Growing up in a fire and brimstone Baptist church, it was imbedded in me from early on that everyone plays an important role in fulfilling the Great Commission (sharing Jesus with the world). And although I didn’t necessarily know what that meant for those of us who didn’t feel “called” to the mission field—places like Africa or China, I always knew that my story (testimony), as well as yours, is a part of God’s greater story and was meant to be shared in hopes to show Jesus to the world and connect with others.
I’m a pretty average chick. Married, with two kids and a dog, live in the burbs, go to church, teach kids with special needs, garden, read, and sing terribly—like I said, average. I have wondered does an average person have a story worth sharing. Would it point you to Christ, reveal more of Him to you; cause you to hunger for a God that not only satisfies, but exceeds any preconceived notions? Simply, would my love for Him be infectious? Rather, would His love and acceptance for me, hopefully evident in my life, cause you to seek Him out?
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, I’m talking decades. I’ve not shared parts of my story, perhaps the most important chapter, because shame still accompanies aspects of it. And although I know in my heart that shame is not of God, my head gets the better of me and plays torrid games by inundating me with thoughts of rejection. I know better. I also know that Satan is the initiator of such paralyzing thoughts. I’ve been fighting this for a very long time.
Recently, I timidly shared “Chapter One” with one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever known. I not only had the privilege of growing up with her, but still have the honor of being precious friends in our middle age. Through tears, she said, “Sharing our story is freeing. It means Satan no longer has the power of shame to hold over us. Once it’s out there, he cannot use it against us. And God can use it for His glory.” (Everyone should have a friend like her—she speaks truth so eloquently)
Driving home that afternoon, it dawned on me that my story is part of God’s story and He will use it however He sees best and right. Stories have the ability to connect us on the deepest of levels. Often, allowing us to see ourselves in others where we can learn and be encouraged by them. That night laying in bed, thinking about our conversation, I came to the conclusion that if I am going to be bold in my faith, I need to share my story, even if it is uncomfortable, even if fear lingers in the shadows. If I am worried about the outcome (what others think, do, or say), I am sharing for the wrong reason. Ultimately, sharing my story has more to do with God than it does with me.
I just started reading The Story Lives (2013) written by Henriet Schapelhouman and in it she reminds us: We are created for God He handcrafted every person with a specific character and for a specific purpose He made us the way He intended He placed us in a specific time and space God designed us In short, this means He wanted us for His pleasure and companionship and even if we consider ourselves an average Joe, God purposely created us as unique individuals and for a reason that He will reveal to us when the time is right. We are part of HIS story and He is the one who sets it into motion for His glory and purpose. My story is not my own. Your story is not your own. They are intertwined, making up God’s bigger story.
So, I share what I call Chapter One with you in the hopes that you will see my story as part of a bigger story, God’s. May it reveal more of Him and what He can and will do through your life, if you let Him.
Nineteen, unmarried, and pregnant I sat in a sterile waiting room, restlessly waiting for my name to be called. The doctor’s tardiness intensified my anxiousness and my already out of sync heartbeat seemed to thump with a greater intensity with each tick of the clock.
Finally, 45 minutes after my scheduled appointment, my name was called. You’d think relief would have set in, knowing I was taking a step toward what I believed was freedom, but instead I felt as if I was a prisoner with hands and feet shackled together by chains that clanked as I was lead into a dark room, lit only by a small lamp in the far corner.
I was instructed to disrobe and lay on the table. I did so without a word. Usually, a chatter bug, I didn’t want to be known. If the emperor had a new invisible suit, I would have eagerly paid him the moon for it. The Doppler located my 7 week old baby quickly. I did not recognize the image, but upon the sound of the heartbeat and other swooshing sounds that filled the small dark room, my eyes lit up as if it was a sound I had always known, a sound that mimicked my own racing heart. The nurse saw my reaction and quickly turned the volume knob so I could no longer hear my baby’s lifeline.
“Yep, you’re pregnant”, came the gruff response of the stout nurse as she tossed my robe onto the table and left the room. I dressed and waited for instructions. Though the ultrasound screen had grown dark, I could not help but to stare at it, trying to visualize my oddly formed baby that just moments before had lit up the room. Another 30 minutes passed and I grew increasingly uneasy. I knew I shouldn’t be there. I just wanted to hurry up and get this over with. I reasoned that I would give the doctor five more minutes and if she didn’t show up, I’d leave. Where I’d go or how I’d get there didn’t cross my mind. Dennis had dropped me off at an out of town clinic and I had no way to get in touch with him (before cell phones).
As the clock clicked onto the five, the doctor came into the room joined by another nurse who looked like my grandmother. She took my hand in both of hers and gave me the sweetest smile, squeezing my hand in hers as she walked me into another room assuring me I would be OK and that she would be by my side the entire time. I smiled and was oddly comforted by this perfect stranger.
The room was beautifully decorated; brightly lit with lamps on coffee tables, walls covered with grass cloth and a wrought iron bed with a beautiful floral bedspread and decorative shams. It was not what I had expected and a part of me felt as if I had just entered the twilight zone. Still in my robe, the grandma-nurse set a soft floral nightgown on the bed and gave me privacy to change. Everything in me screamed to leave, but as I looked around, I felt betrayed by my surroundings.
20 minutes later the soothing music that had been playing in the background and my grandma-nurse’s nurturing voice were drowned out by the sing song words of the doctor, “I’ll be back. I’ve got to go count the parts. We want to be sure we got all the parts.” What I was trying desperately not to think about had not just been blatantly thrown at me, but had been done so in the most heinous of ways. Parts? My baby in parts? I am not sure what I thought was happening to her, but a visual had never accompanied what I was doing. Tears streamed down my face and the heaviness of shame and regret that I had been trying to keep at bay, now threatened to choke me. I couldn’t breathe. Gasping for breath and trying to sit up, my grandma-nurse shushed me and ran her fingers through my long hair, like my mother used to do when I was a little girl. I couldn’t speak. Literally, I could not speak.
I was moved to a recovery room with other women who had just had abortions. Beds lined up, filling a large room lit with harsh florescent lighting buzzing overhead, I listened to several women compare notes about their experiences. Some were crass, using abortion as a form of birth control, others complaining about how expensive it was. All of them had had multiple abortions. Laying there in aching pain, I felt like the lowest of scum. I knew better. I went against absolutely everything I had believed.
I was a girl raised in the church, had accepted Christ as my Savior at a young age, and was raised in a God-fearing home, now laying childless by my own hand. The guilt was astronomical. I was led here because I feared what my parents would say if they found out I was living outside both God and their desires for me by having sex outside of marriage and then that I was pregnant. Dennis, son of the pastor of one of the largest churches in our area, feared not only what his parents would think of us, but also feared possible repercussions for his dad at the church. In Dennis’ fear, he threatened not to marry me if I didn’t go through with the abortion. My wedding dress hung in my closet and invitations had already been ordered. I felt trapped. And even though I knew it was against God, I tried with all my might to put Him out of my head.
I went home and cried for months, living as a shell of what I had been. I was empty. Though I was in the throes of planning my wedding, I could have cared less. Everything felt meaningless. I went through the motions of daily life, including marrying Dennis just four months after the abortion, but I was not who I once had been. To say I was broken is a grave understatement.
Nightly, I cried begging the Lord to forgive me. In my heart, I knew He had because He promises that He will forgive each of us if we ask and He will remember it no more, but I could not wrap my mind around the fact that God would forgive me for this. I could not forgive myself. I punished myself by working harder to be better at everything and anything. I strove for perfection, thinking illogically that if I worked hard enough, long enough, good enough that God would forgive me, that somehow He would see some value in me even though I had grieved Him. I knew it didn’t work like that, that God loves me where I am and for who I am, but somehow I lost sight of that fact.
Dennis had about enough of me by this point and told me to find help. I called Crisis Pregnancy Center, not even sure they could help me. Mary Ann answered the phone and after getting my story out between heavy sobs, she told me that she too had an abortion as a Christian and that the Lord had freed her from the shame that daily held her captive. I asked how that was possible and she invited me to attend a post abortion Bible Study.
I felt so distant from God. How could I face him by spending time in His Word and in prayer? I had pushed Him away and yet I desperately needed Him. I went to the class not knowing what to expect, but needing something that I could not provide or earn myself. Although several other women signed up for the class, not one of them showed up. It was just me and Mary Ann. For 12 weeks, she shared her experience and showed me the Jesus she had fallen in love with, the Jesus who had rescued her, redeemed her, and made her whole again. And through intense Bible Study, I learned more about God’s Character and who I am to Him and in Him.
I was slowly healing from the inside out. My eyes were firmly fixed on Jesus and Who He is, not on what I had done. Though I was still deeply hurting, I realized that God’s forgiveness has nothing to do with how I feel. The fact that I didn’t “feel” forgiven did not mean that God did not forgive me. I discovered that in the backdrop of forgiveness stood the cross. And the cross represented acceptance, freedom, and unfathomable grace. Forgiveness does not burden, it does not rob us of joy, and it does not keep us from moving forward. God took my shame and forgave me. Period. If there was any lingering guilt and shame it was not a reflection of Christ. Those are Satan’s powerful tactics. I however needed to learn how to forgive myself. I’ll admit, I am still in process all these years later.
The biggest thing that impacted me and still to this day leaves me in a state of absolute awestruck humble gratitude is Isaiah, Chapter 53. It is an honest portrait of Christ’s sacrifice for us. I am not sure how I had never heard this passage before, having grown up in the church, but I hadn’t. Studying and meditating on the precious truths of Isaiah 53:5, where Christ says, “by my wounds you have been healed”, I found myself biting my quivering lip time and time again, because I got it. I really got it. And still to this day, twenty-one years later, I weep every time I read or hear those life-giving words.
I knew Jesus had died on the cross for me, paying the punishment for my sins, but I hadn’t considered that His wounds—His physical wounds— stakes in His wrists and feet, the gash in His abdomen, the repeated beatings, the crown of thorns deeply imbedded into His scalp— and the emotional wounds—hateful, vengeful, mocking words of onlookers, Pharisees, and even people who claimed to believe He was indeed the Son of God—how that must have grieved His already battered heart—but what’s more painful to imagine is when His Father turned his face away from Him—my heart breaks at the picture of it all. And then to know that chose to go through all this for me—for an average Joe–and that He accepted those wounds so that I might have life—not a life lived in shame or lived mediocre, but a life lived to the full…my heart gushes at the thought, swells with the realization that I don’t have to live in captivity, that the door to my invisible cage had been open all along. My wounds have been healed because He took them from me and made them His own. He made them His own! I am not defined by my wounds, I am defined by the One who took them from me and replaced them with Himself.
My life changed forever on May 3, 1993 when my unborn daughter, Alyshia, went to be with Jesus at my own hand. Satan intended to use that life-altering and devastating experience to derail me permanently from living firmly in Christ. God had greater plans and took what Satan intended for evil and instead called my name, wrote it in His book of Life, and loves me as I am—sins and all. I am not who I once was. And as the song goes, “I once was blind, but now I see” and what a glorious sight. It was because of this experience that I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life, that my parents’ faith became my faith. I believe in Him not because my parents lived in such a way to share Him with me, but because He revealed Himself to me personally, spoke to me when I needed it most. To say I love Him is perhaps the biggest understatement I could ever make. I am entirely in love with Him.
It is my deepest prayer that my story, what I call my “chapter one” in a long series of growth lessons, points you to God. That you can see what He is able to do through the lost—even Christians who have lost their way, taken a wrong turn. God is so good to call us back to Him, to redeem us, and to keep on loving us as if we were already perfect. I know my life will have many, many more bumps and bruises, that my path may become cloudy at times or my pride and self-sufficiency may attempt to rear its ugly head, but in the end I know God still loves me and I will one day live with Him happily ever after.
I wonder what your story is, if you have taken the time to reflect on the events that have lead you to the place you are now, see how your story plays a part in God’s greater story and how it intertwines with others around you. Some stories bring with them an element of shame, guilt, or sadness. Some bring with them exuberant joy and purpose. No matter which chapter you read or are currently “writing”, each and every one of them has brought you to where you are now and play an important role in God’s plan.