The next time you are in a group of people, look around you. Some 33% of the women you see have had one or more abortions. And that number doesn’t decrease if you are in a group of Christians. In at least one study, 70% of women who’d had an abortion identified as Christian. All around you, every day, are people whose lives have been impacted by abortion.
Even in Christian communities, women do not talk about their abortions. They go years, even decades, without mentioning to a soul that they have suffered the loss of a child. They don’t feel entitled to enlist the support of their closest friends and family because they know that what they did was wrong. They are certainly not allowed to grieve publicly. These women silently carry the shame of their past, holding on to secrets that prolong and deepen their trauma. Most of the time they don’t even realize what is happening to them and their families.
When churches and other Christian communities become aware of this problem, they can be beacons of hope for women who may have such deep-seated issues that they don’t realize the source of their struggles in life. A visible and permanent ministry to women (and men) who have been damaged by the sin of abortion can create an atmosphere of safety, open communication, and true healing.
My Story – Part 3
At least I knew that I would never have another abortion again. In 1993 I was married to a loving, strong Christian man and I was growing in my faith. I never needed to speak again of the horrible things I had done in my past. I knew that God had forgiven me.
It’s hard to put into words what it is like to become a Christian at 30 and become part of a world that I never had experienced before. I don’t say it to be hyper-critical but just honest: I felt I had to hide my true nature even more as a Christian than I had to before. I don’t know how I came to that understanding. I think we all do it. When we come together as believers, we have a tendency to put on our Jesus masks and our smiles and pretend everything is OK.
When I became a believer, I was in awe of church and church people. I thought they were perfect. It wasn’t very long before I figured out that wasn’t true. But of all the things church people did, to themselves, to each other and even to me, no one had done what I had done. None of these people, I was sure, had ever had even one abortion, let alone four. Over the years I kept pushing that secret deeper inside of me until I almost forgot it was there.
The tentacles of shame were still there, though, wrapping themselves tightly around my heart.
Have you ever discussed with someone the concept of knowing something in your head versus knowing it in your heart? It is something that I have thought about thousands of times in my journey as a follower of Jesus over the past 23 years. I have always desired to know the grace of God in my heart, in a life-transforming way.
Many times over the years, after an encounter with God’s spirit I would feel refreshed and uplifted and I would believe that this time, I had an understanding of his love for me that went beyond my intellectual assent. I finally “got it”.
What I didn’t know was that my heart was locked deep inside a fortress of hard stone, layer upon layer, lock upon lock. I had begun building it many years ago to protect myself from the raw pain of abandonment. This stony heart kept me from experiencing lasting transformation. I could not see myself the way God sees me because my heart was not open. I thought I knew what it was like to be loved by God but I was deceived.
What is it that keeps us locked in our patterns of behavior? Why, knowing what we know about how we are loved, do we still engage in self-destructive habits? Why do we say we live in love but act as though we live in fear? I believe it is because we only know God’s love intellectually. Our hearts are guarded.
How many people you know are walking around in a state of unrealized grace? Are you one of those people? You may be and because of your past trauma, like abortion, abuse, or abandonment, you may not even realize it.
The first time I realized how guarded my heart had been was only after that rocky fortress was finally dismantled by God’s loving hand. I felt like Dorothy must have felt when she saw the shining Emerald City. Everything I could see, everything I knew, was rich and colorful and deeply dimensional, where before it had been only grey but I didn’t know it was only grey and I didn’t know what I had been missing.
But this time of radical healing wasn’t to come for years. Instead, I walked my Christian journey still feeling inadequate and not knowing why; still suffering over and over again with the same unhealthy patterns; still feeling rejected by others and worse, by myself. And as I would later find out, my suffering had been largely a consequence of the trauma of abortion.
To be continued…. Read the final part (4)
Image courtesy of Maxime Bhm