I stepped out of the car, feeling both a looming dread and a sense of relief. It was finally going to be over.
I’d never felt so terrified, lost, and alone.
My driver hustled me past some people standing outside the building. They tried to pass me something. I stretched out my hand, but my companion pushed me forward.
We entered the office. It was quiet. Other women were sitting, looking the way I felt. Hope lost. Defeated. Shut down. I tried to smile at one and she looked away. I felt ashamed for even trying to smile.
My name was soon called and I was brought to a back room.
It happened very quickly. As I lay there, I wished life was different. I had been there before, but this time I was older, I understood a little more. I cursed my stupidity, a deep emptiness forming inside me.
As we left the building, the same group was still there. In my drugged fog I didn’t realize they were protesters. I wondered why they were there.
This time they managed to hand me their brochure. I looked down and saw the words, “Abortion is Murder.” I sucked in air and watched the brochure slip from my hand to the sidewalk.
Something happened in that moment: shame and grief washed over me. I instantly labelled myself a monster.
In the coming years, I would see anti-abortion ads, the billboards a reminder each time of how awful I was. In my pre-faith world, abortion was an acceptable choice. But I knew how Christians felt about me.
When my path did cross with Christian culture, I would shy away, certain they would discover my evil ways. They’d made the message pretty clear: I was a murderer. I didn’t understand what it meant to be Christian. I did however believe in God. And I believed I was hated in God’s eyes because of what I had done.
Then one day I found myself in church, invited by my boyfriend’s mom. I really liked her, but felt nervous about entering a church. As I sat beside my boyfriend, I saw him raise his hand to give his life to Christ. And I followed. We were hustled into a little room and I looked around at people praying. I fought panic, vaguely repeated the words I was told to speak, then left. I wanted to run.
We were stopped by the pastors in the foyer and this is were I met Pastor Helen. She gravitated to me and wanted to hang out. All I could think was, If she knew. If she knew who I really was.
Despite my resistance I found myself setting up a meeting with her in her office. I planned to tell her everything, and figured once she knew, she would leave me alone.
I showed up afraid and ready to be judged. I had done this myself. I was a murderer.
I sat down, and through tears I told my story. I told her about my abortions, listed off my greatest sins, and when I was done, I looked her in the eye and braced myself.
She looked at me, through her own tears. “You know God still loves you, and you are forgiven through Jesus.”
I think I cried an ocean that afternoon. This was not the Church I believed existed. Their billboards and brochures had made it very clear how they felt about me and who I was in the eyes of God.
And in that moment, I had hope. I saw Jesus.
Why does Hate speak so much louder than Love? I had seen the billboards, “Jesus Loves You,” but I always followed with the quiet thought, Except me.
I can’t imagine the series of miracles that brought me to Helen’s office that afternoon. Despite it all, God had orchestrated my redemption. Jesus took my shame and I was saved.
But then I think of all the other girls and women who walk in the same shame. Every time I see a hate campaign surfacing on social media or in the news, I cringe. I think of the mothers, walking through life living with shame and grief, believing they are monsters. I feel that same gut punch I felt that day on the sidewalk when I saw those protestors. And I have to remind myself I am forgiven, because that hate feels all-consuming.
I want a Big Love campaign. I keep thinking about what Jesus would do if He was here. I don’t think he would be standing on a picket line, or using Facebook as a soap box. I think he would be walking alongside the people being attacked “in the name of God.”
A Love campaign starts with us. Maybe it’s showing a neighbour that our doors are open.
Maybe it’s resisting adding our voice to an angry thread.
Maybe it’s pausing and checking our heart before we hit the share button.
I want women who are hurting to know God loves them. Just like He’s always loved me.