Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Hardest Walk

Today's post has been 32 years in the making.

"O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me." - Psalm 139:1
"You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord." - Psalm 139:4
"I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night - but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you." - Psalm 139:11-12




The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life was to walk down the aisle of my church home to confess my abortions.

However, that Sunday morning will forever be burned in my memory not as the most shameful, as I’d expected, but as the most redemptive - as God knew it would be all along. 
And in the 16 years following that day, I’ve been on a journey with Him that has been as unexpected as it has been revolutionary.

I must begin the story two weeks earlier, on a day that I’d taken a different walk. 
One that led to a new life, with Christ at the center of it. 
For real this time, knowing for the first time in my life that I couldn’t deny Him anymore. 
Couldn’t deny that I needed Him. 
Desperately needed Him. 
Because up until that moment, I’d made a complete mess of things on my own.
  
We were in church one Sunday evening, the first day of a Life Action Crusade. And I was filling out a survey about my faith habits – completely private, just between me and God – and I lied on every answer. 
I wasn’t lying to myself, I knew the truth. I was lying to God. 
But He knew the truth too and He called me on it. 
I mean, really, who lies to God and truly expects to get away with it? 
That would be me. 
I’d been running from the truth forever, trying to hide who I was and what I’d done. He wasn’t going to let me run any longer.

I’d never believed that you could actually hear the voice of God, but that night, the whisper in my ear and the physical push was unmistakable. As clear as if my husband had spoken to me, I heard the words “Get up and go pray.” whispered in my ear.   
And I felt a push. Pushed forward in my seat so that I had no choice but to stand up. 
So, I did. And I walked back to the counseling room, sat down in a chair and poured my heart out to a complete stranger. 
Then I poured my heart out to God and begged his forgiveness for the first real time in my life. I couldn’t live this lie anymore and I was SO tired of carrying around a heart full of secrets. 
It was way too heavy. The perennial black cloud that followed me, the fear of being discovered as a sham and a liar and a murderer was a crushing weight.

But the beauty and the promise of the cross of Christ is that once confessed, the lies and the darkness and the poor choices and the pain are all washed away in a river of his perfect blood and we are made new. 
Our sin removed as far from us as “the East is from the West”.

That’s not a lie. I felt the truth of it that night. 
April 19th, 1998. The relief was tangible and I walked out of that prayer room lighter than I had been in years. 
I had been freed from carrying all the weight of my past anymore.

March 4th, 1982 should have been a normal day for me. I was 17 and was about to graduate from high school. I should have been just like all my friends that day, complaining about homework, worrying over SAT scores and debating who was going to win the Basketball game that night. 
But, I checked out of school early, picked up by my 18 year old boyfriend. He drove me about ½ hour from our town to the closest ‘family planning’ clinic.   
I’d visited it with my Mom just the day before. Back then, at 17, you were required to go through ‘counseling’ with a parent present before you had an abortion. 
I never told her, but I was secretly glad that she had to come along with me.  
 I was so scared, but I never told her that either.

My pregnancy was discovered randomly. After dealing with what I thought was a bout of the flu that just wouldn’t go away, I finally got to the point that I was so sick, my boyfriend took me to the Emergency Room. They ran a test and we discovered the sobering truth. 
I was pregnant. 
My memories are vague about that night, but I do remember the nurse. 
She seemed so caring, so very helpful as my world was crashing in. 
She pulled us into a room and explained the ‘options’. I don’t remember much of what she said except for this. When she began talking about the option of abortion, she made it seem so easy, the best thing, really, she’d said. She explained how she had been through two abortions herself. How she’d had to make that choice so the bad timing of having a baby didn’t interfere with her career. Certainly we didn’t need the burden of a child now, did we, she’d asked us. It would ruin my future especially, she’d said. I had my whole life ahead of me to have babies, she’d said. 
Looking back now, it amazes me how easily I succumbed to the ‘convenience’ argument. So I left the hospital that night with information on who to call and where to go and how much it would cost. 
The revealed truth of the true cost was a vague shadow on my future life. 

Again, my memories are vague about the next several days, a big rushing blur really. 
Telling my parents, enduring the shame and the censure of an unwanted pregnancy. 
I’d been raised as a good church girl, and it was horrifying to think that anyone would discover my secret. 
That anyone would ever find out the truth of what I had become. 
Because, you know, I was now one of “those girls”. 
   
And my Mom, who was one of the Godliest women I’ve ever known, I know she cried herself to sleep that night, having agreed to the abortion. My parents even paid for it. I remember them handing me the $250 cash, folded up like a secret. Why they did that, the real reason why, I’ll never know, but I know it haunted my Mom always. 
And I felt the weight of that guilt too. 

I remember what I was wearing that day at the clinic; the pill they gave me to ‘relax’ me, what they gave me to eat afterwards – juice and cookies like when you give blood, but most vivid is my memory of the sailboat picture. It was a poster on the ceiling above the table in the procedure room. A beautiful boat with a rainbow sail on a crystal blue ocean. The only thing of beauty in the room. I’ve never looked at a sailboat on the ocean the same way since that day.

There are more, specific memories of what happened that day, but some details are best left untold. What must be told is what happened the next day. 
Nothing. Nothing happened. 
Life as I’d known it went on as usual and nothing more was ever said about March 4th, 1982.

My life went on as you would expect. Graduating high school, college part time, working full time. The ebb and flow of life and living kept it’s rhythm. And I lived it to the fullest. Friends and parties and boyfriends and all that came with it. And life was pretty good as I practiced the arts of selfishness and abandon.

Until March, 1987.

Different time, different place, different boyfriend, same result. I was pregnant. Again. 
And this time I needed no one’s permission. Sought no one’s counsel. I was no longer influenced by my family, had given up on church after my first abortion and I was living life my way, on my terms. Entirely my choice this time. 
I didn’t need the bad timing of a baby right then, putting my career choice as a police officer in jeopardy. I had my whole life ahead to have babies, I didn’t want to ruin my future before it began….did I? It’s unbelievable to me now how easy it was to make that awful choice again. 
How easy it was to end an innocent life.

So there I was. Again. 
I even remember what I was wearing that day. Remember where I went afterwards, what I ate and the friend that I’d trusted my secret to who came with me. Same clinic, same $250, same picture of the sailboat with the rainbow sail on the ceiling.

But a different me walked out of the clinic that day. A me with a solid stone heart. 
And a wall of pride and self-righteousness had been built so high around it that it would take the next 8 years to break it down.   
When that day came, it was almost the end of me. But in His mercy, God had a different plan. 

December 5th, 1991 – two days before my wedding, my fiancée and I went out for dinner. One last quiet meal together before the craziness of the weekend began. As we sat enjoying our meal, looking ahead to the celebration that was coming, my heart was heavy. I was about to marry the man of my dreams, my prince charming, but he didn’t know the ugly truth about me. 
The argument in my head about it was so loud, it surprised me that he couldn’t hear it going on. 
“He deserves to know.” 
“He’ll call off the wedding. He’ll be disgusted at what you’ve done.” 
“But he deserves to know, I shouldn’t keep this secret from him.” 
“He’ll walk away. He’ll think you’re a whore.” 
“But he deserves to know.

And that evening, when I told him the truth about me, his response was the most amazing picture of grace. I’ll never forget what he said to me. 
“None of that matters to me. I love you for who you are now, not who you were before. Nothing can change that.” 
I can’t even write the words without crying over the grace in that moment. 
Undeserved, unmerited favor. Grace.

One of the things I love about the nature of our Holy God, is His goodness to us. The fact that he knows just what we need right when we need it – and he doesn’t hold back, he provides. 
In abundance. For me, God provided a husband who would stick by me through some of the darkest hours of my life – our life together. 

Studies and statistics have shown that post-abortive women deal with an incredible amount of emotional trauma, especially around the 10 year mark of their abortions. 
Depression and suicide are common and the sad connection is the thread of death that runs through all of us. 
To the outsider looking in, I had a pretty great life. Husband and home, a career that I loved, friends and family – the trappings of life that covered both the tangible and intangible.

But inside, I was empty. Hollow and sad and tired and dissatisfied. Trying desperately to fill the gaping holes in my heart with things and experiences and people and achievements that would never satisfy. 
I was constantly trying to prove myself worthy in a world where worth has no meaning except for what is just out of reach. Until one day, I was just so tired and so done with trying.

Spring, 1994. I had testified in court that morning. A domestic assault case that was unremarkable in comparison with the other similar cases I’d been involved with. I don’t know what it was that caused me to begin weeping that day, but as I was testifying, the tears came hard and fast and I couldn’t control them. I had hit bottom and later as I sat in my car outside the courthouse, I knew I was done. 

Suicide was so inviting at that moment. 
The idea that it could just be over. It would all be gone. The pain, the hurt, the effort, the sadness that was with me every waking minute.

It’s all true what’s said about suicide – that in those moments you really think everyone in your life will be better off without you in it. In your misery, you just know that you are making everyone else miserable too. 
You’re convinced that they won’t miss you, well, not much anyway. You really believe that it’s best – for you especially because you can finally put down all the weight you’ve carried for so long.

What’s also true is that those are the lies of the enemy. 
His darkest whispers in your darkest moments, lulling you into a resignation of purpose. 
Drawing you to embrace death as the only way to make sense of the life you’re living. 

It’s the complete opposite of what Jesus whispers to us on our dark days. 
He whispers truth. 
He breathes life and meaning and hope. 
He beckons us to lay the heavy weight of our lives at His feet. 
At the foot of the cross He gladly suffered so we wouldn’t have to listen to the lies of the enemy that only seek to destroy us.   
But I couldn’t hear him that day.

Having made my plan, my awful decision, I was still sitting in my car when a friend pulled up beside me. He had no way of knowing that he was saving my life that day, just by asking me what was wrong. And by caring enough to listen as I wept, not even able to describe the pain and heartache I was going through. He was my rescuer that day – at least my physical one. 
You see, God had a plan for my life all along, still has, and He wasn’t about to let me have my way with His purpose.

I wish I could tell you that it was all ok. That it all worked out. That my career and my marriage got back on track and I went on as if nothing had changed. 
But I can’t tell you that. 
I left the career that I loved just over a year later, never able to return to police work in the same way. 

My marriage miraculously remained intact, but we had lost our innocence and the hard work of marriage was made even harder by my illness. I put my husband through hell as I suffered through the depression and PTSD that almost caused me to take my life. 
But God has a plan, always. 
And he provided the perfect mate for me, one who loved me through it all in spite of me. His life was forever altered too, but in a way that would help others in public service deal with traumatic incidents and stress-related issues. The facts of my life revealed in him a gift he didn’t know he possessed.

And as we began to rebuild our life together, we decided that we needed faith back in our lives. Needed a foundation. We didn’t look long for a church, returning almost immediately to my childhood church home. As we walked through the familiar doors that day, it felt like I was coming home and we both knew it was where we belonged. 
Being involved with a caring group of believers encouraged us that there was another way to live life. Seeing families that were happy ones, not the broken and bleeding ones we were all too familiar with, made us believe that we too could have a family of our own. And that it would be good.

God gifted us with a beautiful baby girl in December of 1997. 
I wanted her so desperately and I was so afraid that something would be wrong with her – a punishment for my actions so many years before. 
But God’s mercy is great, His grace even greater and the gift of that tiny life is healing for my heart that brings me joy every day.

The only cloud that remained was the fear of someone knowing the truth about me. I was always afraid that I would reveal something just detailed enough that it would all come out – and I would be the hated pariah that deep down I still believed I deserved to be.


Until I met the One who made me whole and complete and new. 

And I knew that the only way to be truly free was to tell my story and ask for forgiveness. 

So as I stood before my church family that Sunday morning, I couldn’t look at the 900 or so people gathered there. I couldn’t have seen them anyway for the tears in my eyes. But as I briefly shared with them the choices I had made to have my abortions, every eye was on me. 

I still don’t know how my feet carried me out of the sanctuary that day and back to the prayer room, but they did and I collapsed on my knees with my head in a chair, crying and praying that they wouldn’t hate me. The counselor that day wrapped her arm around my shoulders and began to pray for me. 
And when she stopped, another voice began to pray and another and another and another, seemingly endless voices lifting me up to a Holy God who loved me more than I ever deserved. When they quieted, I stood up and looked around. 
The room was full of women. 
The hallway outside was full of women. 
All of them had followed me out of the sanctuary and into the prayer room. 
My husband told me later that it seemed every woman in our church left the sanctuary to come and pray over me. I’ve never felt such overwhelming love and acceptance in my life. It was a beautiful picture of grace. 
Undeserved, unmerited favor.

In the years since that day, God has allowed me to speak truth and love and grace, privately and in small groups, to many women who have had abortions. 
All of whom lived in fear of discovery – some still do, but they are on God’s timetable, not anyone else’s. 
The calling on my life is clear – to make Him famous by sharing the beautiful grace He has given me. It’s a work in progress, but I’m listening and I’m willing. 
Finally fully surrendered to Christ and the purpose and plan he has for this life. 
My story is not my story at all. 
It’s His story. He’s only allowing me to tell it. 
My desire is for others to not see me, but to see Christ in me. 

Evidence of a life changed forever by His amazing redemptive power. 

To Him be all the glory. 

With a Courageous Heart, 
~~Robin

"Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel." - Philippians 1:12
"I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." - Philippians 1:19-20

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." - Philippians 1:21


16 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your hardest walk. God bless you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, Robin. This is the most wonderfully transparent post. I can't imagine how scary it must have been for you to stand before your church, and to do it again, now, here. God is so good, and so gracious. What a wonderful blessing you are to women suffering through the same heartbreak you experienced. God brings beautiful things out of dust and I know He is doing that for you and through you. We all have pasts and I know your willingness to share yours brings glory to God and will lead others to his loving arms. God bless you for sharing your heart! xo

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for sharing this. Very powerful words from your very heart of hearts. God bless you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am blessed to call you my friend, dear Robin! I love you more today than yesterday! Thank you for sharing your wonderful story of redemption! I know that God will use it again and again. Don't second guess sharing it. . . it's a powerful story for all you read it! I love you so much!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Robin, God has truly given you a courageous heart. HIS heart. I cried for you as I read this. By your honest and clarity you are glorifying Christ with your life and with your ministry here on this blog. Thank you. Hugs.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a fabulous testimony of God's grace!!!! So glad you shared Robin! You are precious!!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Robin, I am honoured and humbled to call you my friend. What a gift for you to share and what a beautiful and courageous post. Your story, His story, is remarkable. I thank God for the friend who happened to be your lifeline that day. I thank God for Mark, and the strength and love and support that he so freely gives to you. And I thank God for you, for the witness you share, and the grace revealed through you. May God Bless you and your family. Thank you so much for sharing. Love Cynthia <><

    ReplyDelete
  8. hugs Robin for sharing.....God is good. I felt your pain and your tears!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Robin, After reading your testimony this scripture popped into my head... And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

    You are one of the strongest woman I know and so courageous. You are wonderfully and fearfully made!! Praises to God.

    ReplyDelete
  10. True courage is the willingness to be vulnerable -- and know that there is no judgment because you have God's grace. As you've said it's our own grace when we need it that can be very hard to find. Wonderfully written.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Robin - that was so brave and courageous of you to bare your soul to others. God Bless You!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Robin- a hard to tell, but truly inspiring story that gives each of us hope that we too will know the Grace of which you lovingly speak. God Bless!

    ReplyDelete
  13. God Bless you Robin, thank you for sharing your story. I am proud to call you my friend.

    ReplyDelete
  14. An amazing testimony of brokenness, forgiveness, redemption, and grace. I pray for the hearts that this story will heal.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome and encourage comments provided they are respectful to all. A respectful exchange of ideas is a good thing so tell me what's on your heart too. I reserve the right to not publish any comment containing crude or offensive language or any that would disparage someone else.