Friday, February 7, 2020

The Role I Never Asked For

“Be here now” is a phrase that hangs on my living room wall. It’s also a common phrase to hear tossed around my home as well as that of my extended family. The concept is simple. The practice, not so much. Behind this phrase lies the idea of learning to be present, to be engaged, to not be worried and concerned about many things. Yes, I tend to have a Martha heart, so the goal of being present is one I constantly strive toward.

Each year, I prayerfully choose a word to make my aim for that year. 2020’s word happens to be “Present.” I anticipated simplifying, letting some things go, and taking on less responsibility. What I didn’t expect was the precursor battle over where I would need to be present.

Leading up to the shift in decades, I thought I knew where I would be when the twenty-teens turned the corner. I would be in a smaller house with less commitments, I would be homeschooling my boys, working part-time, and basically choosing where to invest my extra time. But my journey took an unexpected turn when in early November, my husband experienced a crisis of anxiety, panic, and insomnia that we later learned was connected to complex PTSD.

My semi-predictable world was turned upside down. Our home was under contract to be sold and we were negotiating projects to be completed before closing. I was managing guests and maintenance at our AirBnB property a town away. I was homeschooling our sons. And now, in the midst of my husbands near daily struggle, I found myself alone in managing much of life and thrust into a new role that I never asked for.

Mental illness is something that happened to other people, not us! Really, if anyone lost it, it should have been me. My husband was a rock! Now, I couldn’t be strong enough to make him feel safe. I found myself having to learn to listen to deep, dark struggles and scary thoughts – honestly, they scared me too, but he needed me to be his safe place. I couldn’t allow myself to struggle. My routine driven nature that thrived on set expectations was stretched in extreme flexibility as I ebbed and flowed with my husband’s needs. The questions were endless. And I felt alone, so alone.

Recently, I was challenged to take an honest look at where I am in life right now – to answer questions objectively, to accept with grace the place God has allowed (and privileged) me to be in, then to fully immerse myself fully present in the where that I happen to be.

I was posed with questions to ponder. Question like: Has something recently changed in your life? Does a member of your family require more from you in this season? Is a loved one struggling with anxiety, panic, or a sickness? I felt like this woman had a secret portal in looking at my past few months. I felt struck by the questions, and as I considered the answers, I saw how I had been denying reality all along.

Each time the thought of my husband struggling with a mental illness would arise, I would quickly push it to the side. Anytime I was overwhelmed by my new-found responsibilities, I would look to the future convincing myself it would not always be this way. I found ways to escape my present reality by keeping myself busy, by investing in my sons, by eating ice cream. I wasn’t present. I was fighting the role I had been given with everything I was. I didn’t want to be where I was. I wanted things to go back to normal.

Care-giving is excruciating when you expect to be the one cared for. I found myself here as my husband's and my roles shifted for a season. I had to be strong because he was weak. I had to face my deepest fears head on: being alone and not feeling protected. I felt responsible for so much from the sale of our home and our upcoming move, to the stability of our sons, and the health of my husband. I didn’t like it one bit. I despised where I was. I hurt so much.

It’s 2020 now, and I long to be present. But I realize that in order to be here now. I need to understand where I am. And in order to understand where I am, I must admit and accept where I have been. As I look back over the past several months, I see that I was given a critical role at a critical time. It was a role that only I could fill. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t like it. But the reality is that God allowed it. Not only did he allow me to walk this path, but he equipped me with everything I needed for each step of the journey. His grace and his power was more than sufficient. And He was with me each step of the way.

My change in roles was a challenge I never expected. It caught me off guard. I felt displaced and wounded. And as I’ve realized that it is okay to admit that, I’ve started to open my heart and my hands. I’m learning to hold my emotions gently, to be honest with myself and God about what was hard and why and allow him to bring healing and hope there. Admitting where I was and accepting that role, I’m opening myself to be where I am now.

The present phase of our journey is not as intense as it was. In many ways, we’ve found healing and we are moving toward healthy balance in our roles once again. Where I am right now is in a season of transition, and I must be willing to accept my where now in order to fully engage in the present.

Your role may not be like mine. Maybe singleness is the role you never asked for – barrenness, being widowed or divorced. Maybe it’s a diagnosis that started the role of a patient. Maybe your role is caregiver for a parent, a spouse, a child, or even a grandchild. Maybe it’s a financial season of hardship, the necessity of an extra job to provide or cutting corners of your budget. Maybe you are enduring a strained relationship and your role is to be the one to reconcile. Or maybe your loved one has deployed and your are left to manage the home front and feel so alone.

A change in roles can be excruciating, challenging, disheartening, discouraging. And that’s okay to admit. Hold your emotions gently. Honor the way the role is making you feel and know that you can pour out your heart to Jesus when your role seems too much to bear. Then be there. Be all there. Be brave, my friend, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!

"Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Thursday, August 29, 2019

"What Are You Thinking?" When the Foolishness of God is Wiser - Making Hard Decisions That Go Against the Flow

“What are you thinking?”

 “Are you serious?”

“Are you sure that’s the right decision?”

“What about your kids?” (or your space, your stuff, your place, your time, your . . .)

They get that confused look on their face as we share our news. “Foolishness,” they might think. “Crazy!” “I could never do that!”

You’d think we were announcing something radical like shaving our heads and joining a nudist colony or something. But nope, that’s definitely NOT our news!

We’re moving.

It’s that simple. We are selling our 2600 square foot house in a nice neighborhood to move back into our 1300 square foot older home across the state line.  We will go from four bedrooms to three, from three bathrooms to two, from a quarter acre to about a tenth of an acre, from a finished basement to a “Michigan basement.” We will go from bigger to smaller.

This is not the norm. This is not the expected, and therefore not the accepted. In America, we have the American Dream. We are always looking out for me first. We are constantly thinking about how to get ahead, how to have our cake and eat it too. Bigger. Better. Faster. Flirtier. More expensive. More extravagant!

We see the raised eyebrows, hear the whispers, feel the pity. Did something happen? Are they okay? Can they not afford it anymore?

It’s foolishness. Simply the foolishness of God. 1Corinthians 1:25 states that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom.

Man’s wisdom says bigger. God’s foolishness says smaller. Man’s wisdom says me first. God’s foolishness says others first. Man’s wisdom says get ahead. God’s foolishness says to steward well what you have and look toward the future reward.

To be honest, in my own humanness, this is not a decision I would make. But when I look through the glasses of the foolishness of God, I can see clearly the eternal wisdom of this choice. Selling now, will give us the opportunity to be debt free and the freedom to save, serve, and spend the resources we’ve been entrusted with in the ways God calls us to.

Will it be hard? Yes. But friends, I’ve learned that I can do the hard things if I know it makes God smile. Will it be challenging? Yes. But He gives more grace! Will it be emotional? Absolutely! Who wants to leave their place of comfort and memories?

I’ve struggled with this decision. I’ve cried. I’ve started a grieving process that will take me a while. But I’ve also found peace – a peace that surpasses even my understanding.

As humans, throughout our lives, we make decisions. Some easy. Some hard. Some make sense, and others don’t. My friends, whatever decision you’re facing, I pray you will seek and find the heart of God. Whether your choice does or doesn’t make sense in the wisdom of this world, I pray you will stand with resolve in the hard thing. Our choices may confuse our friends and even our family. But if we are walking in step with the Holy Spirit, we can rest assured that the foolishness of God is wiser! 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

What Did I Do to Deserve . . . ?

I headed out on a walk/run this morning for the first time since I delivered our son. The sun had not yet risen. I turned on my playlist – the same one that played as I pushed through the fear and the pain to protect my baby and bring life into the world. A rush of emotions flooded back as I thought back to that day, and as I pushed my body, as my feet pounded the pavement, I remembered pushing, pushing pushing.

I thought about my little boy – in the months leading up to the day of his birth, he grew in my womb. He developed just as God designed; he rolled and tumbled and kicked me from the inside. Before I even met him, I was in love. And as of yet, he had done absolutely nothing to deserve that love. He hadn’t flashed me a gummy smile. He hadn’t gazed deep into my eyes. He hadn’t babbled or uttered the first “I wuv you.” But as I realized his life was in danger, I was willing to do anything. Anything! I loved my son already because of who he was – my son! And I wanted life for him.

As I continued my route this morning, my music began to serenade me the lyrics of “One Thing Remains/How He Loves.” And I began to ponder the cross – the cross that Christ pushed through. The pain. The agony. He pushed, pushed, pushed. And as of yet, we had done nothing to deserve that kind of love. We had not sung his praise. We had not lifted our hands to heaven. We had not told our neighbors of his greatness. He realized our lives were in danger, and Jesus was willing to do anything. Anything! He loved us already! While we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). And because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ while we were yet dead in our sins (Eph. 2:4). He love us not because of what we’ve done, but because of who we are – His creation, his children – and he wanted (and wants) life for us. Life, not death!

I pushed through the pain to bring my son life. And Christ pushed through the pain to bring us life. Me. You. Us. We are loved, friends. So greatly Loved!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

"But it Hurts So Bad!" The Crucial Choice to Courageously Push Into the Pain or Hold Back in Fear

Thirteen hours! It has been thirteen hours of irregular contractions that had gotten stronger and led us to this point. This is not what I expected for the birth of our sixth son. None of my other labors had lasted this long, but it was finally time – finally time to push my little man into this world.

Finally, Time to Push

I assumed a comfortable (that term is relative) position in the birthing tub and waited for the next contraction. As it washed over me, I bore down into it just to the point of comfort. That’s what we had been taught in Bradley Classes and had worked before in our other births. I felt pressure and knew that was a good thing.

That contraction passed, and our midwife decided to get heart tones again. As she placed the probe on my belly, I breathed deep preparing myself for the next contraction. Lub dub, lub dub. My ears couldn’t escape the incredibly slow rate of the heartbeat of our little boy. I took a deep breath willing that the rate increase. It didn’t. My midwife assured me that it was just his descent through my pelvis and didn’t seem too worried.

The next contraction started to build, and I inhaled before bearing down again. I felt the familiar burn as his head came lower. I opened my eyes and caught my breath about to push again, when I noticed a bright red gush of blood. (Being a nurse, my brain immediately went into diagnosis mode.) I knew I hadn’t torn since he was not yet crowning. The only other probability of that kind of bleeding was that his placenta had detached as I was pushing. Suddenly, I realized that our little boy still inside me was no longer receiving oxygen from my body. The only way to help him at this point was to get him out and get him out fast!

Pushing Through

I didn’t even wait for the next contraction before starting to push again. His head descended and began to crown. The pressure, the burning! Guttural instinct made me want to wince and hold back. It hurt so bad! But I knew in this moment, the best way to protect my child was to push into that pain, no matter the cost to myself. I took another breath and began to roar like a mamma grizzly as I pushed into all of that pressure. My body stretching, burning, aching. I was scared, but I knew that in this moment, courage must overcome that fear. Bravery must prevail.

The worship music that I had playing provided encouragement for me to grasp as I let out a gasp and pushed again. Finally, his head emerged. The midwife was now instructing me to continue pushing to release his shoulders and abdomen. I heard the intensity in her tone and knew I could not rest just yet. Another breath, and this push took everything I had. His shoulders corkscrewed and released, and he slipped into my husbands waiting hands. The midwife helped to untangle a tight cord around his neck before I was able to lift him out of the water and bring him close.

Is He Okay?

When he emerged, he did not gasp, he did not grunt. He was blue, flaccid, and floppy. We immediately started rubbing his back, stimulating his little body for some sort of response. The midwife felt his cord, and his heart rate was present, but low. Panic rose in my chest. Had I done enough? Was he going to be okay? I wanted to cry, but the time was not right. We needed to get him breathing. The midwife started to pull out her resuscitation equipment. Another few seconds passed and then a mew, a grunt, a grimace. We were getting a response. That first cry allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief. His tone and his color were improving. He was going to be okay!

My son is now five-days-old and is doing well. It has taken me a while to process through this birth experience – so different from all of my others, and not exactly what I expected or dreamed for our last  birth, but as I’ve prayed and thought through the painful and fearful aspects of this birth, I’ve come to realize that the decision I was faced with that day is a decision that I’m faced with many days of my life.

When something hurts me, I have a choice to push into that pain in strength and courage or retreat in fear and self-preservation.

The Choices We Face

We all face these choices. The pain we encounter isn’t always physical like the pain of childbirth. Sometimes it’s the wounds from words or actions of a spouse, a parent, a close friend. It might be a disappointment of a dream unfulfilled – an engagement or marriage that falls through, the dream house that couldn’t be financed, the job that you were let go from, the empty arms when you long for a child. Maybe it's the pregnancy that was not in your plans or you're facing a chronic disease that does cause physical pain, fears, and so many unknowns. It could be you've lost a loved one, and the thought of continuing alone is terrifying. Or maybe it's an upcoming opportunity that is causing nervous fear that you might fail – a talent show, a job interview, a promotional venture, or a big move.

In each place that we are confronted with pain and fear, we are also met with a choice: to push into or run away from.

I don’t like to presume the worst, but in the case of the birth of our son, had I not risen to that challenge and pushed through the pain, he very well could have wound up brain injured due to lack of oxygenation. Or worse, it may have resulted in his death. And my lack of pushing through that pain in the moment would have caused tremendously more pain in the long run. My holding back would have been more comfortable for me in the moment, but it could have caused permanent pain on behalf of my son – or in my own heart had I lost him.

So what do I do when we face these fearful and painful circumstance and it’s easier to want to run?

Courage over Fear:

Realize Fear is About Me, Not Others

My desires to hold back my efforts in pushing were to facilitate my own comfort. Had I given into fear, it would have been all about me. I loved my son. I wanted what’s best for him. In order to push past the fear, I had to get my eyes off myself and consider my son as more important that me (Phil.2:3-4)

Realize I’m Not Alone

One of the verses that continued to come up during my labor and birth was Isaiah 41:10. “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be afraid for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you by my righteous right hand.” It’s easy to give into fear when I think I’m all alone. In those moments of pain, I had to grasp onto the faith that God promised he would never leave me nor forsake me (Deut. 31:6). I could lean hard into him when I was afraid knowing that I was not on my own.

Realize That the Outcome Does Not Stop at Me

When our son finally emerged from the water and into my arms, I immediately faced fear again of whether I had done enough. I remember as a teen and young adult, my dad would encourage me to work like it all depended on me, but to trust like it all depended on God. Or my pastor would state that God’s sovereignty does not undermine man’s responsibility.

As I’ve grown in my understanding of these exhortations, I’ve realized that the truth of what they were saying was more balanced than I initially understood. My trust in God doesn’t give me a right to be passive and simply wait for him to move, and sometimes that’s the temptation. Okay, You’re God. If you’re in control, what are you going to do to get me out of this? But had I taken that approach in the birth of my son, he would have been oxygen starved much longer than he was. I had to work. I had to put in effort even though it hurt. Then, I had to trust God with the results.

When I work hard, and push into the pain in strength and courage rather than running away in fear, the results may not always turn out perfectly. Sometimes, I may walk away feeling like a failure. Many times, I may have more questions than answers. The friendship may never blossom again. The disease may take over and take my independence away and suck the life out of me. The job may fall through.

But if I don’t try, if I don’t take a stand in courage, if I’m unwilling to push through the pain, I may never know the joy of the new life it might bring about on the other side. Courage over fear, my friends. Courage over fear!

“Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Sunday, May 26, 2019

When my "Maybe Someday" Doesn't Happen and I'm Left Longing

When my first son was born, I was so ecstatic that it was a boy. My husband had his first-born-son, and with that desire of his fulfilled, I felt I could give in fully to my own desires for a girl. Each pregnancy as we would have our ultrasound and hear “It’s a boy!” that hope would dwindle just a little, but the hope was still there, nonetheless.

Through the past ten years of having only boys, I would come across pictures of little girls or moms with their daughters, and my own longings would rise of desiring to share in that kind of legacy myself. Most times, I would sigh and console myself with the thoughts of “Maybe Someday!”

Several weeks ago, I was scrolling through my Pinterest feed when I came across a little girl dressed in a sparkly blue princess dress who was just about to curtsy. That familiar ache rose into my chest, I immediately thought “Maybe Someday” and continued to scroll. Then I realized what I had just done, and my heart dropped as I reminded myself that it won’t be that "Maybe Someday" anymore. That season is over. We have six sons. This is God’s best for us, and there’s no more looking to the future of “someday” that my heart’s desire will be fulfilled.

I paused and pondered the ways I had consoled myself each time those longings surfaced. And I realized that my “Maybe Someday” thought was my heart grasping at the illusion of having a daughter as my ultimate fulfillment – my heaven on earth. Really, when I looked deeper into those dark corners and exposed my hopes for what they were, I saw the truth. I had been worshiping an idea of future perfection. I had been setting my sights on an ideal that may happen in the days to come and expecting that the fulfillment would bring me perfect joy, delight, and happiness.

I’ve found myself here before – worship, such an easy thing to misplace – idolatry, popping up in my life again. In my focus on my “Maybe Someday,” I was disregarding the one thing (Person) who is the very fulfillment of that piece of my heart that is missing. Jesus gives me himself – wholly and freely. Having a daughter could never fill that void.

In the past, it was my desire for a husband – then life would be perfect.

If I had a child – then I would feel whole.

If we owned our own home – then I could feel like I could rest.

If only I didn’t have to work and could stay at home – then I could find my identity.

If I could just lose those pounds – then I would feel confident.

But each time, when the desire was fulfilled, I still found myself longing for the next best thing. And in the moments that my “Maybe Someday” didn’t come to pass, I felt jaded, depressed, and overlooked.

My friends, our hearts were made for eternity. We were fashioned with a longing, a longing that cannot be fulfilled in completeness this side of heaven. We desire beauty, peace, rest, comfort, perfect love, and so much more. But these things, these gifts that we have been privileged to experience on this tangible earth that we walk are only an imitation at best of what our heart desperately needs. And Christ as the giver has provided that in himself, in the giving of his Holy Spirit to walk with us. Each time we settle for anything less, we are like the children C.S. Lewis talks about who settle for playing with mud pies when they have been offered and ocean vacation (TheWeight of Glory).

Maybe your desires aren’t like mine. Your “Maybe Someday” might be about escaping from a painful relationship, finding financial stability, desiring healing for a loved one, finding a close friend, seeing that child turn back to the faith, or God easing your own physical pain. None of these desires are wrong in and of themselves. It’s when we allow our hearts to idolize our “Maybe Someday” and expect that result to bring about our salvation or ultimate joy that we step over the line.

Jesus is here, longing to bless us far more abundantly than we could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). Your “Maybe Someday” may be fulfilled, and God may choose to gift you with a taste of himself in that way, but please don’t worship that gift. Glorify the giver!

Or like me, you may sit with empty hands and a “Maybe Someday” that will never be. Don’t let that pull your heart away from the only one who can fill it! We must realize that what our hearts long to experience maybe someday is not something we can find this side of eternity. Anything less than Jesus Christ, himself will leave us longing for more and cause us to idolize that for which we long.

Jesus offers himself. He is our perfect peace – even when life is not perfect. He gives us grace to do what is right – even when it is the last things we want to do. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. And when I am left with longings unfulfilled, he shows me that he is more than enough. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

It's Mother Day: Please Treat me Like a Goddess!

The alarm rang waking me from my slumber. I turned over and silenced it then sighed. It was Mother’s Day. I now had four little boys who were under my care. I smiled at the privilege of being called their mom. As I sat up and stretched, my mind filled with curious thought of what my husband had planned in order to celebrate me. Maybe flowers? Chocolates? A hot breakfast? I knew he would be heading to work soon—that’s the life of a firefighter—and I had already psyched myself up for taking four little boys to church on my own on Mother’s day. But I just knew he probably had done something to make me feel special. 

A Disappointing Surprise

I put on my house shoes and padded to the kitchen just as I heard the garage door close. I glanced around. Everything looked fairly normal. Standing on my tiptoes, I peered across the room to the dining room table. Nothing. I heard the rumble of my husband’s truck as he pulled out, and my heart fell to my stomach. No flowers. No chocolates. Nothing even set out for breakfast. To top it all off, he hadn’t even kissed me before he left or wished me happy Mother’s Day. Heat rose in my face as anger and great disappointment filled my chest. Forget it, I didn’t care anyway (or at least I tried to convince myself of such.) Time to be strong and get my boys ready for church!

Over the next hour, I bathed, fed, dressed and readied four boys (one still being a nursing infant) and myself for church. We were ready to go, and I glanced at the clock. I still had ten minutes. Fantastic! I realized I needed a moment to reset from the stress and disappointment of the morning, so I set the boys up with a movie and retreated to my room. 

A Moment to Reset

As I quieted my heart, I breathed deeply. I let my mind roam over what my expectations had been for the day. I work so hard all the time. Wasn’t Mother’s Day supposed to be a day to celebrate me? It was rare to hear gratitude throughout the year. My oldest was only five; he wasn’t aware of the sacrifice of motherhood, but didn’t I deserve at least some acknowledgement from my husband on today of all days? I followed David’s pattern from the Psalms “Pour out your heart to him, God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8) and allowed my heart and my eyes to leak all the emotions of the morning. As I expressed my heart to my loving Jesus, He gently put His finger on a soft spot and pointed out a dangerous line that I was toeing.

It was Mother’s Day. It was also a Sunday. I was getting myself and my kids ready to head to church – to worship the God of the Universe with fellow believers. And here I was, sulking that I had not received accolades for my position as a mother. How sacrilegious! 

Idolatries in My Past

In the past, God had used various circumstances, speakers, or events to point out areas of idolatry in my life. Now, this didn’t look like the “household gods” described in the old testament. I hadn’t created a shrine for an idol and practiced worship in a formal sense. However, there had been areas of my life where I would find my comfort in things or activities rather than in God. For instance, I’ve always struggled with dealing with strong emotions, so I found it distracting and satisfying to grab a big bowl of ice cream or indulge in binge watching a favorite show or losing myself in a good novel. None of these things are wrong in themselves, but none of these things could fill or heal my heart the way Jesus could. And when I would run to these things first, I was putting them in the place of God. I was worshiping ice cream for how it made me feel. I was worshiping TV shows for how they helped me relax. I was worshiping novels for how they helped me escape. As Jesus had gently made me aware of these things in the past, I was able to work through confession and surrender and walk in new ways of seeking Him first to fill those emotional needs when I was struggling.

A Step Further: and not in a Good Direction

This time it was different. This time, I had taken a step further. I wasn’t worshiping some item or idea. I wanted to be the one my husband and sons were worshiping! My heart broke at the truth of what God was showing me. The reason I was so angry about no flowers, no chocolates, no breakfast, no “Happy Mother’s Day” was because I wanted to be the little “g” god in my family’s lives. 

Yet He Delights in Me!

In those last few moments before I ushered my sons out the door to church, I got down on my knees and confessed my pride, my arrogance, and my idolatry against my King. I was so grateful for His gentle conviction and began to praise him for who he was rather than claiming praise for what I had done. And Jesus spoke back to my heart: Hannah, I will never worship you, just as no one else should. But I want you to know that I delight in you, even when no one else does. (Zephaniah 3:17) At that moment, the chocolates and the flowers and the accolades no longer mattered. The King of the universe found delight in me!

Worshipping Him

I loaded the boys up and headed to church with a renewed joy. The morning wasn’t perfect. It was raining. I had three of my four boys splashing in puddles as we walked in the door. The infant cried through parts of Sunday school and church, getting the boys in the car was challenging, no one made me lunch, I didn’t get a nap, and my boys still didn’t realize it was Mother’s Day. But this Sunday truly was a delightful Mother’s day – because I chose to worship the God who made me a mother, and I realized that he delighted in me and my motherhood. And that’s what really mattered!

(By the way, the following day when my husband got off shift, he did wish me “Happy Mother’s Day” and bought me some flowers too!)

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Ultimate in Unplanned: And How to Respond

"For you formed my inward parts, 
you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 
I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." 
Psalm 139:13-14

I saw the movie “Unplanned” last night. It’s one of the most poignant and thought-provoking films I have see in a long time. It’s not an easy one to watch, but it exposes truth – truth that is so desperately needed in our culture right now.

I feel the need to write. I feel the Spirit leading, and the time is ripe to get words out to those who are willing to read them The movie got me thinking and convicted my heart of complacency on my own part.

The Ultimate Unplanned Pregnancy

The ultimate in unplanned pregnancies was predestined before the beginning of the world. I cannot help but think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a teenager – maybe 13-15 years old. She was engaged to be married, yet a virgin. Talk about shock when she hears from the angel that she will become pregnant. That might be expected for a young girl fooling around, it may be a surprise when her methods of “prevention” don't prevent. But Mary had to ask the question, HOW CAN THIS BE since I am a virgin? (See Luke 1:26-38) It defied logic. Talk about an unplanned pregnancy.

I’m sure Mary, after submitting herself to the will of God so gracefully, started wondering how she was going to tell her parents. What would Joseph think? There was a law that a woman pregnant outside of marriage should be stoned. Was she in danger? I’m sure she felt alone. Frightened – terrified even. She knew they would all find out eventually – when she didn’t separate herself as the law required when her time of woman came each month. I’m sure she questioned whether this was the right time for her to become a mother. She probably doubted whether she had what it would take to raise a son – much less the son of God!

And I started musing over the fact that God would choose a virgin to bear his son. Outside of the necessary fact of Jesus being separate from Adam’s seed, I wonder if God chose a virgin to give us a beautiful picture of grace in the midst of an “unplanned pregnancy.”

What if it Happened Today?

I cannot help but wonder what Mary would endure if today in our culture, in our country, she found herself in those circumstances – A member of a minority group, a very young teenager, she finds out she is pregnant and no one knows who the father is, part of a religious community that scorns shame and embarrassment. Would she find the support she needed? Or would she more likely be taken to a planned parenthood clinic to “take care of the problem?” We want our daughter to have a life and opportunities. No one will accept her, much less marry her if she has a child at her age. She’s not ready to become a mother. Her parents might think. Would they see an easy out in order to protect their daughter and themselves?

What about her friends? Would they encourage her to take a simple pill so her life can get back to normal? Would they repeat the lies in her ears that it’s just a blob of tissue and cannot feel anything at this point?

How Would I Respond?

What about me? Would I pray for her, encourage her, support her, take her to a Pregnancy care center, help her look into options and love her like Christ? Or like so many abortions happening in my neighboring cities each day, would I ignore it? It’s not my problem. I cannot solve a national crisis. It doesn’t affect me. It’s not my responsibility. And some might argue that scripture isn’t even clear on the matter of abortion. I really appreciate the perspective drawn out in this article to address that issue specifically.

The problem is, it would affect me and everyone else on the planet who ever lived. Getting rid of that "blob of tissue" would have destroyed the Savior of the world and denied the possibility of salvation through Christ. Each “Unplanned” pregnancy has the potential to change the world! (This is not denying the sovereignty of God and that his plans could not be thwarted. Using this example is simply to show how God can even use unexpected circumstances to bring himself ultimate glory.)

God's Grace through Joseph

But Joseph, being a righteous man, did not want to publicly shame Mary. He put her away quietly and protected both her dignity and was a crucial instrument in protecting the innocent, beautiful life of the Son of God. He didn’t listen to the culture. He didn’t fall prey to the expectations of his neighbors or his Rabbi. He didn’t follow the requirements so stringently placed on him by the “law.” And I’m sure he was ridiculed, probably lost friends and maybe even some of his standing as a Jewish man in Nazareth.

In so many ways, the ultimate in unplanned pregnancies is set before us as a beautiful example of how we should fight for and protect all unplanned pregnancies. We should be righteous people of God like Joseph was and be willing to accept the criticism and inconvenience of moving against the tide of our culture.

Ignorant No More

We cannot ignore this issue any more. More than likely, each one of us has been touched in one way or another by the issue of abortion. The blood of millions of babies are crying out to us from the ground, and what are we doing about it?

If you’re like me, for the longest time, I simply ignored it. I wasn’t the one working in the clinic killing these babies. I wasn’t convincing women this was their right. I wasn’t involved in an unplanned pregnancy of my own or my friends’. So I wasn’t guilty (or so I thought.) Yet, as I watched the movie last night, God convicted my heart that I am guilty – very guilty. My silence, my ignorance, my lack of prayer is an overarching acceptance of the way things are in our country. I am held responsible for the massive slaughter of infants in our country. And I am sure that if I stay silent, I will be held responsible in part when I stand before God in heaven one day – as will you!

What Can We Do?

So where do we go from here? How do we begin to go against the tide of our culture? How do we rise and fight with all that is in us against this horror?
  1. Educate ourselves – see the movie Unplanned. Theaters and Showtimes Not only does this movie open our eyes to the truth behind the abortion industry, but it also shows the power of prayer, love, and grace. Each time we buy a movie ticket to a show like this, we are telling the theaters that we want this and movies like this playing in our community. If you’ve seen it already, take a friend that might be impacted as well!
  2. PRAY! Nothing moves the heart of God like His people on their knees. Check out 40 Days for Life if you’re interested in something organized or make a commitment on your own or with a group of friends to spend a certain number of days crying out to God on behalf of the unborn babies who are at risk in our country.
  3. Find your local pregnancy care centers. Donate money or time to come along side of them. They are feet on the ground caring for women with unplanned pregnancies. These centers need our financial support, our prayer support, volunteers, donations of goods and so much more.
  4. Don’t condemn a friend who has had an abortion. Help her to find the help that she needs. Post abortive syndrome is real, its hard, its ugly. She doesn’t need more guilt. She needs our love poured out in abundant mercy. If you've had an abortion, God's grace is enough! You are greatly loved! Also, if you know someone involved in the abortion industry, love on them, pray for them and if they want out, refer them to and then there were none.
  5. Learn how to defend your position on being pro-life without initiating religious debate Here’s my 60 second spill:

    "The American College of Pediatricians (physician journal backed by scientific evidence) issued an article in 2014 stating that life begins at conception. Our Declaration of Independence states that all men [persons – members of the species homo sapiens] are created equal and as such are entitled to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. As a conscience bearing adult, that means that I have a responsibility to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves, whether the unborn, the elderly, or the incapacitated. Their lives matter!" (outside of my personal religious convictions, this is my statement on being pro-life.)
  6. Be a Joseph to a friend in dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. Walk in grace. Support her. Help her to find the resources she needs whether it is finances, lodging, an adoption agency or simply a listening ear. Assure her she is not alone and that God’s grace is enough even now. Mary did it, Jesus was born and changed the course of history!

I challenge you as I challenge myself – don’t remain silent any longer! Our prayers, our love, and showing the grace of our merciful God can enact change if we are willing to take stand for the truth!