Sunday, March 12, 2006

To Take a Stand, Part 2

Continuing this line of thought—about abortion—I want to say that I have no first-hand knowledge about that experience—only what I have observed and read. Several years ago, a young friend of ours had an abortion, and she was devastated afterwards. At first, I didn’t know what was wrong.

Gina* came to my office but could not tell me what was troubling her so deeply. Her eyes were dark and tragic, and she was very pale. I thought she was sick at first, but soon I could tell it was something worse—a sickness in her spirit. She just shook her head and sighed, and her eyes were filled with tears. I hugged her as she was about to leave, and she clung to me and sobbed for a long time. I was bewildered—she had never been so serious before. Then she left my office; she went to live in another state. Several months later, a friend of hers told me about the abortion. I understood, finally.

I should have known that Gina might do that. Gina had told me some time earlier about her friend Megan*, who was pregnant and considering an abortion. I suggested that maybe Megan should put the baby up for adoption, and said that I would help her. Gina said, "Oh, no, if Megan went ahead and had the baby, she knows she wouldn't be able to give it away!"

Before I could even think about my reaction, I blurted out, "She couldn't give it away, but she could kill it?"

Gina scolded me: "Judy! Don't say 'kill'!"

A blog called "Beer, Barbecue, and Bible Study” tells a similar story—from a man’s point of view. Not only is the woman who has an abortion affected; any time a baby has been conceived, there is a man around somewhere who is involved, too. Men—fathers—can be just as deeply impacted by abortion as mothers. This is Pauly's story.

25 years ago, I took part in a decision that separated me from the life of my unborn son. I can only imagine what type of young man he would be today. Sometimes when I mow the lawn or am doing work around the house, or on my car, I think how much I miss not having him here next to me, helping me, telling me about his day, learning from me, sharing jokes, or telling me his plans. The decision for abortion didn't seem like much of a 'choice' at the time. It seemed like there was no other choice. We were pressured by the doctor, society's view at the time, and the fact that we weren't married. It seemed like such an easy thing to do at the time, and I had no idea how it would impact my life for years to come.

I lived with this silence for the next 16 or 17 years. There were many manifestations of my shame and guilt, mainly in the way I related to women and even other children. I could never get close to my daughter, who was a year younger than what my son would have been. Even though I loved her so deeply, there was a part of me that could just not let her in too close to me. How I wish I could have dealt with the grief and shame earlier in my life. Abortion recovery is not really talked about openly in most churches. Even though the subject of abortion is sometimes addressed in churches, it is usually brought up in the context of sin to be avoided, not something of the past to be dealt with. I'm afraid many pastors or congregations are not really equipped with the understanding or sensitivity to deal with post-abortion recovery, especially when it comes to men.

We can all relate to why a woman who chose abortion would need to deal with that decision at some point in her life. Certainly, any woman who would carry her baby to full term, and then lose it suddenly would be looked on with compassion and be recommended for counseling. And even worse, if a woman gave birth to her baby, and then purposely ended its life, she would be looked at as evil, sinful, and judged by society, the church, and the law. But because ending a life while still in the womb is 'legal' under U.S. law, that 'choice' can be made in secret, and it is between a woman, her doctor, and only those who she shares it with. Many women live with shame and guilt, in silence; grieving alone, and dealing (or not dealing) with the loss of her child. It is an awesome burden, and for some, one too great to bear alone.

One thing we tend to conveniently forget, though: for every woman who terminates a pregnancy, there is a man involved too. Until a few years ago, I never thought about that impact on my life, my decision-making process, or my inability to be emotionally or spiritually intimate with my wife and daughter. Even more of a disconnect was evident with my 2 step-sons. Today I can look back and see a pattern of self-destructive behavior and sin that was directly related to my part of a 'choice' that was made in ignorance.

In 1997 I met Steve, and together we met weekly for several months to walk me through the beginnings of a painful process of healing and restoration of a very damaged and shame-filled heart. Over those weeks, I began to see how my 'choice' influenced many of the other decisions I made, especially when it involved women and children. Over the years that followed, I realized there were many other things I needed to deal with, and even today, I continue to have new revelations. The healing process is a long and sometimes painful journey. I haven't 'arrived' yet.

I'm not through sinning or making bad decisions, but now the process of recovering from those decisions is shorter, and I tend to not be so easily influenced by things I know will have long-term or fatal consequences. Every day presents new challenges. At the beginning of this year, I had a profound revelation of how short my life is. As I continue this process of healing and discovery, I am comforted by a very merciful and forgiving Father. His grace is what gets me through, and allows me to be changed, on day at a time.

I am grateful to Pauly for sharing these most personal and difficult thoughts. I think many men and women don’t have any idea that such devastating results are possible. Then they have the cold winds of guilt and hurt howling in their hearts for years.

*Their real names are not Gina and Megan!

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