I made a mistake.
The woman walked up to the abortion clinic and stood, holding a sign still a little drippy with paint, about five yards or so from our larg-ish group of sisters, couples & families with kids for our shift at the local 40 Days for Life last week.
I made a mistake.
My husband spotted her and pointed out her sign to me. I extricated myself from a group of wiggly kids and sprinted over.
As I put my arm around her, both to comfort her and because she looked cold (it was about 50 and windy, and she did not have a coat on), she said, “Don’t get too close to me; you might get wet paint on you.”
I told her not to worry about that, and kept my arm in place as we moved closer to our group. She thanked me for putting my arm around her, since it helped to calm her a little. I didn’t know what to say.
And then the words came out of my mouth:
“You know you are loved. You know you are forgiven.”
She nodded and we stayed in silence for some time, the voices of a group of teens and younger kids praying the rosary nearby.
After a while, we chatted about our children, and teenagers, and best friends. It was a pretty mundane conversation, two moms visiting, as moms will do.
After about 10 minutes or so, she said, “Well, I came what I did to do. Do you want me to leave my sign?” Of course, I said.
(The sign is still there, I’m told by other 40 Days for Life-rs).
She said, “Well, I hope I saved someone from going what I went through.”
I told her again, “You know you are loved, and you are forgiven.”
“Yes,” she said.
I told her that I would pray for her, and I asked her to pray for me. I tried to tell her about Silent No More (and realized only later that there were signs from the group in the 40 Days for Life stash), but it was a pretty poor job. Here is the website.
I have hesitated to share this story because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself in this–it was the Holy Spirit speaking through me.
So many times I haven’t gotten the conversation right.
If you don’t know me in real life, believe me: on a lot of topics, I tend to either talk too much or talk too little. But a few related to life issues stand out:
*in high school I worked at a candy store in the mall. One day, I was visiting there with a friend and her brother (her name is lost to the mists of time; I’m not even sure if it was a brother & sister, but that’s how I recall it.) A girl about our age came in to buy some candy. I had never seen her before, and I never saw her again. She shared that she thought she might be pregnant. I’m not sure I said anything at all. If I did it was not helpful, since I was a garden-variety insecure and self-centered teenager. I do recall being embarrassed by the brother laughing nervously, but not enough to do or say anything about it.
*various conversations over the years in which I’ve been dismissive, uncharitable and unkind of of friends or family whose views that don’t align perfectly with my idea of “pro-life.” Instead of being a good listener or a good prayer intercessor for my most dear, I have been the opposite.
*Several years ago, I happened to join Twitter right at the beginning of 40 Days for Life. One of my first tweets was something like, “#40DaysforLife in Peoria: women deserve better than abortion” after my hour in front of the abortion clinic. Later that day on the #40daysforlife hashtag, there was a long monologue from a Texas abortion advocate who wrote (in multiple tweets) about how her mother (and she) would have been better off if she had been aborted, so unpleasant was her upbringing and early life.
I remember feeling very strongly to tweet back, “Well, I am really, truly glad you were born, and I’m glad you are alive.” But I didn’t know Twitter at all, and felt afraid–what would be her response? Would she harass me? Was this even “done” on Twitter?
Of course, conversations between strangers are “done” on Twitter, and friendships can form, and people also harass each other. But I was a Twitter novice, and I still am in a lot of ways. So I stayed silent, and while I did pray for her, I never responded.
So I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity I had last week to stand side by side with the woman at the abortion clinic last week. It’s one of the rare times I truly felt I got the conversation “right.”
“I made a mistake.”
Haven’t we all? I am just as much a sinner in need of God’s grace, and so grateful for the love of Christ.
“You are loved. You are forgiven.”
A few days later, someone shared this article, “Don’t Assume People Know God Loves Them,” and what really hit home for me was the author, Rebecca Teti, describing what happens when she realizes a friend does not know this basic fact:
“Now the tears came to my eyes, too. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Here was a beloved daughter of God who did not know how much God loves her: who had no inkling of the beauty and value of her own soul, no notion of God’s infinite mercy – his power to draw good from evil circumstances, to “make all things new.” How it must have ached her fragile heart to … (hear) about the beauty of the relationship with Christ, but with no understanding that it was available to her, too. She thought she had “blown it” and must forever look wistfully in at the windows of Christianity, never to be allowed inside.”
Do you know that, really and truly?
Do you know that you are loved?
Do you know that you are forgiven?
Thoughts on this topic:
1. You are loved. You are forgiven.
2. I am loved. I am forgiven.
3. God is love, and we are his precious children.
update from me: this morning when I was waking up one of my children, I turned on the bedside clock radio, and this song was playing. It made me think of this post (and I still hold by belief this song should be the theme of the March for Life every year) about how to “speak life” and how our prayers can be answered.
How are you going to “speak life” today?