I came very close to having an abortion, in fact as close as fifteen hours away from one that was scheduled for the tiny life within me.
In the Christian communities I have been a part of over thirty some years, that information alone could be enough to change people’s opinion of me and, depending on their experience and position on the issue, that might be positively or negatively.
In some of their eyes I would be celebrated for having made ‘the right choice’. That seems nice enough, in that I get to tell my story openly most times, without the fear of the judgement that will definitely accompany someone sharing that she made a different choice. To others I committed a sin being pregnant outside of marriage, something they know they would never have done, so they may step back a few inches as though my sin might be catching. For most churches in that time, I was a single parent they didn’t quite know what to do with or for, as my children and I were outside the realm of most their ministries.
Sometimes people don’t really think about the fact that of the three choices available to a woman in that place, none of them seem ‘right’ to her, even by Webster’s definition: morally or socially correct or acceptable. Whichever one we choose will be accompanied by a shame that we will have to work through, perhaps for a lifetime. The church can be a loving place to heal, or it can be a continual judge and jury. Each one can only be seen on its own merits, but it is a tough risk when your silence offers you much more more reliable protection.
In truth, it is much more complicated than even the choice itself, and only someone who has been faced with that dilemma in their own life may ever experience the compassion I feel for the women who have had abortions, especially those who truly regret it. I feel for the woman who gave up the only child she might possibly ever bear for adoption, who may also be told she did the right thing, but that can ring hollow in a childless life. For the one who experienced an abortion and yet keeps it secret as most do, being handed a rose at their church on Mother’s Day can be so devastating they may purposely avoid church on that day.
My Dad was a veteran of WWII. He was barely 25 when he Captained a battalion of men through horrible circumstances in the Battle of the Bulge and then awful experiences in Belgium and Germany. Though he came home seemingly in one piece, with a British Medal of Honor, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart, he never mentioned the war once during my lifetime of knowing him. I was born the year after he returned and he died when I was fifty-eight. It was something he just couldn’t talk about. He couldn’t sort out all his emotions, so he just put them in a box he never re-opened.
Though he went on to raise a family, be a successful businessman and a great father to four children, to this day I don’t know much about his war experiences or his wounds. I know he could be super critical and hard on his kids, but he wanted us to grow up strong, at least emotionally stronger than perhaps he had been. My emotions were often crushed as he seemingly did not want to acknowledge them. It was only when I thought about my own brush with abortion that I had even a clue as to why he was emotionally distant sometimes, angry and frustrated at other times, for seemingly no related reason. He had experienced a time as a very young man when he couldn’t allow his emotions to cloud his mind while he did what he had to do, which was often not something he wanted to do, in order to follow orders and protect all the others in his care. I am sure it was this thinking that came to the surface for my Dad when I became pregnant out of wedlock ; I was already a single mom to a five yr old, four years after my husband divorced me to be with my best friend. I am sure my Dad worried my life would be terribly hard, though he and I never spoke about how difficult it would have been for me had I made any other choice.
Although Dad came home after the war to start a new life and family, his wounds never totally healed. Many of them were buried, deep in his heart, alongside the friends he lost during the war. He had killed people, and seen friends be killed, his best friend hit by mortar just feet from his side. There is no healing balm for that, save the Oil of Gilead, straight from the heart of God himself, and I pray that my Dad finally found that healing and peace when he came face to face with his maker. He deserved it, having silently carried those hurts for a lifetime, all the while providing for his family and walking out a good christian life here on earth, always mindful of the ones who never made it home.
Perhaps that is why, when I first met the women of the crisis pregnancy center where I was to volunteer, I broke down in tears when I got back to my car. I knew that I was among women who had fought in the same war into which I had also been drafted, for no one knowingly signs up for this one. So many of us have had sex before marriage, but if we didn’t get pregnant, we could pretend that we hadn’t. Abortion took away much of the reason for shotgun marriages, but it left the decision heavily on the heart of the woman involved, who like my Dad in the war, had very little emotional preparation for such a life and death decision.
All the women at the center were touched in some way by the legacy of abortion; some spoke about it, many did not, but there was a silent camaraderie, no, that is not the correct word, it was more that we shared a sacred silent compassion in that room. I felt a sense of home, but also of purpose, that made me weep and thank God in gratefulness for all these women and for so many more.
There is hope for the victims of this war. Many people think only of the baby when they think of the victims, but they would be very wrong. There are parents and grandparents who may never be. There are uncles and aunts who may only be sisters and brothers. Mostly a mom and a dad, and possibly a brother or a sister, of one very special and particular child, who will never meet them this side of heaven.
There is accurate and factual information that can help a woman prepare for the decision only she can make. One of the deepest regrets of many is being told it was nothing but a blob of tissue, only to find out five or ten years later it was already a life with a heartbeat that could be seen on ultrasound only four weeks from conception. Resentment from not having been told the truth, prior to making this decision, is one of the worst things to get over and a hard thing to release. The woman is victimized all over again every time she relives that decision, as she will often over her childbearing years, perhaps her lifetime. God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness is both extremely necessary and also lavishly provided, when asked for personally by women in these tough situations.
At a crisis pregnancy center, there are other soldiers who can come alongside her, whatever her choice has been or will be, to help her with what is ahead. There are women who are themselves one or who have been close to one of these veterans, people who understand what she has been through and what she is feeling.
As for me, I am ever grateful God is allowing me to use all that He has shown and taught me to be aware of, so that I may encourage and uplift those very courageous souls who have sidelined their own lives, often against the will of those closest to them, to do the very difficult work of being mother, father, head of household and spiritual leader of the child they decided to have and to raise, with no guarantee of any help. To be there for the woman and families of the one who gave a child life, and yet surrendered it for adoption, in order to give it a better chance than the one she might be able to provide for it, to make sure she is encouraged and celebrated for her choice as well. And for the one who chose abortion, to surround her with the love of God and mercy of imperfect but loving others who welcome her to the ranks of other wounded warriors whom she may never before have met, and yet may sit next to her in church, and to share God’s amazing healing and His promises for her life and her future.
Different times and places, different ranks and titles, but as with all vets when they get together, a common bond that needs not even be spoken. You know what I know. You have seen the enemy face to face. And there, but for the grace of God, go all of us. Like my Dad, I live my life ever mindful of the ones who didn’t make it out as easily as I did, and the ones who didn’t make it out at all. If it were in my power, I would proudly present each woman who has been in this war with a Purple Heart, for we have all fought hard on the front lines of this battlefield, and we have all been wounded, in a place that may be impossible for most to see. I am so grateful that God’s own medal of honor, His son Jesus Christ, is always ready and waiting to heal all of our wounds, even and especially this one, once and forever when we ask Him to come into our broken heart.
Because unfortunately, this war is far from over.