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”