A darkened room. An air conditioner in the window struggling to do its job. Rows of cots filled with weeping women. Women in pain—physically, emotionally and spiritually. Why are they all crying? Why am I? I do not want to be here on this hot summer afternoon in Manhattan, 1975. But by my own choice—I am.
What have I done? I purposely didn’t ask for a pregnancy test so that I wouldn’t know for sure. The doctor told me anyway. “Definitely pregnant. About six weeks along.” Now I will always know. Always. And wonder who this child was. This gift that confirmed I could get pregnant. This gift I rejected. This gift I murdered??
“ Now I will always know. Always. And wonder who this child was. ”
The debate had gone on in my head for a few weeks, triggered by my missed period. It was usually like clockwork, but this time I waited day after day. Nothing. Why now? I was a good girl with a sterling reputation. A church girl raised in Sunday School and prayer meetings and admired by my family and friends. Sure, living off campus at a big university and moving to NYC had influenced my thinking, but I still kept up. I still read my Bible, still attended church, still prayed.
And yet, other areas of my life had begun to show compromise. I was dating men who didn’t hold to my standards, who didn’t know God. My virginity had slipped away in one relationship--not because I wanted it to, but because he didn’t listen to me when I said no. He was caring and kind...but not who I wanted to share my life with. I had tried to see if maybe it could work; but I knew God wasn’t in it and neither were my feelings for him. So I broke up with him.
I told myself that what followed was all circumstantial, like I was just a bystander watching it all happen. A month or two after the break-up, he called. Said he loved me and missed me. Couldn’t we just have dinner, nothing more. My feelings for him were dead, but I missed his attention. Selfishly, I agreed. After dinner, his car wouldn’t start. It was late. Might as well spend the night at my apartment nearby so he could deal with the car first thing in the morning. Love-making not included. But it was. Followed immediately by my tears of regret, and a shame akin to seeing my own nakedness for the first time. Desperately trying to hide my sin from an ever-present God. Feeling the weight of His conviction calling me back to Himself. “And you shall know that I am the LORD.” I did know, and my heart was broken. So why now would You allow me to be pregnant?
“ And you shall know that I am the LORD. ”
I had to face it. I was pretty sure my mom was going to die soon because of her health reports. I couldn’t let her or my family know. I could go far away for a year. Maybe overseas. But how could I arrange that so quickly? With what money? And then do what? Adoption? Why would I want to carry and bond with my baby only to give it to someone else to raise? That option was out. Abortion would be easy and over with. Was it really a life so early on? Who knew when it actually became a viable baby? After all, I could have an abortion early enough not to know for sure that I was even pregnant. Technically I wouldn’t know. I could absolve myself of any guilt.
Another darkened room the night after the procedure. My bedroom. Kneeling in front of my window to pray. A practiced habit--but tonight, just sobbing. Can God even hear me? The starlight reflecting on the backyards of my neighbors, blurred by my tears. I didn’t mean it, God. Please forgive me. Please, please! I know You forgive, but You are so silent. I know You forgive. So why won’t You answer me and say You have? I shouldn’t have done it and I am so sorry. I will never do it again. I promise. And I won’t interfere with any pregnancy you implant in me ever again. I won’t. And please let me get pregnant again to make this up. Please. I know now, I was wrong. Can You hear me? I was wrong. [but what else was I to do?]
Joy did not come in the morning. Life simply went on. There were cover-ups. I deeply hurt the father of the aborted baby, not telling him what I had done until it was over. There was asking for help from friends which ended in more wrong relationships. Finally, along came my soulmate and a temporary relief of sorts--in the form of marriage and a baby. Now, I could regain my church reputation. We wanted to do things right. So we did...except never did we divulge my abortion to anyone we knew. We thought it was better that way.
“ Joy did not come in the morning. Life simply went on. ”
Some of the time, God seemed distant. There were no more intimate times with Him while kneeling beside my window. Gradually, my Bible reading did start to produce some “aha” moments of understanding and comfort. New Christian friendships emerged. More babies were born. But even during the times He seemed far off, I came to the conclusion that it was my own doing. God had forgiven me. I can’t forgive myself.
It was 23 years later before I would discover all that forgiveness truly is. The details involve a deteriorating marriage and a soulmate who had lost himself in his own battles. But what is relevant to the story I am telling is that one awful day, I found out that he had betrayed me and our marriage vows. Suddenly, in the midst of all the emotions that come to one in a time like that, memories of my past abortion and those unresolved feelings re-emerged, rising to the top. I carried all of it around, desperately crying out to God for clarity in thought and for comfort for my shipwrecked heart.
God answered me in a dream. The words that came to me are all I remember about it now.
“You were betrayed and you now have experienced how badly and deeply such betrayal hurts. Yet, you also betrayed a helpless new life that you carried. Both of these betrayals are ultimately against Me. They are equal to Me in intent and intensity. Yet I forgave them on the cross when I gave My life’s blood to cover them. If I forgave them, then you, too, must forgive your husband. His sin is no graver than yours, and I am the One most rightly offended by both of your sins.”
Please hear me now. Only God can forgive sin. We cannot forgive our own sin. I woke up from that dream understanding for the first time, that pride had caused me to have an abortion in order to save my reputation. In my own eyes, I was not the kind of girl to get pregnant out of wedlock or to commit such embarrassing sins. It had been important that I cover it up while at the same time asking God to forgive me. Forgiveness begins by recognizing that our own sin is as abhorrent to God as the sin of those who sin against us. True forgiveness follows true repentance.
The shame and regret over my abortion are things of the past. They were the very things that had blocked my view of Jesus. For a long time, I didn’t tell my story—until I realized that telling it shouts the redemption found in Christ alone. All the world should know!
“ True forgiveness follows true repentance. ”
My next blog entry [Aug. 10] will discuss more about the reasons women choose to have an abortion. A pregnancy center volunteer and I were once discussing this. She put into words what I had already learned. “It’s as though our pride takes over when we start thinking of the reasons we should have an abortion. There are different circumstances for all of us, but ‘self’ always wins.”
God forgives and brings us understanding only to put us to work for Him and His purposes. I have spent the past eleven years directing pregnancy resource centers--a career path that I never would have chosen for myself. More about pregnancy center ministries in my last August entry [August 20].