I’ve been told that I’m brave for sharing my abortion story. I never used to be this way. I used to be an expert at ambivalence, guarding my emotions whenever the topic of abortion came up so that no one would suspect that I had any feelings toward the topic whatsoever, let alone to give any hint that I had had an abortion myself. I even coached my husband once on keeping his feelings on abortion to himself, explaining to him that having any vocal viewpoint on abortion, whether good or bad, would lead people to conclude that he had experienced an abortion in the past, and that of course, I would then be found out. I understand now that this logic was irrational, but my paranoia led me to live a very unhealthy fearful existence.
Fear is in itself the very thing that snared me, and enabled me to go through with an abortion in the first place when I didn’t even want to. I was afraid of telling my dad about my pregnancy, I was afraid of being a mom and having the responsibility of raising a child, I was afraid of what people would think of me getting pregnant outside of marriage, especially with my fiancé thousands of miles away in the military.
I’m very thankful for the encouragement I sometimes receive now, but I cannot take any credit for being brave. I have grown up with great dangers and fears, surviving fires, alcoholism, chaos and divorce, cancer and so much death in my family. Because I’m so familiar with fear, one of my very first and favorite Bible verses that I memorized and used as a tool of growth and protection is Proverbs 29:25, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
When I first read this verse many years ago I fully understood the logic behind the first half of it because of my life experiences and my familiarity with fear. But the second half of this verse, this I had not yet experienced. Growing up I went to many different kinds and denominations of churches. I believed in God, and God was a very good friend to me. I prayed to Him constantly, all day long, every day. But it was more of a nervously constant prayer, not a confidently constant prayer. Even after I heard the gospel and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, my prayers did not suddenly change. I continued to pray incessantly about pretty much everything before my eyes, then I would apologize for praying so repeatedly, and then I would continue praying some more.
The hope that this verse gave me caused me to finally do something about my fear. I decided to purposely place my trust in the Lord as this verse suggests, and then pay attention to my fear gauge. When I had doubt, I would recite this verse to myself and press forward in faith trusting, sometimes irrationally that God would keep me safe. And so far, He has come through on the promise of this verse. Don’t get me wrong, God hasn’t taken away the difficult circumstances of life. But I am able to push through them more confidently and courageously than ever before.
Upon further study of this verse in the Hebrew Lexicon, I’ve learned that the fear of man God speaks of consists of extreme anxiety, trembling and quaking. This brought me back to my nights of lying awake in my bed trembling and sobbing in silence as my parents fought and the extreme anxiety and caution I used during the daytime hours in my attempts to help keep the peace or at least avoid an eruption. This fear of man, to me, resembles the co-dependent enabling of an alcoholic abusive family life. But instead of just one household struggling through life like this, I feel sometimes that we are all one collective dysfunctional family of people fearing the unpredictable anger and outrages of each other and walking around on eggshells to prevent them.
If you can’t relate to this statement at first, maybe after I explain the roles of an alcoholic family you may see where this makes sense. There is of course the alcoholic, and then there is the codependent or enabler, the hero, the scapegoat, the cheerleader or clown, and the lost child. In our collective family, our society, I can see these roles played out on a regular basis. For example, I can usually find people behaving in each of these roles within just five minutes on social media.
But as in an alcoholic family, this type of lifestyle does not create a healthy environment. There is nothing anyone can do to prevent the emotional ups and downs of an alcoholic, except when that very person stops drinking. We are all sinners and imperfect people, and we can hop around in these various roles throughout our lifetime, trying to find one that will fit or work, without ever finding peace. As the classic lost child myself, I have found that holding myself and my beliefs back in an attempt to placate everyone else and keep others around me happy and calm is an exercise in futility. Someone will invariably be upset no matter what.
The only way that I’ve found to break free from this co-dependent dysfunctional lifestyle was to take God at His Word, simply trust in Him, and cast my fears of other people aside. Instead of trying to please other people, I’ve slowly been learning and growing in my attempts to pursue after God’s heart and no one else’s. Receiving His forgiveness, then learning what pleases God, and then doing these things (like having compassion and mercy on others, for example) actually turns out to be a pleasing result to other people and has resulted in a reduction of dysfunction.
This pursuit has deepened my relationship with God and fueled my resolve and ability to not fear people. It’s not easy, but over time it becomes a positive cycle resulting from spiritual discipline and obedience. And no, I’m not saying that I’ve perfected this practice by any means. I keep yearning even now as I type to apologize for writing such a firm and deep stance here, and then I remind myself, “that’s fear of people, cast it aside and press forward.” So, if you’re reading this, then I’ve succeeded once more in defeating fear by clicking the post button and making this writing live. And yes, it’s still scary, but strangely peaceful.