The young woman sat silently beside her mother at our clinic, staring down at her lap. She did not respond when addressed. She did not move. Her mother did all the talking.
They had discovered that “Alexis” was pregnant when she was six months along.
No one could figure out how this could have happened since she was never out of sight of her parents—a very conservative religious couple who had adopted her some years before.
The ugly truth came out in court a few months later.
Alexis was violated by the very man who adopted her. Instead of healing her already-festering father wound, he tore it open that much further.
But that’s not where the story ends. I’ll share the rest in just a bit.
When I was a volunteer in training at our center, I was dismayed to learn that one of the most dangerous places for a pre-born baby to begin life is inside the womb of an unmarried church-going girl.
Why? Because religiosity, fear and shame work as an unholy trinity, destroying lives—including, quite literally, the lives of the unborn.
If a young woman grows up in a shame-based home and becomes pregnant outside of marriage, she may find it very difficult to choose life for her baby.
She faces the fear of disappointing people. She worries how people will react—her parents, her pastor or priest, other church folks she looks up to.
She’s trapped by shame.
Enter the work of pregnancy help centers, which minister alongside the church.
We reach out to people who’ve made major mistakes with dire consequences. We offer practical help and compassionate support without lecturing or condescending.
We focus on life and hope for the future, not on regrets about the past.
Tweet This: Pregnancy help organizations focus on life and hope for the future, not on regrets about the past.
This doesn’t mean we excuse or minimize sin; it simply means our emphasis and our mission isn’t to correct people so much as it’s to help them forward.
We want to help them understand life is sacred, and it’s meant to be abundant and eternal as well. We offer the hope of the gospel, which breaks the power of shame in a way nothing else can.
When a troubled young woman comes into a pregnancy center, she finds a place of safety. She realizes she is not alone in her dilemma. She finds listening ears and caring hearts. She experiences relief.
Here, she will not be judged. Here, she can think clearly to make a decision she can live with all her life.
Here, shame is declawed. It is not allowed to drive her decisions.
We apply the gospel in a practical way at the front end of an unplanned pregnancy, assuring young women they are worthy of love no matter what mistakes they’ve made or how they’ve been victimized.
We also apply it to the regrettable and painful choice of abortion.
A favorite way for me to meditate on the power of the gospel and the cross of Christ is to think of the wonderful women I’ve had the privilege of coming alongside as they worked through a process of post-abortion recovery.
I’ve watched the transformation from bitterness, depression, and self-destruction to hope, joy and freedom numerous times. It never ceases to amaze me what Jesus can do in the life of a person who says yes to His love.
Such marvelous evidence of God’s grace inspires me to break out in praise to Him.
Here’s the beautiful truth: shame and grace can’t co-exist. When we are gripped by grace, shame loses its grip on us.
Tweet This: Here’s the beautiful truth: shame and grace can’t co-exist. When we are gripped by grace, shame loses its grip on us.
Now for the rest of Alexis’ story:
We saw her again a few years later. She smiled and visited with us, telling us how she was married now and had a second child (she was also raising her first one).
Had I first met Alexis right then, I never would have guessed she was once that cowering girl, paralyzed by the power of shame, unable to speak or even look people in the eye.
Alexis’ story serves to illustrate that shame doesn’t have to win the day. There’s something more powerful at work in the world—something scented with the fragrance of heaven.
It’s called grace, which pregnancy centers extend to hurting people every day.
I’ll close with this, from Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion:
Your mercy will not snuff a smoldering wick,
but cups a hand around the faltering spark;
as you breathe life into the candlestick,
hope leaps to flame once more against the dark.
Your mercy will not break a drooping reed,
but gently holds upright the crippled stem
and touches it with soothing balm to heal;
then binds it to your strength to stand again.
Your mercy is the whispering of my name;
a still, small voice, the murmuring of a dove
that silences the haunting power of shame;
such is the power of your unfailing love.
Your mercy is my spirit’s grateful song
that I will sing to you my whole life long.