I remember the first time I met her, she was standing in front of a church on a track where she was being prostituted. Her belly was round and swollen with life. We connected instantly and over the next couple of months we would meet up over a meal or in the middle of the track.
This was her fourth pregnancy, her three children were in the system with little hope for reunification. Now in her seventh month of pregnancy fear and doubt and intense heartache began to set in and take over. How could she give another child away? What hope did she have of keeping this child? If she did what kind of life would she be providing?
She lived her days in fear and loneliness. Her pimp was controlling and violent and she had no one. She was alone. We were standing right in front of her, offering her friendship and unconditional love and yet she believed she was alone. Imagine trying to trust someone when everyone you know has used you for their own gain, has abused you and discarded you. Imagine trying to hope it would be better this time when it always seems to be getting worse, when it IS getting worse.
We know it's a lie, "it will be easier this way", "you're doing the right thing, to have this child would be selfish". We know because we are on the outside looking in or perhaps we are looking back on a choice already made. We know that it will not be easier to abort than to adopt, we know that we will never be able to talk ourselves into believing that we didn't take the life of our own child. But in that moment, when your world is caving in and the enemy is screaming in your ear and you have no one...you believe the lie.
We begged and pleaded with her, offering to adopt the child ourselves, whatever it would take, we were there and wanted to help her choose life. She made the appointment anyways.
The next time I heard from her, her words were barely recognizable. Taken over by grief she called me and through wrenching sobs told me she had made the wrong choice. She was devastated because she now saw, she now felt, she now lived the truth of the lies she had believed.
I heard from her once or twice in the next couple of weeks and then she disappeared. Her number was no longer connected, I had no way of finding her. For the next four years I prayed for her, that she would heal, that she would find freedom, that she was alive... This woman that God had brought into my life, who I loved, who he loved. Sometimes I forget or my view gets clouded...there are so many women with similar stories and I can't see what God is doing and I wonder if He's really there and if He cares or is able and then on nights like this one, He reminds me.
It had been four years since I had seen her... she approached with two other women, looked me in the eye and said "do you remember me?" I knew her face immediately but didn't quite place her so I asked her name. She said her name, the name I had been praying for, grieving for, believing for... We hugged for a long time and rejoiced together at our reunion. I told her how I had been praying for her, how thankful I was that she was alive. She told me that she'd had a son since I last saw her, he's one now.
I sensed that she still felt very alone yet I was reminded in the moment of the sweetness of God, the relentlessness of God...four years!! And He was here, with her, with me... He was whispering "I love you and I am always faithful". I prayed these truths over her and reminded her that she was not alone, that I loved her, that God loved her.
I share this story for a few reasons; first, because perspective changes everything. I believe in the sanctity of life, meaning I believe every life created by God is valuable and beautiful and I believe that it is His to give and take life. However, on some level, after walking through this woman's abortion with her I can say "I get it". I get why it is easier to believe the lie and I get why people sometimes make the choices they do. God granted me the ability to feel the fear and heartache with her, He granted me compassion and empathy much as I believe He felt for her. I know His heart was broken at the choice that she made, at the life that was lost, but I also believe His heart was broken with her's, He was in the midst of her hellish circumstances, grieving with her as well as for her. And the point is, He loves her. No matter what choices she has made, He loves her with a steadfast love and goes to great lengths to prove it. Maybe it's not as simple as "pro-choice" or "pro-life" maybe, like so many other things it's a heart issue, it's about believing God rather than about right or wrong. It's about overcoming terrible atrocities with life-giving love. I know it's hard to see God in the midst of death and destruction but perhaps that's where He is most present. So in saying I believe in the sanctity of life I am not saying that I stand in opposition to those who choose otherwise, I am saying I am willing to stand with them in their fear, in their loneliness, in their doubt, hoping that they will feel a little less alone, that they will see Jesus standing with them, offering them hope where there seems to be no way out... just, as I hope, they will stand with me.
That leads me to my second point, God is faithfully pursuing His own. That night there were 25 of us on the streets and I was the one who walked up to her. A face she knew, one that had loved her without judgment, without condition. In a world where she was sure she was alone, Jesus reminded her that she wasn't. Jesus reminded me. We are never really alone because God is with us, I believe that. But I think He often shows up for us through others. He gives us ridiculous amounts of love for the unloveable (you and me) and pours out his grace and mercy and love through us onto one another. Seeing her again was a beautiful and bittersweet gift. Overwhelmed with the knowledge that she was alive, with the evidence of God's love for her, for me and yet deeply saddened to find her in almost the exact same place where we first met my heart was grieved and elated at the same time. Through many tears I related this story back to my team at the end of the night and several people said they saw Jesus through me. I am sure that they did, because this was His doing. This is His heart.
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord...If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends...The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." Romans 8:38,39, 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, Zephaniah 3:17