Oh friends, we need to be gentle.
My Gamma found out she was pregnant with my uncle when she was 15, married my Papa when she was 16, and they went on to have six more children together, and they were married for 59 years.
We adopted my sister when I was eight. Her birth mama carried her in her womb for nine months before giving my family the most incredible gift.
My cousin had her baby when we were seniors in high school. I snuggled her new baby and kissed her precious cheeks after my cousin rushed through her senior year of high school to graduate a semester early.
I knew the value of human life. I knew the miracles that are possible when a baby, even a baby who comes as an unexpected surprise, is given the chance at life.
And yet, my teenage heart twisted and turned as I stared at that small white stick and wondered what many millions of women have wondered over the years… “What if I'm pregnant?”
I had my acceptance letter to a Christian university in hand.
I was weeks away from graduating high school with honors.
I knew what the next four years were supposed to look like for me.
I also was incredibly involved in my local church, I'd professed Christ everywhere I went and was bold about my faith. What would people think of me if they saw my growing tummy without a wedding ring on my hand?
My heart hesitated.
It twisted in knots and I questioned how on earth I could live the life I’d always dreamed of living if another line showed up on that test?
How could I handle the shame I'd feel because the sin I'd committed would be obvious to every single person who saw me?
Oh friends, we need to be gentle.
We should rejoice and celebrate that there can be more protection for the innocent, unborn lives that are created by the Creator of all life. But we need to be gentle, because the women and even girls who are struggling are our neighbors, our sisters, our daughters, and our friends. They are the most unassuming of people, and sometimes the ones who seem to have it all figured out. Let us be gentle with our words and let us love with our actions.
Let us not condemn the women who have already chosen abortion.
Let us not be so quick to judge the women whose hearts have swayed back and forth between a life they can envision and one that seems muddy and blurry.
Let’s become safe listeners and welcoming embracers and let us love fiercely so that our arms are the ones confused and broken women can run to when they aren't sure where to turn.
Let our arms be open wide, ready to receive the ones who have already chosen abortions, the ones who think it is their only option, and the ones who are choosing life.
I watched my Gamma weep before me one day as she remembered what it was like to be a pregnant teenager in the 50s. She remembered the shame and embarrassment and her heart broke for other young women who have experienced and will experience the same feelings she did.
Let that not be the story of the women who walk through the doors of our churches.
Let our churches be the most welcoming of places. Women, whether they've had an abortion, they're pregnant without being married, or they one day will have an abortion or be pregnant without being married, should be warmly welcomed into the house where God's people gather without fear of judgemental stares, whispers, or blame.
Let our homes be where women can find solace and hear about hope.
I can begin by loving my own children.
I can be careful about what I say online and out loud so they know that I am always a safe person they can come talk to.
I can be careful to not overreact when they make mistakes, and apologize when I do, so they know that they can trust me to love them through the mistakes they’ll one day make.
I can teach them true Bible stories about how God redeems broken people and broken stories and broken situations. I can teach them that Bible tells story after story of Jesus befriending the most unassuming of people.
And then...I can open up my home to my neighbors who don’t look like me, who fly a flag that I won’t fly, who live a lifestyle that I don’t live.
I can love my neighbors deeply and I can love them well, knowing that love and holiness can be held in the same space because both are part of God’s character and they don’t contradict.
I can allow space for them to share their stories without judgement or shame, and I can listen more than I speak and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide my words and my heart when it is time to speak.
The simplest way for me to help fight future abortions from happening is by caring for the hearts of the people who may become women who find themselves looking at a little white stick with two red lines and wondering what on earth they're going to do.
That second line didn't appear when I was a seventeen year old high school graduate. I turned to my mom and we both sighed deeply, wondering why it appears for some girls and not for others. But it forever changed my heart because I realized that anyone is capable of finding themselves wondering what to do. Anyone can find themselves having to make the most difficult decisions they've ever had to make. The moment we believe that we are the exception, is the moment that our grace has run dry and our hearts have turned cold and we are at great risk of believing in our own self-sufficiency instead of knowing that there really isn't anyone who is righteous apart from Jesus.
I read a tweet from a doctor the other day (shared as a screenshot on Instagram, of course, because I can't handle another form of social media) that basically said, "If you don't know several women who have had abortions, you aren't holy or special. You're someone that women don't trust to keep their secrets." And while I know that tweet was meant to be a jab... it deeply convicted me.
I want to be a woman who is trusted deeply by other women because they know that I hold their hearts, their fears, and their mistakes with gentleness and compassion.
My mind wanders to the Samaritan woman Jesus met at a well in John 4.
He knew her deepest secrets.
He knew why she had been married so many times and was living with a man who wasn't her husband.
We don't get to know her why, but we can let our minds ponder as we think of the potential abuse, the financial strain she experienced after divorce, leading her to another marriage and perhaps the infertility she faced and was divorced several times over because of it.
We don't know her story, but Jesus did.
We don't know her pain, but Jesus did.
It was Jesus' relationship with this woman, His compassion for her brokenness, and his ability to hold holiness with love that made this woman believe that Jesus was the Lord who was prophesied to come. In fact, Jesus even tells her that the hour has come "when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him." (John 4:23). The Father wants people like this unnamed Samaritan woman, to worship Him! He wants people who have genuinely experienced the deep grace and love of Jesus because those are the ones who will worship with sincerety. This woman, experienced Jesus' love and couldn't stop talking about it! She was the worshiper the Father wanted to worship Him - someone who worshiped with such a sincere and vulnerable heart. And many Samaritans believed in Him because of what she testified.
It was Jesus' gentleness, His loving kindness, and His compassion that drew her to Him. It was those things that made her trust Him with her heart as well. It was His intentionality with relationship-building with this woman and then with her community that helped bring many others into relationship with Him.
Since I look to Jesus for how to live my life, I want to make sure I'm building relationships and loving others like He did. And since the call of the Church is to strive to look more like Jesus, then we know that the goal for the Church should be to build relationships and trust that the Holy Spirit will move as we love, just as Jesus did. If we do that, people may begin to trust us and ultimately, Jesus.
Let us be holy.
Let us rejoice.
But let us be loving.
Let us listen.
Let us embrace.
But let us be soft.
Let us fight.
Let us be fierce.
But let us be gentle.