Sunday, January 31, 2010

in which I speak frankly about my abortion

Let me begin by saying what I do not aim to do. I do not intend, or in any way desire to un-say the things that many of my well-loved and well-respected pro-life friends are saying. I affirm them. I also do not intend to encourage a softer stance on abortion "rights" (unless, of course, you support violence and angry rhetoric in defense of the cause), though my words may come across that way at times. What I do hope to do is to take the discussion in a somewhat different direction, tackle some difficult questions, explore why some of our arguments are ineffective, and by God's grace settle on the heart of the matter as well as what our heart toward women and their unborn infants should be.

Before I begin, I think it only fair to make it clear where I am coming from. I am a woman who became a Christian at the age of forty.  But I was raised in church and believed myself to be a Christian for most of my life. I have been opposed to abortion for as long as I knew such a thing existed. In college I wrote a paper defending the pro-life position which my instructor thought so exceptionally well written that he pulled me aside to compliment me on it. Then, at the age of twenty-two, during one of the darkest periods of my life, I found myself pregnant and had an abortion anyway.

Over these last few days, remembering my abortion, trying to sort out the story and decide how to most honestly and helpfully express it has left me horribly depressed - what a mess I was in those days, and what a dreadful miasma of confusion, fears, and considerations influenced my decision. You may think it doesn't matter, that a choice is a choice, that when it came down to it I made the wrong one, simple as that. But there was nothing simple about it. It was a decision shrouded in agony. And as a choice can never be divorced from its influences and motives, I want to address them.  What I don't intend to do is wash my hands of responsibility or blame others for what ultimately was my own doing. But, I want to bring some light to why all the pro-life arguments were not enough to keep me, when push came to shove, from aborting my own child all those years ago.

During my final year of high school I began attending Word of Faith and Pentecostal churches. I'd even gotten re-baptized. I met a young man from a family embedded in the world of TV evangelists. I fell in love. We spoke of marriage. I placed all my dreams in his hands. I thought I would die when, over a year later, he left me for another girl. The rejection I experienced from him and his family felt to my heart as if God Himself had turned His back on me. And I had some reasons for believing that. You see, in those days my own mother had fallen in with the Word of Faith people too. She'd been befriended by some super-spiritual folks who'd been in their faith for what seemed a long time to us. "FIVE years!" we would say with reverence when we spoke of one of her lady friends who'd converted from occultism to the Word of Faith brand of Pentecostalism. After my first date with this fellow, I had some concerns about him. He'd treated others unkindly in my presence and I wasn't sure what to make of it. I liked him, but his behavior wasn't what I considered Christian, and I wasn't sure if I should see him again. So my mom made a conference call, with two of her "spiritual" friends. They prayed, spoke in tongues, and finally spoke a prophecy over me which went along these lines: "This is God's will for you, Laurie. God is going to use you and **** to have a great ministry to the youth of America," etc, etc. And later, there were more "prophecies": "**** and Laurie are going to get married and the bridesmaids are going to wear gold llame dresses," etc.

So, the break-up seemed to me like a broken promise from God.  This was aggravated by the high esteem in which I held his family due to their prominence in certain religious circles, the lies I was told before and after the event by the young man and by his family, and by the fact that the "prophecies" came true with the woman he left me for. There is much more to the story, but this will do. I was in college then but was falling apart. I'd chosen that particular school to be near him and had spent all my free time with him, making almost no friends of my own. And there I found myself abandoned. I had no one to trust, not God, not the church, and, sadly, not even my own mother (though years later I would come to learn that she felt almost as confused and victimized as I did).

Little by little I drifted into a dark world of dating, drinking, drugs, and debauchery. In those days one of my favorite bands wrote a song with a refrain which became the secret refrain of my heart during those years:

"I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors,
but I think that God's got a sick sense of humor,
and when I die I expect to find Him laughing."

When I found out I was pregnant, the first emotion of my heart - the knee-jerk reaction of my soul - was joy. JOY! My heart lept with joy for about five minutes. Then my mind set to work and the fear set in. I did not know who the father was. I did not want to try to find out. How could I raise a child on my own, and how could I tell it I didn't know who its father was? A black cloud of dread enveloped me. I grew up thinking, for whatever reason, that what others thought of me was more important than just about anything. I could not live with the shame of what I had become, and I could not tell a soul - last of all my mother. She could not know this about me. Not only did I dread her disapproval, I feared that her friends would speak in tongues over me and talk about the devil. I also I didn't want her to know because she would tell me what to do, or worse, call a meeting of church people and try to stop me.

The shame was unbearable. I had to escape it and there was only one way I could do it. I'd made up my mind.

The doctor's office was cozy and plush. The receptionist was pleasant.  The stack of forms to initial and sign was about a half inch thick - mostly waivers, as far as I could tell (I only skimmed them), stating they could not be held liable if I committed suicide, or fell into depression, or suffered other mental illness, or if I suffered a horrible complication and could never have children in the future... or if I died.  I signed them all.

My husband, Paul, asked me the other day what it was like. "The people were nice when I got there," I told him. "It hurt more than you would think, but less than it could have. I saw a tube leading away from me and did not look at it again. When I was placed in the recovery cubicle - a dark little closet of a room - the niceness stopped. The pain was terrible, my heart ached, and the people no longer cared. They became impatient with me because I wasn't on my feet soon enough. I could hear them outside the door complaining about 'this one' taking too long to get out of there. They needed the room for the next one. I felt deceived yet again, and used." They were a business. I'd thought maybe they cared.

I dealt with my thoughts mainly by trying not to think them. But when I could not escape them, there were things I would tell myself to ease the guilt and pain of what I'd done. One was that since I'd had some bleeding during the few weeks of the pregnancy that there was probably something wrong and I would have lost it anyway. Another was that the baby was in heaven and was far better off than it would have been with me (something that to this day I'm still inclined to believe). Another was to vow never to let it happen again. God would understand and realize eventually how sorry I was and forgive me because He knew I'd never do it again.

And so, to put an end to my wild lifestyle, and to escape the guilt I felt every time I encountered my mother, I ran away just weeks later with a young man I'd been dating during that time. He was moving to another town and wanted me to go with him. I clung to him like a savior. We married, and three months later I found myself pregnant again. This time I could not look away. This was a child no different than the one before, but I welcomed it. I did not have to be ashamed of it, and so I welcomed it. One child got to live and the other one died and the only difference was me. What gave ME the right to make that decision? Nothing, absolutely nothing. I'd sacrificed my first child on the altar of my own pride. I had sinned against God. He is the only one with the power to give life, and the only one with the right to take it away. It was as simple as that. I was appalled; and I was terrified.

My understanding of God in those days consisted of a few different and often contradictory viewpoints existing side by side. Like cards in a deck, each showed a different picture but each was pulled from the same box. One card was called "cheap grace": really, in a pinch, I could do what I had to, even if it was a sin. I was a Christian (or so I thought, because I assented to the Apostles and Nicene Creeds) and so God was supposed to forgive me if I asked and was very, very sorry. Another card pictured God as a stern human parent who might be really angry when you did wrong, but over time would eventually calm down, and either get over it, or forget the whole thing.  Another revealed God as a trickster who will let you think you've been forgiven and that He's forgotten the matter but will bring it up again, when you least expect it, and get even with you. I'd collected each of these notions about God in different times and places and stored them together, drawing from them whenever life dealt me something difficult and unexpected.

When I found out I was pregnant again, I pulled the Trickster Card and was filled with dread. If God was going to take revenge, this would be the perfect opportunity. I was convinced that He would repay me for killing the child I didn't want by killing the child I did want. I spent well over a year living under that black cloud of impending doom. That child, who I thought God would kill, was a little girl, who is now twenty-one years old.  She has a brother two years younger. The Trickster Card was a lie. The devil is the trickster. God is a merciful God. I'd heard it before (that was one of the other cards in my deck), but it would be almost twenty more years before I would come to believe it with all my heart.

That's the story of my abortion.  Remembering the desperation, fear, and hardness of heart which led to it colors my perspective of the abortion issue.  I can understand the motivations; I can understand the limitations of argumentation when dealing with a woman in that situation.  Keeping all this in mind, I hope you'll bear with me as I put forward, bluntly, the objections she will likely have to some common arguments against abortion.  These are some of the means by which she will rationalize it....

When we suggest that the unborn child might grow up to be the next Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King Jr., or Mother Teresa, or Billy Graham, how do we respond when she replies, that it might also become a Hitler, a Stalin, a Pol Pot, a pedophile, a rapist, a murderer, a drug addict, an abortion provider, or a woman who herself gets an abortion?

When we propose adoption as an option, saying that the child would be wanted, loved, and well-provided for, can we really guarantee her that? What argument do we have that can trump her belief that the child would be better off either with God in heaven or just never being born, than alive in this pain-soaked planet? How do we address the truth that an aborted child, after a single brief moment of suffering, will know pain no more and indeed will likely spend eternity with God, while nearly every child who lives to see the sun will more likely than not in its lifetime experience far more pain, in a far more sentient state, than any child who is aborted, only (unless they come to faith in Christ) to die in sin and face eternal darkness? The longing for death is a desire familiar to nearly every suffering soul. Who, in the darkness of the depths of grief or sorrow hasn't wished they'd never been born? When even inspired writers of Scripture are known to exclaim that it is better to have died in the womb than to experience the anguish of living*, how are we to contend that unwanted fetuses should not be destroyed, and spared the pain of life and the risk of eternal damnation?

Beyond this, we need to be also prepared to deal honestly with those who will bring up a rather uncomfortable truth found in Scripture: that God at times, during the time of the Old Testament, actually commanded the killing of infants and pregnant women.** I've not heard this used as a justification for abortion per se. But I have heard it used to label Christians as hypocritical in their defense of the unborn, and to label our God as schizophrenic. We cannot bury our head in the sand and pretend these historical events are not recorded in our Bibles. If the God of the Bible is our God, we have to own these truths. We have to be able to accept the right of God over life and death and carefully distinguish it from our own.  And this brings me back to the point - the truth that glared at me the day I learned I was pregnant the second time - that even though there are things God Himself views as more important than the protection of children in the womb, it is God alone who decides what those are, and God alone who has the right to decide who lives and who dies. Hear the words of David as he repented of adultery and the murder of an upright man:

"For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight."
(Ps. 51:3-4, emphasis mine)

The truth is, all of these arguments are valid. If we really believe that infants who die go directly into the arms of God, then many of our common arguments based upon sympathy for precious little babies will not hold water. And, truth be told, these arguments are not even the point.  Often they are little more than rationalizations meant to soothe the conscience and ease the emotional pain of ones whose minds are already made up. And if a mind is made up, a heart hardened, all the arguments in the world, and all the posters of mangled babies are not going to help.

If we are Christians, then our first priority must be the saving of souls. When a pregnant woman walks into an abortion clinic, whose soul would you say is in the greatest danger? Given the hardness of heart it takes to do such a thing and the fact that Scripture tells us that no murderer inherits the kingdom of heaven, it would seem to me that our hearts should be breaking for the woman at least as much as for the child. Speaking as one who's been there I can say, this is seldom how our anti-abortion efforts come across. Never did I have the sense that there were people out there, broken-hearted for me. Do we only care about cute little babies? What about when those cute little babies grow up into girls as messed up as I was? When I walked into that abortion clinic, unlike my baby, I was for all intents and purposes on my way to hell. I needed to be rescued. I needed a Savior. I needed to know that God is good, and kind, and merciful. I needed to know that Christ bore all my guilt and shame on the cross, and that He really did that for people as bad as me - especially for people as bad as me. I needed to know that every Christian is a sinner as wretched as myself and that every one of them is saved only because of God's mercy, not because they are in some way better than me. I needed to know all these things, I needed to learn them in the only way anyone can:  through the faces, the actions, and the words of His people.

So, as someone who's been there I plead with you not to give up the fight, but to pull your eyes for a moment away from the pregnant bellies and look into the lost eyes of the women.  Each one was once an unborn child herself. Each one is in more desperate need of rescue now than she was then.



*Ecc. 4:1-3;; Ecc. 6:3; Job 3:11-19Job 10:18-19; Job 14:1

**Deut. 2:33-34; 3:6; 7:1-2; Josh 5:16-21; 7:12; 8:24-26; 10:28, 36-39

24 comments:

Karin said...

What courage it takes to be so open about your own life's choices. In the prayer group I attend it has always been that we pray for the young women who are contemplating abortion. We knew that the heart that could allow this must indeed be desperate, despondent, utterly confused,and full of fear and many other emotions. We believe that the infant will be with Jesus, but this mom will have to face the consequences of her decisions and they will affect her the rest of her life. I'm so grateful for a merciful God even though many of His people aren't.

This is a powerful post which I trust will be helpful for many. God bless you and keep you in His care.
Hugs,
Karin

David Porter said...

Laurie,

I applaud your courage, and openness to speak of such a personal part of your life.

In an odd sort of way, I understand your pain as I helped finance an abortion many, many years ago for someone outside of my immediate household.

At the time, I didn't give it much thought, but now that Great Bastard Satan likes to bring it up continually.

I suppose that is a great part of my open opposition to such things.

You do bring up a very good point, and certainly no one is in a better position to make the point than you.

Thank you for teaching me this lesson, and I stand amazed at Yahweh's great love for you.

Little did you know back then, while swimming in pain/fear, that God would open your eyes, and hold you firmly in the palm of his hand.

I was crying as I read your story. Both from observing the pain that you experienced, but most of all for the great God we serve who has rescued you.

You are a greatly loved sister, and I am pleased that God has crossed your path with mine.

Scott said...

Thank you, this is very, very helpful. May God's wonderful grace abound to you in Christ Jesus.

Laurie M. said...

This was a difficult post to write, and a long time in the contemplation. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

That's Life said...

It is the most moving post I have ever read.

You are a picture of God's tender mercies and amazing grace, dear Laurie.

May your bruised heart and restored life and your solid hope in Jesus be read by many. May your strong, strong reasonings be heeded.

Lisa notes... said...

I join with the others, Laurie, and thank you for your courage and honesty. You probably will never know (on this side of heaven anyway) how much good can be done with this post. I'm confident the Lord will use it for his glory to minister to so many people. Including me.

Blessings,
Lisa

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Jessica Watson said...

laurie, I am so glad I read this. There was so much wisdom and insight in this article that only you, with your experience could share, as painful as that experience was for you. May God give us the grace to have compassion on the lost mothers who need their souls rescued, not just their babies.

This Sunday, as my pastor was preaching through Colossians 3, he made it very clear that sometimes we tell ourselves and other people not to sin, because of the consequences, because sin could harm them or harm others. While that is partly true, the real reason we need to put off sin, is because sin is at odds with God. This seems to be the same thing you are trying to get across.

Laurie M. said...

Jess,

That is my underlying point exactly.

David, in his attempt to cover shame and guilt, became responsible for the death of the very same fine and upright man he had sinned against. As a result, God took the life of a child (which, as I said, only God has the right to do). And after all this, after bringing about the suffering of Bathsheba, Uriah, and the infant, he had this to say to God: "For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, YOU ONLY, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight."
(Ps. 51:3-4)

barrywallace said...

Laurie, I can't even imagine how hard this post was for you to write, but I also can't tell you how thankful I am that you did. You are a precious friends and sister.

Laurie M. said...

Jess, by the way, I've amended the above post in response to your comment, and hopefully to put a finer point on it. Thanks so much for your input.

WhiteStone said...

Laurie, I'm a bit late reading..just arrived home from two trips elsewhere. Powerful reading. And I will read it again.
I sure do wish you lived next door...oh, my, we would have a good time studying God's love together over the kitchen table.

Laurie M. said...

Judy, some day we're bound to find ourselves across a kitchen table, or some kind of table anyway, from each other. I pray it's so.

Betsy Markman said...

Wow, this is powerful and thought-provoking. Thank you for your openness.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this! I have to live with the fact that I have had two abortions only a year or so apart about 20 years ago now. The guilt would eat me alive if it weren't for my dear Savior. I too was saved later in life, and I too have spent an entire lifetime obsessing about what other people think of me and wether or not I was pleasing everyone. I've also worried a lot about being a bother to people, being a burden. It is SO hard for me to rest in Christ and to feel no condemnation (for the abortions and for lots of other wretched things) but I KNOW that this total rest is what God has for me someday. I feel it, and I can almost reach out and touch it if only for a moment here and there. I love that you talked so frankly about the heart and soul of the woman - she matters too! She is me and you and MILLIONS of others. Thank you so much.

C.L. Dyck said...

You and me both, sister. I was in secular shoes at the time, but so many things about this are so familiar to me.

http://scitascienda.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/nothing-great-comes-without-toil/

Quixote has a 4-part post series rebutting the "hypocritical to defend the sanctity of life" thing.

http://www.marcschooley.com/blog/?p=276

Jenny said...

That was really good and I've thought of many of those arguments over the years. I have always been pro-life but only on the ground that I believe we don't have the right as humans to take life. The years that I was a foster parent made me really consider how horrible many children's lives are and how I'm unsatisfied with "saving their lives" if that just means that they live a life of earthly hell.

It's really hard for me to draw those lines. Make sense?

Jenny

Laurie M. said...

Yes, Jenny, it makes sense, and it is really hard. Ultimately it comes down to who we belong to. As Christians we believe we are not our own and what we do with our bodies and the lives of others really does matter to God. It also matters so much to help people understand that God cares for us and is kind. He does not just care for the unborn, but for the already born.

Denise said...

Laurie,

I, too, chose the path of abortion to put what I thought would be an end to my "problem". Today, as a believer in the God of mercy and grace that has rescued me from my sin , I am still weeping at my kitchen table over the memory of that horrible day 16 1/2 years ago, and the memory of the broken and confused girl that I was. God has blessed me with 3 beautiful children and a 15 year marriage to a loving husband, in spite of everything and I am grateful. But I know, as you do, that those girls and women who find themselves lost and desperate, need Christ's love, too. I am so hopeful that He will afford both of us the opportunity to share that love many times over during our time here on earth. Thank you for sharing your heart. I'm so glad to have found your blog today.

christov10 said...

Hi Laurie,

I don't know how I missed this a year ago. Thank you for posting it. At a dark point in my life I was about to be party to an abortion when the young woman's pregnancy ended in an early and spontaneous miscarriage. God is merciful and good.

Peace to you.

Laurie M. said...

Denise, God is kinder to us than I ever dreamed. If I'd believed that I would not have made the choice that I did. Thank you for stopping by and taking a moment to comment.


Yes, Christov, He is merciful! Thanks for sharing your experience. It's certainly not just a female issue.

couragetotremble said...

Useful perspective on this subject and insightful. Thanks Laurie.
-n-

http://www.joyfilleddays.com said...

Thank you for sharing this testimony. It is one of the best pieces about abortion I have read. God's grace IS evident in your life and I am thankful that you shared your heart. <3
With love,
Sarah Beals

Elizabeth Johnson said...

Followed a friend's link over here... thank you for having the courage to share this! Thought-provoking, for sure.