I was almost all the way back to my car when I heard a voice shouting my name. I turned and saw the clerk from the store I’d just left hurrying toward me.
Breathless, she said, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a long time.”
I stood rooted to the spot. “Alison” was no stranger to me. Several years previous, I had met with her as her pregnancy decision coach.
Sadly, she had made the choice I hoped she would not make.
I’d prayed for years that Alison would find healing. I knew she attended church regularly, but it seemed she was not connecting the dots –both in terms of God’s view of abortion, and also his mercy and grace to those who make that choice.
But now she wanted to talk to me! My heart leaped with hope—until Alison continued.
The next few minutes are difficult to describe. It was like standing ground while facing a blistering storm of accusation.
What this hurting woman wanted to talk about was her anger and bitterness toward me.
Tweet This: This is our beautiful privilege in Christ: to absorb the pain of others. #prolife @susannemaynes
After the abortion, she felt like she was drowning and had even become suicidal for a time. She said that because I had never once tried to reach out to her, she was tempted to leave church altogether.
Because of you… Liar… Hypocrite... Uncaring... The blast swirled around me. I stood there in the full sunshine of a 90-degree day, looking Alison in the eyes, listening.
In that surreal and excruciating moment, I knew the presence of God was with me, the Holy Spirit coaching me every step of the way.
Forgiveness Going Both Ways
After Alison vented, I asked her permission to explain my side of things. She nodded.
Besides the initial phone call I’d made, I’d greeted her and tried to make eye contact as we built a relationship years ago. Each time, she turned away.
Everything about her body language, tone and facial expression told me she did not want to talk about her experience.
So I’d backed off, not wanting to push her.
When I explained this, Alison sneered and said I was lying. We were stuck, my word against hers. Then I told her I’d been praying for her for years.
I asked her forgiveness for not being more courageous in pursuing her. I told her how sorry I was that she was hurting so badly. She let me take her hand, then her other hand, then let me hug her.
We stood there in the sweltering heat, weeping, as she forgave me.
Shaking and sweating, I finally got into my car and went to the grocery store. My mind was numb. I think we need … lettuce?
On the drive home, Matthew 5:11 dropped into my spirit.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
That’s when the sobbing began.
As much as the attack on my character hurt, I would never trade that experience. It is always a glorious privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ.
To be clear, I don’t call that kind of conversation “persecution”—my brothers and sisters in other parts of the world can speak to that. But, insult and say evil things against you … yeah, that happened.
Here’s the thing: Because of the cross and blood of Christ, Christians have a supernatural power to absorb pain.
Learning to Absorb Pain
This stunning reality works itself out practically in pregnancy help ministry, specifically in reaching out to post-abortive women and men.
I address it this way in my book, Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion: 40 Reflections on Rescuing the Unborn:
Though an abortion may be kept secret, it doesn’t take place in a vacuum. When we consider that every woman has a circle of relationships, it’s easy to see how one abortion could easily affect fifteen or more people. How many women still suffer over a past abortion—and how many of their loved ones, coworkers and friends are affected along with them? How much collective damage has been done by this particular choice?
The problem is all the more complex because our society has minimized the sin of abortion—and, in doing so, has minimized its grief as well. How many women and men have been left to suffer alone? …
We stand in the chaos, speaking the truth in love to millions of Mary Magdalenes. Some are closer to breaking the chains of denial than others.
Let’s stand firm for life, respond with kindness, and trust God to deliver one Mary at a time.”
I called Alison a few days after our conversation. She gave me permission to connect her with one of our post-abortion recovery leaders.
Alison is on the road to healing. The collective damage around her is on the way to being mended.
This is our beautiful privilege in Christ. Absorb the pain. Take it to the cross.
Heal a hurting world, one heart at a time.