She Who Did Not Choose Life

This morning the sun is rising on a beautiful day. I see its golden rays just touching the trees in our backyard. Birds sing and crickets chirp around me as I sit on our porch, considering the beauty and peace of a new day of life. All the while, what I am writing about this morning stands in stark contrast to this day. It is dark and heavy and ugly, and it steals life from those who bear it. But stay with me until the end because just as the night was chased away by the rising of the sun this morning, so I pray will you find the night chased away in your soul as the light of the Son shines at the end of this post.

My heart wrenched this past week when I watched the videos of two different Planned Parenthood executives discuss the selling of fetus body parts. I was joined by millions of other Americans who watched in horror as the videos unfolded. Honestly, just the reality that these body parts are "recycled" and used at all is horrendous enough, whether or not someone pays for them. I think of our 15-week sonogram with my daughter. When my high-risk doctor placed the wand on my abdomen, the screen immediately lit up with her tiny body, kicking and moving in my womb. I watched those perfect little legs moving in motion like she was riding a bicycle, and I was undone with love. Then, I imagine that tiny body being ripped apart or suctioned out or whatever "non-crunchy" method might be used to dismember her, and I cannot go on. It makes me weak in the knees and sick to my stomach. My heart cannot bear the thought of such an end to life.

The argument for abortion lives and dies on the issue of when life begins. If you've come here today hoping to read yet another detailed argument for or against abortion, I will tell you this is not that place. Many others much smarter and more qualified than me have made the case for life beginning in the womb at conception. I come here with that presupposition. If you want to dig your heels in and argue that life magically begins at some obscure point at a certain week's gestation or at birth, I only ask you to consider this: what if you're wrong?

Our daughter, Alisa (A-lee-sa) Jane, is 24 weeks along in my womb. At 12-weeks gestation, we had an abnormal sonogram that led us to seek out further genetic testing, mainly to calm my momma nerves. Instead, we received the most devastating news to me (at the time), that she had screened positive for Down Syndrome. We processed our reality for weeks in private, grieving and aching and trying to understand how this could happen to us. But not once did we ever consider terminating this pregnancy. That is not my story, and I will not make it otherwise. I have not ever had an abortion, nor will I ever consider one.

However, when we decided to walk this journey publicly, there was a burden that weighed heavily upon me, a grief bound deep within my heart. At the time, I did not know how to broach the subject, to open my heart to address this "other side" of my journey that exists, mainly because I did not want to cause further hurt. You see, I am fully aware that not everyone has chosen life. I knew, even as I clicked "publish" on our pregnancy announcement blog post, that some women who read our story would only be reminded once again of their own stories, of the time when they did not choose life. I knew that some women would walk away from reading of my journey feeling ashamed and shackled to the horrific guilt that is their past. Not all of us can say we have never had abortions, and the number who have had abortions is actually much greater than any of us realizes.

So today, these words are for you. I pray these words will traverse that wall of seclusion where you have buried this, your deepest secret and shame. I hope my words might be an olive branch of peace and healing. Today, these words are for you, she who did not choose life.

I see some of your faces as I write this post. I know some of your stories, for you have shared them with me personally. I also know that some of you have never told another soul what you did. I imagine your heart pounds in your chest as you read these words, and your breath is short and shallow.

Maybe your reason was that your baby was given a terminal or terrible diagnosis in the womb. The doctors said your child would be stillborn anyway or would not live long after birth if he or she survived at all. Maybe all you could see was a life of "special needs" and handicaps, and you did not think you could handle it or afford it. You believed that the merciful thing to do would actually be to spare this child a life of pain.

Maybe you found yourself young and unmarried and feeling incapable of raising a child. You were wild and fully embracing your rebellious days, only to find yourself devastated by an unwanted and unexpected pregnancy. Your boyfriend pressured you to do it because he did not want that responsibility, or your parents pressured you because they could not imagine facing the social stigma of their child having a child out of wedlock. Or you were just terrified, and you did the only thing you knew to escape this mistake: you had an abortion.

Maybe you were raped by a stranger, a father, an uncle, a friend.

Maybe I pass you at church. We smile, we exchange casual words, and we move on, but you always feel like an outsider, thinking, "If they only knew!" You have your husband and your children now, and your life looks like everyone else's at church, but you know there is a secret you bear. Sometimes it gnaws at your heart and threatens to break out. You hear of Jesus' love and forgiveness, and you are a Christ follower, but for this one thing, you cannot move on. You cannot ever seem to shake the pain and regret of your choice. 

You have marked yourself with a scarlet "A" on your forehead, and though no one else can see it, it burns your skin and stings your eyes.

The reasons are many, and the stories abound, but whatever your story is, you find yourself counted as one "of them." You are her, she who did not choose life.

First, I want to say this: I am no hero or supermom for choosing life for Alisa. Doing the right thing does not make someone extra special or super brave. I have been washed over by fear and worry, just like any other mom who has faced this scenario. There have been days where grief has been my only companion, where darkness and desolation have defined my reality. The unknown can be a terrifying place, and if it were not for my faith in the Lord, I would be without hope at all. My days now are mostly marked by joy over Alisa's life, and I cannot wait to see her sweet face, to hold her tiny body, and to know her. Come what may, we rejoice in this life God has given. But you must know that any courage or joy I have does not find its natural starting place in my heart. It is from my God, who strengthens me. Only He gets the glory in all of this.

Second, I want to say this: I am no better than you. I have never had an abortion, but that does not mean I have never sinned. As the Bible reminds us, all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory (Rom. 3:23). Before the holy God, there are no degrees of sin. There are no stages of how close we can get to Him depending upon what we've done. Sin is sin, and it cannot abide in the presence of the Lord. You are either "in" or "out," and it is not based upon anything you can do. I do not boast in my own righteousness, for that is a farce. I only boast in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He is my righteousness. If He isn't already righteousness for you, He can be. That is your choice. I'd love to talk with you about it if you have no one else who can. 

I want to clarify one thing, though, because it is an issue we often skirt around in our culture so as to avoid sounding judgmental or harsh. We have done ourselves a great disservice in the process, weakening the power of God's grace and lessening the seriousness of our sins. That thing is this, that God does take sin seriously, and He does judge the wicked for their sins. Abortion is horrific, but so is every other sin we commit. If we do not in this life fall at the Lord's feet in godly grief and repentance over our sins, we will be judged for them in eternity. There really is no, "God is love and He accepts us all for who we are." Instead, the reality is that because God loves us, He will not leave us as we are.

Left on our own, we face a broken world where sin ravages and rips apart, and we face an eternity apart from God. That is the truth of the matter. But for Jesus, there is no hope for any of us. But there is Jesus, and He is our Hope (Rom. 6:23).

Today, I am compelled to write this out, not because it is my story, but because it could have been my story. Who is to say who I would be, apart from Christ? Had Jesus not radically saved me as a child, there is no telling what other sins I might have committed in my journey. Jesus changed my story. I write these words for you today in hopes that you, too, can let Him change your story. I pray you will let Him change your name. You, she who did not choose life, can become today she who chooses LIFE. No, you cannot undo what has been done, but you can embrace a new life for the future. You can be made new. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." These words are true, and I am a living testimony of this.

Many different women (and men) will read this post who can say, "I had an abortion," or "I encouraged an abortion." Or maybe you, like me, don't have abortion as your story, but your sins call out against you nonetheless. The need for today is that all of us call on the Name of the Lord Jesus for salvation. Some of you have never called upon God for salvation at all. Today is the day for your new life in Him to begin. 

If you are already a Christ follower, it might mean accepting forgiveness that He has already given. You have not lost the grace He has given, for the cross of Christ is sufficient, but you must deal with your past nonetheless. That is still a hard thing to do, forgiving ourselves and releasing the past.

My sister created this mug after she wrote a devotional on the Proverbs 31 woman. The verse highlighted on the mug is Proverbs 31:25: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come." I look at the woman painted on this mug, and I pray you will one day see your own face here. I pray these words can be said of you. What may seem impossible to you, based on your past choices, is possible with the Lord. To think that you, she who did not choose life, might be clothed in strength and dignity, may seem outlandish in your eyes. To think that you, she who is shackled by her past, might laugh at the time to come, might seem impossible to you. 

But if only you would let Him change you, if only you would embrace a new name, she who chooses life! The hope is there, and the promise is real. I pray for you this day, that you will allow the brokenness that is your life to drive you to find healing in the Lord, for the days of living in regret must come to an end. Along with calling on Him, it may mean telling your story to someone, be it a professional counselor, a mentor, a women's group you trust. The pregnancy center in our small town offers a program that helps women who have had abortions to find healing. I'll bet one near you offers something similar.

One of my most favorite verses is tucked away in the middle of the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah 30, the prophet is proclaiming God's Words to the rebellious people of Israel. They have rejected God as their King, and they have exchanged His glory for idols. In the midst of the reality of God's impending judgment on His people, though, He still calls for them to repent, for "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength" (Is. 30:15). But they continued to rebel, falling deeper and deeper into the filthy pit of sin.

Then, like the promise of morning in the middle of the darkest of nights, Isaiah writes these words: "Therefore, the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and He rises to show you compassion" (Is. 30:18). Can you see Him? Can you picture Him leaning on the edge of His throne, aching for us all only to call on Him? He longs to give us grace. He rises to show us compassion. And as the sun rises and brings a new day before me, so the Son of God has risen to bring new life to all who would believe and follow Him. Only call on Him, and chase the genuine life of a new creation in Christ!

He is Jesus, My Shepherd