I had heard of the crisis pregnancy center before, and I wanted to check it out, but I was afraid. I saw the signs for the post-abortion Bible study every day as I worked in my church, and I thought about calling each time I re-read the information. But my fears kept me away. I dreaded taking the chance of being found out by my peers, none of whom knew my secret. I also thought that there was some type of time frame for healing which had long expired, and that risking my reputation would have been for nothing anyway. So I talked myself out of taking the risk every day.
God knew I needed a little help. And He sent that help through the invitation of a friend. The little fundraising walk that she invited me to many years ago was my first safe introduction to the oasis of the crisis pregnancy center I was so thirty to visit, but had self-outcast myself from and never dared to venture near. So when I was invited by my friend to walk, I felt comfortable, ecstatic even, to say yes. But this was only the beginning. After this same friend emailed me her abortion story, I was shocked and then reservedly excited about the possibility that I wasn’t alone, that I could reveal my secret story too. So I asked my husband if he would be comfortable with me sharing our story with a friend, and he said yes. My email reply shocked my friend as much as her email had shocked me. I had done a very good job of portraying a perfect little happy life to her in our exchanges at church and our volunteer service together. Well, that was all about to change and be undone, to my great relief! Putting on a perfect facade week after week is exhausting.
Two months later she and I attended a weekend retreat, and my whole life changed. Suddenly I was surrounded with people who knew my hiding places, people who had been to those places themselves. I was in the company of people who could relate to me, who didn’t judge me, and who loved me enough to encourage me to grow. I was in an environment of safety, where it was safe to talk about my abortion experience, it was safe to learn about post-abortion trauma, it was safe to allow hope and courage to blossom. I learned how many of my issues, like depression and anxiety, had stemmed from my abortion experience. I also learned how abortion affects men, in some ways very similar and some ways very different than women, and specifically that a lot of my husband’s anger and our related marital issues had stemmed all the way back to our abortion experience. I learned more about God in that weekend than I had in several years of personal study, most especially how to receive God’s forgiveness and that through God’s forgiveness, I didn’t have to forgive myself. It was a moot point by then.
If you’ve ever had an abortion, or walked alongside someone who has, I hope you too will seek help and forgiveness. The hardest step to healing is telling that first person about your story. It’s more than hard, it’s nearly impossible. But James instructs us in his letter to the church to “confess your sins to each other and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” James 5:16. I like the King James version of this verse even better, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” My word study of this verse using the Greek Lexicon through the Blue Letter Bible has led me to the following paraphrase,
Acknowledge openly and joyfully your lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness to one another, reciprocally, mutually and also pray to God for one another, reciprocally, mutually in behalf of, for the sake of, over, beyond and more than just for yourself, that you and you all may be healed, cured, made whole, freed from errors and sins, bringing about salvation. The operative, at work, putting forth of power, effecting and displaying one’s activity through prayer, need, indigence, want, privation, seeking, asking and entreating of a righteous man (truly only Christ is righteous, but here, entreat Christ first), and then man or woman approved of or acceptable by God (because he or she has previously done part one of this verse, his/her own confessing and healing) thus availing, but not just making available, indeed having and wielding strength and power to overcome much.
Now that’s a mouthful. It may take a few read-throughs to follow, but the deeper more drawn out meanings of these words helps me to see how God works through His people, and more importantly, how not drawing near to others can keep God’s power from reaching us. I’ve been there, I know how lonely and painful it is to stay in that hiding place, and how difficult and scary that first confession is. There are great places and resources that can help you make that first step. Look up your local crisis pregnancy center, church, and abortion recovery retreat. In the days to come I will provide some specific resources that have helped me through this journey.
Just remember, the first step is the hardest, and the rest is a steady, long but exciting hike with all sorts of ups and downs. Don’t make the journey alone. God knows we all need a little help, and if you pay attention and look around, you will find safe people and places that He has provided. And some day you may be the one helping others.