We Are More Than the Choices We’ve Made

All of us — no matter what our wrong choices may be — need to remember:

We are more than those choices.

Our wrong choices, failures and sins do not define us nor do they have to hold us captive.

In Christ — and because of what He has done for us — we are sons and daughters of God.

Please listen… and watch You Are More by Tenth Avenue North.   

The Secret Pain

Mother’s Day.  Father’s Day.  Grandparent’s Day.  Life Sunday.  These are not happy events for those wounded by abortion.  These days intended to celebrate life can, instead, be a reminder of lives lost and relationships denied.

For 40 years, abortion has been the subject of heated debate.  But for millions of American women, and for the men, grandparents, siblings, and friends in the life of those women, abortion is not a debate.  It is a loss.  It is the loss of a son, daughter, grandchild.  That’s because motherhood and fatherhood – and, yes, grandparenthood – begin at conception.

Many of us know someone who has lost a child through miscarriage.  We grieve with them, offer the peace of Jesus Christ, and entrust the precious little one to God.  But abortion is different.  It is a secret pain.  It is a loss that is carried deep inside and alone.

The great loss of life should pierce the heart of every one of us.  The numbers are staggering.  More than 3,000 women have abortions in this country every day.  These women are in our families, congregations, and circles of friends.  They are Christians who worship with us and go to Bible study with us.  I know some of these women.  At last count, 24 of my friends, relatives or acquaintances have had abortions.  Eighteen of these women are Lutheran.  Three are the wives of pastors.  At least three have had more than one abortion.  These are just the ones who have told me.

Abortion has created a new mission field for the church.  There is a need to enter this mission field – but first, we must understand that we will almost certainly encourager denial, anger, self-hatred, distrust, grief, remorse, and the natural, but perhaps deeply buried desire for reconciliation with the Giver of Life.

For those in denial, our message must gently convict.  For those already convicted, our message must offer hope as our arms are open wide.  Just as we have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, we have been given a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

When I became a grandmother for the first time, I realized that holding my grandchild is surprisingly different than holding my own children.  Each gaze upon the child of my child is a generational moment.  The room of my heart excitedly receives this little one.  The room of my life rearranges itself.

Often, when I am holding my grandchild, I think of the thousands of other women of my generation whose arms will never hold a grandchild.  Their arms will never hold the child of their child.  That’s because pregnant women believed the lie: “Make this one sacrifice and those a better time to be a mother.”  Although the room of their hearts may have whispered a word of welcome, the room of their lives did not.

Because these women either did not hear or did not trust God’s promise, the world took their every thought and desire captive.  Tossed in a tumultuous sea, these women reached toward “salvation” in the guise of a “quick and painless” abortion.

But the desperate and demeaning act goes against all that is maternal and natural.  Sent away from the abortion clinic, women are abandoned to burdens of guilt, grief, and anger that threaten to pull them into cold and lonely darkness… away from the Giver of Life.

So, how do you and I respond?

Some say, “How could a woman do such a thing?”  This statement is not intended to be cruel, but it is heard as a judgment.

Others, hoping to be less judgmental, say, “I would never have an abortion myself, but I believe every woman should have the right to choose.”  This statement sounds compassionate, but to the woman who has had an abortion, it sounds like a comparison: “Abortion is wrong and because I am a good person I wouldn’t do such a terrible thing, but women who are incapable of doing the right thing should have a choice.”

Both statements are condemning.  Neither offer hope before or after an abortion.

There is a third response: Trying to imitate Jesus.  Because He loves us so much, Jesus left heaven to come live among us.  To be human.  To experience our fears, disappointments, and sorrow.  Jesus took on our disgrace.  Our burdens.  Our sin.  Only by living under the Cross are we able to see those hurt by sin (including ourselves) in a new way.

Days on which we celebrate life are meant to be happy days, but for many they are not.  In the heart of nearly every post-abortive woman is an empty place that is forever expectant and waiting.  Although she may have believed the lie that there was no room, a cry of sorrow echoes in the room that was always there… waiting.

We cannot go back in time to erase years of legalized abortion nor the effect on women, men, children, and society.  Mothers who once believed there was no room in their lives for a baby now mourn the child whose heart beat so close beneath their own.  Fathers who once believed there was no room in their life for a baby are now angry at themselves for failing to protect their son or daughter.  Grandparents who once believed there was no room in their lives for a grandchild now dream of little ones that would have filled the rooms of their homes with laughter.

Sometimes, when I am holding my grandchild, my thoughts turn to Mary.  She approached me after I finished speaking to a group of Lutheran women.  She wanted my address.  In the letters that followed, she confessed two abortions.  “There has been so much pain in my heart,” Mary wrote.  “I could understand how God could forgive a murderer, but not someone who has killed their own child.”

This pain and the belief that she had committed the sin “too big to be forgiven” held Mary captive.  But, “the reason I want to tell you my story,” Mary continued, “is to thank you!  If, years earlier, I had heart the words of compassion and forgiveness that I heard from you, I would not have had a second abortion.  I would have been reconciled to God and turned my life around a lot earlier instead of wallowing in the muck of sin and accusation.”

A Word of Hope

“Marys” are everywhere… and they are waiting.  They are silently waiting for a word of hope.  Their broken hearts long to be healed.  God has given us His Word to speak in love.  To be sure, the Word of Truth presses hard on the source of pain.

When I kept silent,” wrote the psalmist, “my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5.

There is hope for women and men who have been pierced by abortion’s blade.  It is Jesus!  In Jesus, all who confess their sin are cleansed and forgiven (1 Timothy 1:15).  In Jesus, the captive is set free (Galatians 5:1).

Jesus fills the empty and expectant rooms of hearts… and heals the secret pain.

(Linda Bartlett, First published in The Lutheran Witness 5/2003)

Grandparents and Abortion

I remember the Sunday when my pastor told our congregation about Katie, his daughter.  Katie was not married, but she was pregnant.  That, said pastor, made him a grandfather.  He confessed that the circumstances were not what God intended; nevertheless, he and his family promised to give Katie all the support she needed.  The promise was kept.

Katie’s son — my godson — knows the love of both mother and grandparents.  Katie took the vocation of motherhood seriously.  She put her son’s needs before her own, yet still managed to graduate from college and became a teacher.  Katie’s mom often traveled three hours one way in order to offer support to her daughter and grandson.  When I think of my godson, I am reminded of young Timothy who was nurtured in faith by Eunice and Lois, his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5).  Life was not easy for this family.  Adjustments were made.  But, as my godson prepares to graduate from high school, I know he has brought great joy to his mother and grandparents.

Two other young woman in my congregation became pregnant, but were not married.  Their families were hurt and disappointed.  There were tears and long discussions late into the night.  But, the parents of these girls knew that their daughters were entrusted by God with the precious gift of new  life.  More important than convenience or neighborhood gossip was the protection of those lives.

Like Katie, both of these young, unmarried mothers confessed and were forgiven of their sins.  They heard the tender words of Jesus Christ: “Come to Me and I will wash you white as snow.”  They knew the unconditional love of parents who saw a future of hope for their grandchildren.

We live in a sin-filled world.  We doubt God’s Word.  We let our selfish desires and fears influence our thinking and behavior.  And, yes… there are consequences for every choice we make.

But Jesus, who gave everything He had for us, wants to bring us out of darkness into light and away from despair to hope.  This is what parents do when they unconditionally love their unmarried but pregnant daughter; when they unconditionally love their son who has fathered a child but is not married to that child’s mother.  This is what grandparents do when they welcome their grandchildren – no matter what the circumstances of their conception.

Some grandparents fear their grandchildren.  They see them as “inconvenient.”  They may say, “Our daughter has college and her future to think about.”  Or, “Our son is too young to be a father.”  Failing to trust God, they take their daughters to Planned Parenthood for a “quick and easy fix” or give their sons money to abort their grandchild.  We pray for these grandparents – that they will recognize their sin, confess their lack of faith, and ask for forgiveness from daughters or sons.

Many grandparents would have welcomed their “too soon” or “unplanned” grandchildren, but they were never given the opportunity.  They mourn in silence.  God understands the heaviness of these grandparents’ hearts.  He wants them to entrust the grandchildren they never knew to His care.  He wants them to forgive daughters and sons.  In Christ, there is forgiveness and healing for abortion just as there is for every other sin.

A grandparent is a grandparent even of a dead child.  For those grandparents who feared their grandchildren because they might be an “inconvenience,” there is hope in Jesus Christ.  A grandparent may forget that a “fetus” (Latin: “young one”) is created and redeemed by God, but God does not forget a grandparent.  A grandparent may mourn the grandchild they will never hold, but God comforts the brokenhearted.

God, in His mercy and grace, is faithful.

The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and his righteousness to children’s children . . . (Psalm 103:7 ESV).

Grandparents who love life make a difference for generations to come.

We will tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord . . . and the wonders that He has done . . . We will teach our children so that the next generation might know . . . yes, even children yet unborn (Psalm 78:2-8 ESV).

Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord (Psalm 103:18 ESV).

I Will Take Your Sin

Abby Johnson left her position as a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas because she couldn’t hurt women anymore.  She has documented many of her experiences in the abortion industry.  Recently, Abby shared a story every Christian needs to hear.

A woman, visibly upset, walked into the clinic.  Abby counseled her.  Then suggested she go home to think about her decision.  “She was insistent,” Abby remembers.  “This abortion must happen today.”  She asked if Abby would hold her hand during the procedure.

Sedation was given, but  the woman “cried even harder.”  She “was shaking” when the abortionist walked in the room.  “He did something,” Abby said, “that left me speechless.”  The doctor walked over to the woman and took her hand.  Abby recounts the conversation that followed.

“Why the tears?” he asked.

“I just feel really guilty about doing this,” the woman responded.

He asked her why she felt guilty.  She said, “Because I just know this is a sin.”  He paused for a minute and looked at her.  He smiled and said, “No.  It is not your sin.  It is mine.  I will take on your sin.  I commit the sin.  Not you.”

Her crying stopped.  “It was bizarre,” remembers Abby.  “Did he really think he was committing a sin?  How could he do it if he really thought that?  Did he think he was taking on the sins of these women by helping them obtain abortions?  What a heavy burden to bear.  It was hard for me to process . . . it still is.”

Abby carried her own burden while working at Planned Parenthood.  She remembers thinking that “if I died while I worked there, I would probably go to hell . . . I was so unsure of who God was or what His ‘will’ actually meant . . . I was completely misdirected.”

As compassionate as the abortionist in Abby’s story sounds, he, too, was misdirected.  None of us can be a scapegoat for another’s sin.  No other person can be a scapegoat for our sin.  There is only one Scapegoat.  He is Jesus Christ.

Abby needed Jesus Christ.  She is the mother of two aborted children.  Her abortionist was guilty, but so was she.  Abby has repented.  Laid her sins at the foot of the Savior’s Cross.  But, what about the church?  Some Christians, observes Abby, say, “Shame on the abortionist.”  Others say, “Shame on the women who have abortions.”  But, “you know what?  Shame on us!”

I remember when I first became involved in Lutherans For Life.  I read about Dr. Bernard Nathanson who co-founded the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).  He explained how important it was for Christian churches to stay silent on the issue of abortion.  On the speaking trail, I remember how often I heard Lutheran parents, grandparents, and congregational leaders defend abortion.  At last count, 25 of my friends, relatives or acquaintances have shared their abortion decisions with me.  All are Christian.  Many attend regular Bible study or sing in the choir.  Some are wives of pastors.

Abby says, “Shame on us.”  I guess I’ve been saying something similar for many years.  Lutheran women’s groups serve in countless mission fields, but forget the mission field of mothers who aborted their children.  Congregations offer every possible support group from drug abuse to divorce; from weight loss to grief counseling.  But, the grief suffered after abortion — by the one who performed the procedure and the one who chose the procedure — is ignored.  The church is silent.  In our minds, we justify.  Rationalize.  Excuse.

Satan wants us to remain silent.  “It’s none of your business,” he whispers.  “Besides, does God really say that abortion is so wrong… considering the circumstances?”  But, Jesus stands with His arms outstretched to block the way.  “Don’t do this thing and sin against God!”  After the abortion, He remains close to both the abortionist and the mother who aborted her child.  His arms are open and welcoming.  “Come to Me and I will forgive the guilt of your sin.”  Jesus Christ invites – compels – His church to do the same.  He wants us to speak up.  Warn.  If the deed is already done, He compels us to speak again.  Expose sin.  Help the sinner to confess and then approach His throne of mercy and grace.  To do nothing… to remain silent… is to participate in deception.  Share the sin.  Perpetuate the horror.

When I am restless… anxious… and burdened by guilt, I must look to no one but Christ.  My doctor, pastor, or husband cannot take on my sin.  But, “I will take your sin,” says Jesus.  No matter what we have done (or failed to do);  no matter if we’ve chosen, performed, or defended an abortion, we need to acknowledge our sin.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).  With His forgiveness, Christ sets us free to move outward into the lives of others – with hope.

Grace Kern, director of  Word of Hope, visits daily with women who’ve been held prisoner to lies and excuses.  Grace does not take on the sins of these women, but she tells them of Jesus who took on the sins of the world. Throughout the year, I meet with women in the church who’ve been held prisoner to lies and excuses.  I do not take on the sins of these women, but tell them of Jesus who sacrificed – once and for all.

O Lord, bring us all out of prison, that we may give thanks to Your name (Psalm 142:7).

Call Grace Kern at Word of Hope (888) 217-8679
First printed in LifeDate

 

A Daughter Learns of Her Mother’s Abortion… and the Lord’s Mercies for Generations

The phone rang.  It was Lauren, the daughter of my friend Jane.  “I realize I’m calling you out of the blue, but I wanted you to know that my mom told me.”  There was a pause, then, “She said you would understand.”

I did.  I knew immediately that Jane, after thirty-some years, had decided to confess her abortion to her only living child.

Did Jane have to confess this sin to Lauren?  No.  Did mother risk a changed relationship with her daughter?  Yes.  But, as Lauren talked with me, I sensed she was genuinely relieved to know the truth.  “Suddenly everything makes more sense,” Lauren said.  “Certain attitudes and behaviors of my mom now have new meaning to me.”

Lauren continued, “I often wondered why mom seemed, well, heavy with life”.

“Do you mean melancholy?” I asked.

“Yes,” Lauren replied.  “That’s it.  Melancholy.  And, you know, she doesn’t really want to discuss the tough things out there in the world.”

Lauren explained that birthdays “have often been difficult for my mom.”  There was something else.  “Mom apologized a lot,” Lauren said, “as if she didn’t think she was a good mom.  That made no sense to me because she is a good mom.”

Lauren continued. “She’s a good grandmother, too.  She gives an extraordinary amount of herself — her time and energy — to my children.”  Lauren was expressing what I knew to be true.  My friend provides daycare for her two grandchildren certain days of the week.  It’s tiring for her, but she tells me over and over again how privileged she feels to be a grandmother and how precious the time is with her grandchildren.  This is not unusual for most of us grandmothers.  Lauren agreed, but added that now she sees her mother’s relationship with her grandchildren “in a new light.”

It does not surprise me that it took so long for Jane to confide in Lauren.  It took many years for Jane to tell me her story in bits and pieces.  Only as she learned to trust me did Jane share details of the choices that made abortion thinkable.  But, telling her daughter was different.  Jane was afraid.  The harmony with her daughter mattered too much.  She did not want to lose it.

The phone call from Lauren to me was significant.  It was evidence of God’s work.  He had been strengthening the bond between this mother and child.

“We had our difficult days when I was in high school,” Lauren told me.  She assumed it was the usual stress between moms and daughters made more challenging by single motherhood.  “But, you know what?  I’ve always known the blessing of two parents who love me.”

Lauren supposed that her mother tended to be melancholy about life, in large part, because of the divorce.  But, with Lauren’s knowledge of the abortion came new understanding and opportunity to process certain memories and experiences.  It seemed that Lauren was responding to the surprise of her mother’s abortion in much the same way I had.  Neither of us turned away from Jane.  Instead, the Holy Spirit cultivated a greater love.

Listening to Lauren, I wondered.  With her carefully guarded secret now exposed, would Jane’s energy be better used?  In knowing her mother’s restlessness, doubt, and unfaithfulness in marriage before the decision of abortion, would Lauren better avoid temptations?

“My marriage is a struggle,” Lauren told me.  “I was nearly tempted away from my husband.”  But, her mother recognized the signs.

Oh, what a difference is made when one generation mentors another!  When a mother is not afraid to act her age or revisit the mistakes of her past, she becomes an invaluable teacher.  She can steer the younger woman away from foolishness and despair.   Jane identified her daughter’s marital frustration and impatience.  She knew the consequences of doubting God and determining for herself the way life ought to be.  She had searched for a more preferable love.  She allowed herself to be wooed by another man.  And, to “fix” the resulting “problem,” she scheduled an abortion.

Jane knows the generational effects of her abortion.  That decision influenced the way she sees her own mother.  Her daughter.  Her grandchildren.

I’m sure that, on occasion, Lauren will ponder her mother’s seemingly strange apologies, but she will also know wisdom gained through her mother’s experience.  There is every reason to believe that, from now on, both mother and daughter can bear witness to one another of the divine order and amazing grace of their heavenly Father.  In this, there is hope for generations to come.

Lauren was at ease during our phone conversation.  She had only one question.  “Did the abortion happen before or after me?”

“It was after you were born,” I told her.  “But, please believe me when I say that the decision had nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with you.  Your mother loved you before you were born and she loves you now.  One of her greatest fears, I think, was that she could never be the kind of mother to you that her mother was to her.  The love, however, that your mom has always had for you is as real as the love God has for you both.”

Lauren had not shed a tear to this point, but now she gave way to emotion.  Between sobs, she whispered, “Thank you.  I needed to hear that.”

Can a daughter find comfort in her mother’s failures?  I believe so.  It was helpful for Lauren to realize that her mother had struggled with a marital frustration and impatience similar to her own.  It was instructive for Lauren to know that doubting God and putting ourselves in His place leads to danger.  It was protective of Lauren when her mother chose to remember the sins of her past.  When she did not resist using lessons learned the hard way, mother was equipped to lead daughter and grandchildren away from harm.

Lauren has been granted a new perspective… one that will serve her family well.  But, just as time was needed for Jane to trust me – little by little – with her story, time was also needed for mother to trust daughter.  Jane and I talk often about God’s faithfulness in her life.  I believe it is that faithfulness on the rocky road of life that nurtured trust between mother and daughter.

A long time ago, Jane gave me permission to share her story with women wherever I speak.  “I can’t tell my story,” Jane said to me.  “But you can.  So, please.  Tell young women not to do what I did.  And tell older women that Jesus loves them no matter what the sins of their past might be.  The forgiveness of Jesus is real.”

I have done what my friend asked.  And, in doing so, many women have approached me privately with confessions of their own.  Christian women in every family and congregation are carrying heavy burdens of disappointment and guilt.  They see the Cross.  They know what Jesus did for them.  They may even trust His forgiveness.  But, like Jane, they are unable or unwilling to forgive themselves.

It is my prayer that Lauren will help her mother forgive herself.  God is the God of relationships… and of the healing that comes through tenderheartedness.  He uses parents and children, friends and even strangers to bring us closer to Him.

Perhaps this Christmas will bear a gift never before found under my friend’s tree.  As Jane looks into the eyes of her daughter and grandchildren, may she find confidence in her confession of Christ.  Confidence that emboldens her to proclaim:

He who is mighty has done great things for me.  Holy is His name.  His mercy is for those who trust Him… from generation to generation.

For the first part of this story,
see “Jane’s Story”