I Will Take Your Sin

Abby Johnson left her position as a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas because she couldn’t hurt women anymore.  She has documented many of her experiences in the abortion industry.  Recently, Abby shared a story every Christian needs to hear.

A woman, visibly upset, walked into the clinic.  Abby counseled her.  Then suggested she go home to think about her decision.  “She was insistent,” Abby remembers.  “This abortion must happen today.”  She asked if Abby would hold her hand during the procedure.

Sedation was given, but  the woman “cried even harder.”  She “was shaking” when the abortionist walked in the room.  “He did something,” Abby said, “that left me speechless.”  The doctor walked over to the woman and took her hand.  Abby recounts the conversation that followed.

“Why the tears?” he asked.

“I just feel really guilty about doing this,” the woman responded.

He asked her why she felt guilty.  She said, “Because I just know this is a sin.”  He paused for a minute and looked at her.  He smiled and said, “No.  It is not your sin.  It is mine.  I will take on your sin.  I commit the sin.  Not you.”

Her crying stopped.  “It was bizarre,” remembers Abby.  “Did he really think he was committing a sin?  How could he do it if he really thought that?  Did he think he was taking on the sins of these women by helping them obtain abortions?  What a heavy burden to bear.  It was hard for me to process . . . it still is.”

Abby carried her own burden while working at Planned Parenthood.  She remembers thinking that “if I died while I worked there, I would probably go to hell . . . I was so unsure of who God was or what His ‘will’ actually meant . . . I was completely misdirected.”

As compassionate as the abortionist in Abby’s story sounds, he, too, was misdirected.  None of us can be a scapegoat for another’s sin.  No other person can be a scapegoat for our sin.  There is only one Scapegoat.  He is Jesus Christ.

Abby needed Jesus Christ.  She is the mother of two aborted children.  Her abortionist was guilty, but so was she.  Abby has repented.  Laid her sins at the foot of the Savior’s Cross.  But, what about the church?  Some Christians, observes Abby, say, “Shame on the abortionist.”  Others say, “Shame on the women who have abortions.”  But, “you know what?  Shame on us!”

I remember when I first became involved in Lutherans For Life.  I read about Dr. Bernard Nathanson who co-founded the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).  He explained how important it was for Christian churches to stay silent on the issue of abortion.  On the speaking trail, I remember how often I heard Lutheran parents, grandparents, and congregational leaders defend abortion.  At last count, 25 of my friends, relatives or acquaintances have shared their abortion decisions with me.  All are Christian.  Many attend regular Bible study or sing in the choir.  Some are wives of pastors.

Abby says, “Shame on us.”  I guess I’ve been saying something similar for many years.  Lutheran women’s groups serve in countless mission fields, but forget the mission field of mothers who aborted their children.  Congregations offer every possible support group from drug abuse to divorce; from weight loss to grief counseling.  But, the grief suffered after abortion — by the one who performed the procedure and the one who chose the procedure — is ignored.  The church is silent.  In our minds, we justify.  Rationalize.  Excuse.

Satan wants us to remain silent.  “It’s none of your business,” he whispers.  “Besides, does God really say that abortion is so wrong… considering the circumstances?”  But, Jesus stands with His arms outstretched to block the way.  “Don’t do this thing and sin against God!”  After the abortion, He remains close to both the abortionist and the mother who aborted her child.  His arms are open and welcoming.  “Come to Me and I will forgive the guilt of your sin.”  Jesus Christ invites – compels – His church to do the same.  He wants us to speak up.  Warn.  If the deed is already done, He compels us to speak again.  Expose sin.  Help the sinner to confess and then approach His throne of mercy and grace.  To do nothing… to remain silent… is to participate in deception.  Share the sin.  Perpetuate the horror.

When I am restless… anxious… and burdened by guilt, I must look to no one but Christ.  My doctor, pastor, or husband cannot take on my sin.  But, “I will take your sin,” says Jesus.  No matter what we have done (or failed to do);  no matter if we’ve chosen, performed, or defended an abortion, we need to acknowledge our sin.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).  With His forgiveness, Christ sets us free to move outward into the lives of others – with hope.

Grace Kern, director of  Word of Hope, visits daily with women who’ve been held prisoner to lies and excuses.  Grace does not take on the sins of these women, but she tells them of Jesus who took on the sins of the world. Throughout the year, I meet with women in the church who’ve been held prisoner to lies and excuses.  I do not take on the sins of these women, but tell them of Jesus who sacrificed – once and for all.

O Lord, bring us all out of prison, that we may give thanks to Your name (Psalm 142:7).

Call Grace Kern at Word of Hope (888) 217-8679
First printed in LifeDate

 

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God’s Word Speaks to You

This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is His faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity;  I said, ‘I will confess my transgression to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (King David in Psalm 23:3-5).

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; thought they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound . . . to comfort all who mourn . . . to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Abortion and Childhood Sexual Abuse

“I would never have an abortion myself, but I support the right of others to do so.”

“Abortion is wrong, except in some cases.”

“Sometimes we’re forced to choose the lesser of two evils.”

Why is abortion defended as a “woman’s right” even among people of faith?  How does a mother, father, or grandparent rationalize abortion?  What has to happen to make people who acknowledge the Creator of life set themself in His place and take a life?

The ministry of Titus 2 for Life began after years of asking these questions.  In order to make abortion “unthinkable,” we must honestly examine what happens prior to an abortion, including a “me first” mentality, promiscuity, loss of true identity, and failure to trust God.  But is there, as one Titus 2 participant asked, a missing piece to the puzzle of abortion?  Is there something so terrible that, in moments of fear and hopelessness, even Christian women and their families feel compelled to play the role of God?

An e-mail conversation following a Titus 2 Retreat began to reveal that missing piece.  A participant wrote: “Without breaking confidences, a group of us shared the painful circumstances of abortion as related to us by friends, family, congregation, and community members we have cared about and listened to over the years.  A common thread seemed to run through these accounts.  Young women who had been victims of childhood sexual abuse became promiscuous or experienced further sexual abuse from men during their teen years.  When they found themselves pregnant, they chose an abortion.”

Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is, without a doubt, a missing piece in the abortion puzzle.

“I don’t even remember when it began.  My older step-brother would slip into my room at night and crawl into bed with me . . .”

“When I was twelve, my ‘uncle’ began touching me . . . later, when boys wanted to do the same, I honestly didn’t know how to say ‘no.’”

“Between the ages of 10 and 14, I was sexually abused by my step-dad.  My mom knew but was too afraid to say anything . . .”

“The principal of my Christian school said I was special and what he was doing to me was our secret . . .”

The stories break our hearts.  One study done in 1997 found that “compared to women who were not abused during childhood, women who reported a history of childhood sexual abuse were 1.5 more likely to have had an abortion.”  (Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9315271)

This statistic (and more) was researched by a Titus 2 participant whose heart was touched by the stories she heard following a retreat.  She has been motivated to speak so that a culture can begin to prevent more harm, death, and hopelessness.

Titus 2 women gather to contrast the world with The Word.  Abortion is a worldly idea, but God calls it a sin.  What has to happen before the sin of abortion?  Other sin.

Sin happens when we rebel against or fail to trust God.  Sin happens when we let our sinful human flesh come under Satan’s authority.  Sin happens when God’s people are silent about sinful behavior.  Sinful humans caught up in sinful behavior affect the lives of others.

CSA is an example of sin’s generational effect on all of us. The consequences of one sin can affect generations to follow.  God says: I, the Lord your God, am a jealous god, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me . . . (Exodus 20:5 NIV).

In pausing to take a breath, I sense what some of you are thinking.  Why is God so unjust to compel innocent children to bear the sins of guilty parents?  Ahhh . . . and so it might seem to those who stop with verse five.  Please!  Don’t stop!  Read the rest of what God has to say.  He continues with a powerful, life-changing “but” that is followed by words of hope: I . . . am a jealous God, punishing . . . to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me . . . but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments (v. 6).

Do you hear what the Lord of life is saying?  He is “a jealous God” because He created male and female.  The first man and woman’s sin tainted all of their children and children’s children.  Sin produces consequences.  But, praise God!  There is Hope!  There is always Hope for those who love and trust God!  This Hope died for our sin ad rose to victory.  Hope is Jesus Christ who covers the repentant sinner with mercy every morning.

It is never a child’s fault when he or she is abused.  A child has not sinned when they are forced to do something against their will.  The adult who puts a child in harm’s way or strips away innocence is always held accountable.  So, what does the person who experienced childhood sexual abuse do?  He or she finds hope and healing in God’s promises: Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame . . . The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them . . . The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:5, 7, 18 NIV).

What does the adult who sinned against God and one of His little ones do?  He or she finds hope and healing in God’s promises: When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ – and You forgave the guilt of my sin.  (King David in Psalm 32)

What do Titus 2 women (and men) do?  They speak up.  They expose the darkness of evil with the light of God’s Word.  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this  present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing ofour great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:11-14).

Copyright: Linda Bartlett
Ezerwoman

A Daughter Learns of Her Mother’s Abortion… and the Lord’s Mercies for Generations

The phone rang.  It was Lauren, the daughter of my friend Jane.  “I realize I’m calling you out of the blue, but I wanted you to know that my mom told me.”  There was a pause, then, “She said you would understand.”

I did.  I knew immediately that Jane, after thirty-some years, had decided to confess her abortion to her only living child.

Did Jane have to confess this sin to Lauren?  No.  Did mother risk a changed relationship with her daughter?  Yes.  But, as Lauren talked with me, I sensed she was genuinely relieved to know the truth.  “Suddenly everything makes more sense,” Lauren said.  “Certain attitudes and behaviors of my mom now have new meaning to me.”

Lauren continued, “I often wondered why mom seemed, well, heavy with life”.

“Do you mean melancholy?” I asked.

“Yes,” Lauren replied.  “That’s it.  Melancholy.  And, you know, she doesn’t really want to discuss the tough things out there in the world.”

Lauren explained that birthdays “have often been difficult for my mom.”  There was something else.  “Mom apologized a lot,” Lauren said, “as if she didn’t think she was a good mom.  That made no sense to me because she is a good mom.”

Lauren continued. “She’s a good grandmother, too.  She gives an extraordinary amount of herself — her time and energy — to my children.”  Lauren was expressing what I knew to be true.  My friend provides daycare for her two grandchildren certain days of the week.  It’s tiring for her, but she tells me over and over again how privileged she feels to be a grandmother and how precious the time is with her grandchildren.  This is not unusual for most of us grandmothers.  Lauren agreed, but added that now she sees her mother’s relationship with her grandchildren “in a new light.”

It does not surprise me that it took so long for Jane to confide in Lauren.  It took many years for Jane to tell me her story in bits and pieces.  Only as she learned to trust me did Jane share details of the choices that made abortion thinkable.  But, telling her daughter was different.  Jane was afraid.  The harmony with her daughter mattered too much.  She did not want to lose it.

The phone call from Lauren to me was significant.  It was evidence of God’s work.  He had been strengthening the bond between this mother and child.

“We had our difficult days when I was in high school,” Lauren told me.  She assumed it was the usual stress between moms and daughters made more challenging by single motherhood.  “But, you know what?  I’ve always known the blessing of two parents who love me.”

Lauren supposed that her mother tended to be melancholy about life, in large part, because of the divorce.  But, with Lauren’s knowledge of the abortion came new understanding and opportunity to process certain memories and experiences.  It seemed that Lauren was responding to the surprise of her mother’s abortion in much the same way I had.  Neither of us turned away from Jane.  Instead, the Holy Spirit cultivated a greater love.

Listening to Lauren, I wondered.  With her carefully guarded secret now exposed, would Jane’s energy be better used?  In knowing her mother’s restlessness, doubt, and unfaithfulness in marriage before the decision of abortion, would Lauren better avoid temptations?

“My marriage is a struggle,” Lauren told me.  “I was nearly tempted away from my husband.”  But, her mother recognized the signs.

Oh, what a difference is made when one generation mentors another!  When a mother is not afraid to act her age or revisit the mistakes of her past, she becomes an invaluable teacher.  She can steer the younger woman away from foolishness and despair.   Jane identified her daughter’s marital frustration and impatience.  She knew the consequences of doubting God and determining for herself the way life ought to be.  She had searched for a more preferable love.  She allowed herself to be wooed by another man.  And, to “fix” the resulting “problem,” she scheduled an abortion.

Jane knows the generational effects of her abortion.  That decision influenced the way she sees her own mother.  Her daughter.  Her grandchildren.

I’m sure that, on occasion, Lauren will ponder her mother’s seemingly strange apologies, but she will also know wisdom gained through her mother’s experience.  There is every reason to believe that, from now on, both mother and daughter can bear witness to one another of the divine order and amazing grace of their heavenly Father.  In this, there is hope for generations to come.

Lauren was at ease during our phone conversation.  She had only one question.  “Did the abortion happen before or after me?”

“It was after you were born,” I told her.  “But, please believe me when I say that the decision had nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with you.  Your mother loved you before you were born and she loves you now.  One of her greatest fears, I think, was that she could never be the kind of mother to you that her mother was to her.  The love, however, that your mom has always had for you is as real as the love God has for you both.”

Lauren had not shed a tear to this point, but now she gave way to emotion.  Between sobs, she whispered, “Thank you.  I needed to hear that.”

Can a daughter find comfort in her mother’s failures?  I believe so.  It was helpful for Lauren to realize that her mother had struggled with a marital frustration and impatience similar to her own.  It was instructive for Lauren to know that doubting God and putting ourselves in His place leads to danger.  It was protective of Lauren when her mother chose to remember the sins of her past.  When she did not resist using lessons learned the hard way, mother was equipped to lead daughter and grandchildren away from harm.

Lauren has been granted a new perspective… one that will serve her family well.  But, just as time was needed for Jane to trust me – little by little – with her story, time was also needed for mother to trust daughter.  Jane and I talk often about God’s faithfulness in her life.  I believe it is that faithfulness on the rocky road of life that nurtured trust between mother and daughter.

A long time ago, Jane gave me permission to share her story with women wherever I speak.  “I can’t tell my story,” Jane said to me.  “But you can.  So, please.  Tell young women not to do what I did.  And tell older women that Jesus loves them no matter what the sins of their past might be.  The forgiveness of Jesus is real.”

I have done what my friend asked.  And, in doing so, many women have approached me privately with confessions of their own.  Christian women in every family and congregation are carrying heavy burdens of disappointment and guilt.  They see the Cross.  They know what Jesus did for them.  They may even trust His forgiveness.  But, like Jane, they are unable or unwilling to forgive themselves.

It is my prayer that Lauren will help her mother forgive herself.  God is the God of relationships… and of the healing that comes through tenderheartedness.  He uses parents and children, friends and even strangers to bring us closer to Him.

Perhaps this Christmas will bear a gift never before found under my friend’s tree.  As Jane looks into the eyes of her daughter and grandchildren, may she find confidence in her confession of Christ.  Confidence that emboldens her to proclaim:

He who is mighty has done great things for me.  Holy is His name.  His mercy is for those who trust Him… from generation to generation.

For the first part of this story,
see “Jane’s Story”

His Word Over Deception

Deception came early… and stayed long.  Sandy felt unloved by her father.   She went to church with friends, but always wondered: Is God really here for me?  In college, it was easier to turn away from faith toward alcohol and drugs.   Once out of college, she believed sexual intimacy would fill her emptiness.

Sandy moved further away from God and the father of lies settled in.  The floodgate of emotions burst when she heard the words, “Your test is positive.”  For perhaps the first time, Sandy knew real fear, shame, and loneliness.  Her father would be so angry!  He’d never been there for her before, so why would he be there now?

Before the door of the abortion clinic, Sandy paused only long enough to name her baby.  I’m sorry, but I can’t be your mother.  There is nothing else I can do.  Now the deceiver sang his own praise.

Sandy moved back home, but did not confide in her parents.   The whole experience, Sandy believed, was finished.  But, the difficult relationship with her father had not changed.  Sandy spent as much time out of the house as possible… and met her husband.

Satan continued to play his game of deception with the goal of stealing all confidence from Sandy.  The first years of her marriage to a loving man were made difficult by hissing sounds.  “You can’t be a good wife.”  In caring so little for herself, Sandy resisted the love of her husband.  She resisted the love of God.  But God, unseen yet faithful, was present and involved.

Sandy and her husband had kept their distance from church, but when their son was born, they realized their need of a church family.  Shortly after their son was baptized, Sandy finished adult instruction and was baptized as well.  A daughter was born two years later.   She, too, was carried to the baptismal font.   Something was changing in Sandy.  She wanted her children brought up in the Kingdom of God.  The deceiver moaned, but kept a talon in the door of Sandy’s life.

It was difficult for Sandy to look at her children and not be reminded of her first baby.  The hissing continued.  “You weren’t a good mother then.  You can’t be a good mother now.”  Mother’s Day was a day of mourning for Sandy.  The burden of guilt and sadness weighed heavy.   Most pressing of all was Sandy’s question, “Am I right with God?”

The question was answered by a bold, but caring pastor.  In Christ, you are a new creation.  There was prayer.  Honesty.  Trust.  A listening ear and gentle nudging with the Father’s Word.  Oh, Jesus, my Savior, I lay it all before You.  With confession, the weight was lifted  (Psalm 32:3-5).  With each day of healing, the hissing subsided.

Sandy had not been able to explain the sense of sorrow that overwhelmed her during the month of May.  Why did joy elude her during the season of new life?  God was faithful to help Sandy realize that May would have been her first child’s birth month.  With each bit of painful truth also came a bit of freedom.

There’s so much more to Sandy’s story, but here’s what she wants us to know.  God is faithful.  His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).  With His life-changing Word, God used the mom who didn’t think she could be a good mother to mentor a Christian daughter.  Sandy was open and honest about her past.  And, when her daughter did not reject her, Sandy’s confidence grew.   Mother and daughter reminded each other of Jesus’ merciful and abiding love.  Together, they cried… and laughed.  With each laugh, satan moved farther from their door.

I am privileged to be included in the lives of both of these women.  I have witnessed the deceiver overpowered by God’s Word at work in both mother and daughter.  Today, Sandy’s daughter is a deaconess.  She is a deaconess with a deep passion to help post abortive women.  Why?  Because God is faithful.

In setting Sandy free (Isaiah 61:1), God covered both mother and daughter with a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).  The deceiver has no hold on them.

(First published in LifeDate, Fall 2010
Lutherans For Life)

Jane’s Story

Jane and I grew up together.  We were raised by Christian parents in the same Lutheran congregation.  We were confirmed together, enjoyed youth group together, and were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.  But, our paths in life were very, very different.

When Jane was a senior in high school, she began dating a college man.  He made Jane feel special.  She was flattered to receive the attention of an “older” man.  But, he was not a Christian nor did he share Jane’s values or dreams.  Things began to move fast.  The pressure was on.  Jane let her emotions take the lead.  The relationship changed when she and her boyfriend became sexually intimate.   Marriage was the next step for a “good” Christian girl.

Marriage had always been something Jane dreamed of.  But, doubting God’s good plan for her life, Jane hurried things along.  Worried that she might be left behind, she crossed protective boundaries to make choices based on feelings and fear.  I’m convinced that Jane loved her husband and he loved Jane – the best he could.  But, without God, he could not truly cover his wife and love her patiently, kindly and unselfishly.  In time, they moved far away from her parents, friends, and church family.  She was not encouraged to find a new church family.  It was too easy to remain anonymous and, thus, accountable to no one.

When Jane gave birth to their first child, she wanted to be the kind of mom her mother was.  But, she failed to trust that God would help her in that vocation.  In fact, she didn’t see it as a vocation.  Not only was Jane intimidated by motherhood, she believed her identity would be found outside the home.

She did find an identity outside the home.  She was good at her job in the business world.  But, her choices left her heart and soul in conflict.  Choosing day care, she believed her child was in expert hands… more expert than her own.  Choosing more worldly friends, she was more easily tempted.  She developed a critical spirit and became discontent at home.

Jane became pregnant with a second child, but her husband was not the father.  There was an abortion.  Then divorce.  Jane quickly found herself a single parent in a cold, lonely and confusing world.

I was well aware of my friend’s divorce, but I didn’t know about the abortion.  Wouldn’t you know it?  I had just become involved in Lutherans For Life.  I was speaking up about the sanctity of each human life — born or unborn.  One day, I briefly mentioned my involvement to Jane in a letter.  Jane’s angry response left me stunned and in shock.  Our friendship began to unravel, but I didn’t know why.  All of a sudden, it seemed Jane and I didn’t have anything in common.  She was a successful career woman, I was a stay-at-home mom.  Jane was surrounded by feminist friends, I was surrounded by Christian family and church friends.

The Holy Spirit was at work.  His was the quiet voice that nudged me to stay in touch with Jane by dropping her casual “thinking of you” notes.  When Jane’s father died, my family became the support for Jane’s mom.  I couldn’t see it at the time, but God was very, very faithful.  Today, Jane tells me that my persistent, yet carefully-worded encouragement welcomed her back on the road of life.  She had taken a detour.  It was painful, ugly, and embarrassing.  But, said Jane, “God used a bridge of friendship to restore trust.”

Jane’s story is evidence that God’s mercies are new every morning.  It was not His desire for Jane and her child to be on their own.  When the time was right, God brought a Christian man into her life who covered her with his name and took her hand in marriage.  He encouraged Jane to be the full-time mom she had dreamed of.  To be sure, there were new challenges – there will always be challenges in this life – but “two are better than one.”

Each time we visited, Jane trusted me with a little more of her story.  By the time the Spirit encouraged Jane to tell me about the abortion, the Spirit had also prepared me with a warm and welcoming heart.

Jane and I continue to have long, honest talks.  Jane has taught me valuable lessons about life.  She taught me that:

  1. Wrong choices are made when we are fearful and fail to trust God.
  2. We are easy prey for Satan when we doubt God.
  3. It is seldom a good idea for young girls to take up with older men.
  4. We are more vulnerable without Christian friends.
  5. Men may not want to hurt women, but they do when they don’t remember God’s Word and use it.
  6. Abortion doesn’t return a woman to an un-pregnant state but, rather, makes her into the mother of a dead child.
  7. Those who most fiercely defend abortion have often been hurt by its piercing blade.
  8. Faithfulness even in awkward friendships can be used by God for His glory.
  9. God’s hand is never so heavy that it crushes us; instead, when we confess our sin, His hand lifts us from despair .
  10. When the world deceives us and then betrays us, we have hope in Christ.

For the rest of Jane’s story, see
“A Daughter Learns of Her Mother’s Abortion…
and the Lord’s Mercies for Generations”