Listen. I need to talk to you. It’s not about the hole in the ozone you’re singlehandedly responsible for because of the Aqua Net in that perm of yours or that you need to forgive your dad earlier and love him better because he won’t always be around.
This is serious.
And it will change the way you walk for the rest of your life.
So get some coffee (you’ll be addicted by college anyway) and have a seat, okay?
You’ll soon read a story in high school English about a young woman
who was forced by her
community to wear the scarlet letter A to show her sin of adultery to the world. The marking on her dress, along with her public shaming, was her punishment for her sin and her secrecy. You read it as a strange fiction at the time, disconnected and far-fetched from real life. But not too long after that class ends, you will begin to live out your days marked by your own secret A and it will make perfect sense.
There will be a season in your life you split your time between friends, playing every sport, or learning how to drive. You will fall for a boy who says he loves you. That desire to feel loved will pull you out to sea, away from solid ground, and drown you whole. I wish I could change the story here for you, but you will find yourself pregnant.
You’ll soon figure out you’re on your own in this one.
With a daddy’s words about shame if he ever finds you in this boat ringing in your ears and the sight of the boy you loved with his arm around his new girl, you will feel like you don’t have a choice.
But you do.
And you did.
You will make the decision to have an abortion.
It will be easier than you thought it would…or should be. You’ll walk into the clinic expecting to defend or beg for your decision, hoping no one would try and talk you out of it and also wishing someone would. You needn’t have worried: there will be no care about why you’re there, nor comfort or even eye contact.
Just a signature here with a fake name and discharge directions advising against basketball practice for 72 hours.
You’ll go back to school on Monday and almost hemorrhage yourself into the hospital in math class but just wait for the death that will surely come at home because you don’t want to wear that scarlet letter now, do you?
And you don’t tell anyone.
And you live to see another day.
Because life will be different for you now.
You will wake up one morning a mostly whole young woman and go to sleep that same night as a different half-dead version of yourself.
This will not change for more than twenty years.
One day you’ll sit on the edge of the bed and tell the good man you married about that day so long ago at the tender prompting of a God you barely knew.
You’ll brace yourself for the disappointment you deserve to carry for what you did.
And it will never come.
He will hold you and tell you how sorry he is and how much he loves you. He will never mention it again for all the years and you’ll begin to wonder if he forgot what you told him. This will be your first experience with Jesus in this terrible story.
There will be many times you sit in a church service and listen to the pastor discuss how the murdering of babies is a sin. You’ll wonder for just a breath if there’s still someone who doesn’t know that. You’ll concentrate on a cellular level for your body to not twitch or move in reaction to this still-bleeding wound being publicly probed. You’ll feel the heat rising in both cheeks like two red guilty stains that give you away and imagine everyone is staring at you.
You’ll leave church with a heart more tangled and confused than it was coming in that morning.
For a long time you will feel you don’t have a right to be pro life. After all, you made the wrong choice. You feel like a hypocrite participating in the walks or conversations for awareness or your desire to talk to women about your devastating experience with abortion.
So you don’t and you sit quietly with a soul groaning to speak up.
But after you’ve grown a bit, you might start to notice that the people who have maybe the most right to talk about how dangerous a fire can be are the ones you can see whose skin has melted from the flames. They’re the ones you tend to listen to in life anyway and not the ones who care more about the fact that there’s a fire than the people getting burned up inside it.
There will come a season that you fall madly in love with Christ with the full functioning capacity of the half of your heart you allowed to live past sixteen. And He, calling us deeper still into love, will whisper one morning in the quiet:
You’ll understand what He means and you’ll be scared. But more than the fear? You feel relieved. He’ll send you a sister who walked her own different but still broken road and lived to see the spacious freedom on the other side that only those who understand the dark-honest depth of their need get to experience. She’ll hold your confession tender in her hands and whisper true things in your ear that shed light on things long hidden.
Just like your husband, just like Jesus:
you will be exposed heart-naked and human as the day you were born…and fully loved anyway.
This will begin to breathe a new kind of life into the deadest parts of you. Once again and sweeter still, life will be different for you now. And while you would change this part of your story in a single heartbeat, you would never give back one inch of knowing this kind of amazing grace.
You’ll own freedom in a different way after the wound in your soul begins to close up, but I also need to warn you: you’ll still have to defend it, fight to believe it some days. There will be this thing called the internet and a week will never go by without your scarlet letter being called out. You’ll take the stones thrown in social media venting about abortion and you’ll feel confused by the church you love, mad for the women being alienated with harsh words, and sad for the unborn babies none of this is helping.
And you’ll stay offline for grace and peace’s sake.
You’ll think there is a better way for the body of Christ to advocate for the life of the unborn, to be a safe place for girls who think they have no choice, and to also heal the bondage of shame for women like you who made the decision to have an abortion. You believe the silence forced on women who have the capacity to change the conversation will be deafening and a blow to the defense of life. But you feel like admitting any of this will earn you a lettered dress forever.
You’ll mourn for the one out of every three women who hemorrhage their shame in private because, as we all find out, death is often preferable to judgment. The church will hurt, but it’s also where you find your healing so you’ll need to forgive and love like your Jesus does. Christ took away your letter and put it on Himself just for you, girl. So your response will be to live a life of gratitude.
One last thing before I go?
One night you’re going to come home from confessing the twenty-plus-year-old shame you’ve gotten used to shackling to your own leg to a bunch of women from different churches. Because practicing the freedom you already own is still new for you, you’re going to drive away with tears falling into your lap singing to God with one side of your mouth and cussing with the other side at the anguish it takes to put words around this part of your story. When you get home, your precious husband will ask you, “How’d it go?’
You’ll pause too long and your eyes will flood all over again. He takes you in, he tells you it’s good, it’s all so good.
“This is God’s story and he already took care of that, Baby.”
God is good to send others to tell us the things we sometimes forget to remember. It’s just one of the ways He gets to wrap His arms around us while we are here and whisper low and sweet deep down in our ears:
I see you and I fully know you. You are Mine, sweet girl, and you are loved. I exchanged every letter of yours for My own life. Now go live, and love others, like you believe Me.
You’ll keep finding out over and over that vulnerability is usually scary, courage often follows obedience, and that this story is not about you.
And one day you’ll decide to believe Him and you’ll want that freedom for others even more than you want it for yourself…
and you’ll write yourself a letter.
I’m sorry to keep you so long. I know you have basketball practice, but this just couldn’t wait another minute. Take care. And go a little easier on your parents, okay? One day you’re going to see how much grace they really needed.
This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me
-Phil Wickham, This is Amazing Grace