not want to stop. It wanted to keep going, keep talking, keep engaging. “Come in,” my heart beckoned. I walked into the chapel of the United Methodist Building. I stepped a few rows in, past another taking a similar pause, and sat. I breathed. My heart slowed. My mind opened. I prayed.
I prayed of exhaustion. Exhausted by the three days of learning and training. Exhausted by the walking and the waking early. Exhausted by the stories of the suffering women endure around the world. I prayed of mourning. Mourning despair of mothers who have lost children. Mourning my brother in Christ at the training that talked about his own mother losing 10 infant children over the course of her life. I prayed of celebration. Celebrating the strength of so many women. Celebrating the women in my life, and the women I was surrounded by at the training. Celebrating the victories, and the chance to speak the truth to power.
I prayed and sunk deeper into my chair as the Spirit washed over me. Then I saw the Bible, once again my heart beckoned, “Come.” I opened the Bible, and read the first verse my eyes focused on, “When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to him as he was teaching. They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23, Common English Bible).
Who am I to do these things?
I am a father. I am a father who loves two daughters with all of my being. I am a father who dreams of their future and wants to open every pathway to joy in their lives. I am a father who wants to see my daughters grow to be educated, independent, powerful women. I am a father who wants nothing less for all the girls of the world. I am Papa Robb, who will stand up for the girls that no one else will stand for.
What kind of authority do you have for doing these things?
I claim the authority of the women that suffer needlessly. I claim the authority of the the motherless infants, and the wifeless fathers. I claim the authority of the communities that are stuck in the cycles of poverty that keep them from abundant life.
Who gave you this authority?
My authority lies in Christ Jesus, who came so that we may have life, and have it abundantly. I am given authority by the one who raised the widow’s son, who let Martha sit at his feet and learn, who engaged the foreign woman at the well, and defended the woman caught in adultery. I do these things by the power of the one who called out the most powerful men in the world, who defied their pomposity, and saw through their grandeur. I am given authority by the one who suffered crucifixion at the hands of the powerful, who suffered in silence and grace, determined to fulfill his mission of peace, justice, and salvation. I am given authority by the one who was Resurrected, and offers to me the same Resurrection. I am given authority by Jesus Christ, who has already claimed the victory
I finished my prayer. I thanked God for this moment. I thanked God for beckoning me to come.
And now I will go. I will go with the strength of the women and men I have met on this journey. I will go with the strength of knowledge. I will go with the strength of love. I will go with the strength of Jesus Christ, who came that all may have life, and have it abundantly. I will go with the promise that the work we do is just, the promise of God is steadfast, and the victory is already won.