I’m sorry … I’m not even sure that is your name. It’s been a long time ago that we stood in front of that abortion clinic. I was in my early 20’s, eager, determined to change the world. My friends and I had decided to picket the new abortion clinic down the hill from our university. A year before that I had no strong opinion about abortion. I had heard teachers and other adults say it was a “sad, but necessary” option, but it didn’t impact me directly, so I didn’t think deeply about it.
Then one night, listening to a song that said something about the ‘cry of mothers in empty streets’, the epiphany came. It’s not about abortion, it’s about real, living babies and about women who are going to suffer immensely when they grabbed hold of that truth. I grew passionate. We were in a modern world. Advancements were happening faster than I could blink; surely we could come up with a better answer than abortion, so I joined the protests.
We weren’t the yelling, screaming types. That really bugged me about some protesters. Our signs weren’t graphic, but they were blunt: Abortion is Murder. We paced in front of the clinic, prayed together, sang soft hymns. I tried not to think about what was going on inside; I just wanted that doctor to get discouraged, to leave. Meanwhile, I watched the sidewalk, wondering if I might ever get a chance to talk to someone … to let them know that we really cared about them … that there were other options.
Then you walked up. Middle-aged, professionally dressed, your face set … I had a feeling you didn’t want to join us. You headed right for me. Thankfully, your tone was not angry, but you were nervous and definitely irritated. “Do you really think this helps anything?” you asked.
“It can’t hurt.”
“I don’t agree. You are just making the decision harder for these women who have to walk by you. This is not easy for them. All you are doing is condemning them.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way because, you know what I am waiting for? I’m waiting for a chance to tell a woman that there is forgiveness.”
It was as though the word forgiveness took the form of my hand and punched you in the gut. You sucked in a long, long breath, like an injured toddler who gets eerily silent before letting loose with an earsplitting wail. I braced myself. Suddenly you exhaled. Your shoulders sagged as you stepped towards me. A tear sat on the edge of one eye.
“Do you think I need forgiveness?” The weight of your tentative tone fell hard on the word “I”?
I stood very still, sensing there was nothing I could or should say.
“Yes … I had an abortion. So go ahead hate me.”
“I don’t hate you.” I didn’t even have to try to make the words soft. Without invitation, your pain borrowed my emotions. “Do you hate you?”
“Sometimes,” you were candid. “But I make no apologies. I would have made a terrible mother. It would have been an awful life for any child.”
I still didn’t have anything to say. I just watched your face. Your voice was determined, almost hard. But your eyes … your eyes revealed longing; behind growing tears I saw something vacant, yearning.
I asked if I could pray for you. You said, “No. But I guess I can’t stop you from praying after I leave.” Your voice still hard, you walked away.
Even though many details of our full conversation have faded over the years, I’ve never forgotten that look at the word “forgiveness”. It was such a strange moment, like you hated the word and wanted to challenge me. Why should I suggest forgiveness when you honestly believed you had done nothing wrong; that you had made the best choice you could? But that look … that look said to me that you wondered … would forgiveness even be offered you? Or had you just gone too far?
Barb … yes. Yes to forgiveness. Maybe you already know that. So many years have slipped by, but hopefully God’s forgiveness became real to you a long, long time ago.
I think of you today because of the Gosnell trial. The mainstream media has been ignoring the murder trial of this despicable abortionist, but the atrocities are leaking out. And much more confrontational than the “Abortion is Murder” sign I held all those years ago, thousands of woman are going to see images of beautiful, newly delivered babies, curled in the fetal position with a long gash across their spines. It’s gut wrenching, beyond words, but the images and the testimonies are going to dig into the hearts of women just like you. I think many are going to gasp with anxiety because what they feared deep down is true. They were lied to, or they lied to themselves. It was a baby. And they loved their baby.
I wonder, will their hearts harden back up in fear and pain? Or will they finally break? I think that’s what was happening to you that day; your heart was breaking. I hope that it broke all the way, and that deep in the middle of the pain you found the love of a Heavenly Father who cherishes us without apology. We are the crown of His creation; that which He saved for last and that which He breathed His own breath into as He called us “very good”.
Did we remain very good? No, we broke His heart, yet His love overflowed to a cross where He forgave EVERY wrong.
Thank you, Barb, for stopping that day. You taught me that abortion has many victims, but forgiveness has many offspring. I pray that you are one of the offspring, and that many more are soon to follow.
Grateful for mercy and forgiveness,