16-year old girl walked into the nondescript office building on a cloudy Wednesday morning. She went there seeking the best solution for the latest in a long series of problems: an unplanned pregnancy. She followed the nurse down a long hallway and into a small examination room.
The nurse immediately tried to ease Lisa’s anxiety. “Remember,” she said, “this is just tissue. We will just remove this tissue from your body. It won’t hurt, but you will probably have some cramping. After that, you won’t have to think about this ever again.”
Half an hour later, Lisa got dressed, left the office, and went home to rest. The next morning, she went to school.
Everything is back to normal, she thought. I don’t ever need to think about this again. It was just tissue. Move on.
Lisa just wanted to get back to her normal life. But things weren’t that simple.
“Duck Dynasty” star Lisa Robertson knows that forgiving others and yourself is hard. But she’s also experienced the freedom that comes with choosing mercy. In the following excerpt from Desperate Forgiveness, Lisa describes finding freedom and saying goodbye to shame and judgment.
Three women, three choices
Most people think, This can never happen to me. But it happens to millions of girls and women.
Women have three basic choices when faced with this dilemma. I know three women who chose three different options. All three were 16 years old when they faced their terrible decisions. All three were unwed and pregnant and did not have a personal relationship with Christ.
Girl #1 was my mother-in-law, Miss Kay. She and Phil were teenagers in love when they had sex and she became pregnant. Although she did not have a deep Christian faith at the time, Miss Kay chose life. She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Al, who became the love of my life. She loved Al and cared for him as she completed high school and waited for Phil to complete college and start a career so they could be married and raise a family. You can imagine how grateful I am that my mother-in-law chose
life for her baby boy.
Girl #2 was a woman named Kate. She loved her boyfriend deeply and gave herself to him. A short time later she was pregnant. Unfortunately, her life circumstances made it difficult for Kate to raise that baby herself. As a high school junior, she was too unprepared for motherhood. Her own mother was chronically ill, meaning Kate would have limited support from her family. All these factors led her to a crucial decision. She chose life, but chose to let a childless couple adopt and raise her baby. Kate
still feels some regret about her decision but feels she did the best she could at the time.
Girl #3 was in emotional turmoil, having lost the love of her life, which had left her brokenhearted. She fell into a lifestyle filled with poor choices. Even though she still carried a torch for her absent ex-boyfriend, she had sex with other boyfriends and became pregnant. She attended church but couldn’t bring herself to share her problems with anyone there. Her shame was too great.
A life-altering decision
Girl #3 was me. I chose death for my child – death for the life living inside of me, death to the future generations that could have been born, death to one of God’s precious children. I thought my decision would end my problem, but I still live with the painful consequences of that decision every day.
Like David in Psalm 51, I cried out for God to have mercy on me according to His steadfast love, to blot out my sin that I felt was ever before me.
I made a choice that was life-altering for myself and life-ending for my baby. I make no excuses for my choice. Yes, there were factors beyond my control that influenced my choice, but it was still my choice to make. And that’s true for any woman today facing a similar decision.
I believed I had to face my decision on my own without help from anyone else. I realize now I was fatally wrong about that. I hope that you never find yourself in a similar predicament, but if you do, I hope you’ll reach out to someone who cares, and choose life.
From shunning to supporting
Half a century ago, girls who got pregnant were “bad girls” who “got in trouble,” and the only way to save face for families and solve these “problems” was to send the girls off to a home or orphanage where they could deliver their babies in privacy before returning to life as “normal.”
At the time, people believed shame was good, and in some cases, the more the better. Shame was the all-powerful tool that might scare these “bad girls” away from getting into trouble again later on. The worse they felt about themselves the better, because that shame was believed to be some kind of insurance against future moral failures.
That approach didn’t work too well, and then abortion was made legal throughout the United States in 1973. It was a new day, with new freedoms for women to end their pregnancies. Roe v. Wade also signaled the start of a decades-long culture war over abortion.
Sending mixed messages
Christians send mixed messages to women who wrestle with unintended pregnancies. On the one hand, we teach that each life is beautiful and loved by God. But on the other hand, we don’t always embody that love when we talk to women about these important life issues. Many Christians believe that abortion is murder, and as a result, they treat women like me as murderers.
Some Christians still seem to believe that shame and judgment are the best ways to change a woman’s heart. They believe that reaching out and showing love and compassion to “bad girls” like me actually encourages us to become even worse. They believe that such compassion could even cause “good” girls to become “bad” girls who have children outside of marriage. According to Christians who use this approach, shame and guilt are necessary to keep people from acting out their sexual desires. They fear that treating “bad” girls with love and compassion would send the message that premarital and extramarital sex are permissible, or even good.
Shame is powerful, but I don’t believe it keeps girls from sin. Rather, it keeps girls trapped in sin. Shame causes many people to be wracked by guilt over their sexual sins. For these women, sexual sin becomes the unforgivable sin – or at least they think it’s unforgivable.
Agents of God’s grace
We meet many Christian women who struggle with the same kinds of guilt, stigma and isolation I dealt with. Al and I meet many of these desperate women when we speak to groups about our journey of desperate forgiveness. Their grief and sorrow can be almost overpowering.
Yet I understand them, and their stories resonate with me. They remind me of myself before I experienced my own case of desperate forgiveness, and like them, I was burdened by the weight of my sorrow and guilt. It’s amazing to tell these tortured souls the good news I have experienced: Christ can forgive your sins, even the sin of abortion.
I have experienced desperation, and I have known desperate forgiveness. I am grateful for the grace God showered on me after I confessed my abortion. I now want to be an agent of God’s grace to others. I want to be a grace-giver who tells hurting women that God can set them free, just as He did with me.
If you have not experienced this grace yourself, your heavenly Father is waiting to heal and forgive you. But if you have experienced this grace, I invite you join me as a fellow grace-giver. God knows there are many women who need grace!
Because of our own experience, Al and I are passionate about working with and supporting various groups and ministries that promote life. We encourage you to get to know the following organizations, find out what they do, and see how you can help:
• Embrace Grace provides emotional, practical, and spiritual support for single young women and their families who find themselves in an unintended pregnancy.
• National Life Center (800-848-5683)
• American Pregnancy Association Helpline (800-672-2296)
• Heartbeat International’s website offers a worldwide directory of pregnancy centers.
To find a local pregnancy center, visit OptionLine.org and type in your ZIP code. Most pregnancy
centers offer pregnancy tests, STD tests, counseling, child-raising classes and assistance choosing an adoption center – if that’s the choice a woman makes. Most will also help a woman throughout her pregnancy and as she begins raising her child.
All life is from God. All life is important to God. We hope that you will choose life and encourage others to do the same.
But remember, all is not lost for women who fall into the same kinds of sexual sin that I experienced. God’s grace is vast, and if we repent, His forgiveness is plenty big enough to overcome and forgive even the biggest and baddest of our sins.