When a life lies in ruin, is there hope for renewal?
Ruin and Renewal
The sun was covered in thick dark clouds. God was frowning on me and I knew that I was deserving of this holy disapproval. All light was eclipsed by grief, there was only ruin. Though I tried to hide the darkness, to feign light, to numb the pain, there was no hope. My sin was unimaginable, unforgivable, unbearable.
I was a 16 years old in 1974, one year after the Supreme Court handed down its Roe vs.Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand. Our nation’s highest court ruled that a state law banning abortion was unconstitutional. The culture of death began its triumphant annihilation against our most vulnerable. Little did I know that I would become a participant in that death march.
As an insecure and unwise little girl, I sought to fill the empty god-shaped void in my life with what I believed was the love of a boy. I became pregnant, and lost for answers…a life in ruin.
My parents took me to a respected Christian counselor who they believed would give us wise biblical answers but he did not. He presented the choice of abortion simply as another one of the bad solutions to this “problem”. All my options, he said, were wrong. I do not remember if I even knew what abortion really was before that day and I certainly had not fully comprehended the reality of what he was suggesting. Like so many people in our current culture, the father of the baby, my parents and I did not allow ourselves to consider the nature or the source of what was growing within my young womb. Life, but not just any life, human life, made in the very image of God was unfolding and all we considered was what we perceived to be best or most comfortable for my proud family and for me. Little did I know, that I would be making the most devastating decision of my life. I took the life of my own child, a person created in the image of God.
The ten years that followed were marked by denial and the numbing of pain. I learned to stuff my sadness, shame and guilt: I thought I could fix it with moral living and a facade of holiness, an appearance of righteousness. Most would say that I wore the mask well.
But by God’s mercy, I undeservedly married a selflessly loving Christian man who helped me realize the effect my abortion was having on my life. When at 26 I was pregnant with our first child, the game was over and the tsunami hit. What is called Post Abortion Trauma, is real. My life felt to be in ruin and I saw only hopelessness. A dark cloud settled in my heart; it veiled all of life for me, it shaped my perception of reality. Nightmares and horrifying images involving children tormented me and spoke to me of my guilt and shame. The enemy snatched the joy that a mother should experience when she is carrying and giving birth to a child. I felt unworthy of the blessings of motherhood. I had knowingly done the most unnatural, heinous harm to my own child, for completely self-centered reasons. I had considered my comfort and reputation as more important than the life of another person, but this other was completely and vulnerably dependent on me and had no choice.
For the next few years, every complication, every illness, every difficulty was my fault. I was coming to grips with the gravity of what I had done to my first child. I was undone. Why would I be any different to other children God would give me? The baby I aborted was a person, the gestational age was irrelevant. He or she was a human being made in God’s image, a reflection of the Creator.
Then, God placed in our lives wise, mature friends who guided us to biblical teaching. My husband, Ray and I began to truly grow in our knowledge of God and of the complete work of Christ on our behalf. We began to learn that being a Christian is not about what we do to earn God’s pleasure it is all about what Christ has done for us in His life, death and resurrection. For the first time we read the Bible as a narrative about a Redeemer, a Rescuer, One who renews and puts together what is broken by sin. We learned that the Bible is not a guidebook for holy living. Passages like Isaiah 53: 4-6 sang to me of the One who took all my sin, He bore it all on the cross.
“4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Coming to believe in the Stricken One who took on all our transgressions and gave us peace, believing in the completed work of Christ meant that I was clean, redeemed and forgiven completely. In place of my ruin He brought renewal.
The healing process was beginning and God used many people and organizations to help me believe in Christ’ work of forgiveness and redemption.
The Waco Crisis Pregnancy Center (now Care Net) provided me with wonderful classes and training. A dear friend told us about the National Memorial for the unborn in Chattanooga, TN. We spent a life-giving afternoon there. We read thousands of names given to the unborn by their parents or by someone else who loved them and placed their plaques on a huge memorial wall in the solitude of the surrounding garden. The reality that many mothers and fathers suffer the loss of their unborn, even if those parents were the human cause of the death of the unborn, was represented before us. These parents nonetheless suffer debilitating grief and sadness: I understood that unending, tormenting pain. This memorial was a beautiful comfort. The trained staff offered healing words that gave peace. There have been countless friends who God has used to guide me, and to preach the truth of the Gospel to me. Some of them still preach to me and I have learned to preach Gospel truth to myself. Our church, Redeemer Presbyterian, and the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Christ has had the most renewing and transformative work in our lives. I have been able to tell this story and I have found comfort in doing so. But there have also, been opportunities to help, assist and counsel other girls and women who are considering abortion or like me, suffer from the deadly choices they have already made.
The image of 2 Corinthians 1:3&4 has a voice, eyes, ears, arms, hands and feet.
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
This passage of Scripture told me that my story was not mine at all, it was His story and He could use it to bring the Gospel of Christ to others whose lives are in ruin. He might even use it to save others the pain I had experienced.
My unborn child: grief, loss and mourning surround those words. There is a time to mourn. One of those dear friends mentioned previously said that it is important to allow for the emotions resulting from the loss of a child, in spite of the cause of death. So, each expected birthday arrives with the awareness of what should have been. A precious life, snatched away. This does not diminish the work of Christ and His forgiveness: truly these emotions give greater emphasis and serve to remind me of my need for a Savior. My hope for this child is in Heaven, where there will be no more tears, no more grief, only joy, where all things will be made right.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
Christ, our Rescuer and Redeemer truly renews what was once in ruin, all for His glory and our good. My story is not my own, it is His to use for His glory!