Could God's Love Be Found?

by J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Her skin was flawless, her manner graceful, her laugh infectious. Further, she came from an upper-middle class Christian home. She had attended a Christian college. Her boyfriend went to her church.

When she sat with my wife and me, however, her glance was anxious and her hands twisted together. Her shoulders bent under troubling weight. How else does one look after having had an abortion?

"We sat in the clinic," she said, "and we saw others from my college." She and her boyfriend had huddled together in the outer room of the abortion trade. There had been none of their usual laughter, only embarrassed eyes touching one another, then glancing off onto beige walls.

"My family must never know," she said. "They'd die. They would. " She began to cry. Speaking in half sentences had become common that night. Confusion mixed with hurt overwhelmed language.

Reliving the nightmare was not easy, for her or for us. The usually cozy parsonage turned into an impersonal barracks of the soul. She yearned for escape, but escape would not come. What had been done was stamped upon the minds of those involved. As long as the body housed the spirit, there would be cries against the injustice done.

These were not my conclusions. They were anguished cries. They were pieces of a broken heart that kept pumping out its fear and guilt.

She went on and on. At times we tried to say something helpful; at times we let silence soothe. Then, she would start all over—mumbled sentences, the awful stare at the ceiling, more tears, pressing her hands against her face, then dropping them into her lap.

I had preached sermons on abortion. I had Bible passages I could pull out handily, and I had written articles dissecting the theological fine points. But confronting it in the raw was another matter. What to do with a soul set on fire with its own burning coals was a complicated assignment.

At public functions where "choice" advocates appeared in their expensive outfits, speaking with poise and confidence, I'd heard them refute pro-lifers in the audience, speaking about freedoms—this right and that right. That night, I wondered what they would say in this situation. It is one thing to speak academically on the subject. It is quite another to attempt to bring relief to one crushed by the act.

I recalled the first time this girl and her boyfriend had come to our church. They had appeared so handsome, sparkling, happy. They had opened the hymnal together. They had sat close during the sermon. They had smiled politely while shaking my hand after the services. When they entered a room, people had taken note. Without trying, they had easily modeled the ideal couple.

However, people are complicated. They reflect the complexities of life itself. It should not have come as a surprise when we received a call asking if we could chat—only to have this young woman spill out the substance of the appointment: abortion.

I doubt if anyone in ministry is ever fully equipped for human sufferings. Certainly walking through the dark halls of abortion's aftermath is one duty that goes beyond our resources. There have been other times when we have listened to these cries. The faces were different, but the cries strikingly similar. Each time, it gets harder. We confront our frailty as helpers with an ever-deeper ache. We try to be more refined and professional but when it comes to abortion—the killing of the innocent—we discover more inadequacies within our sincere attempts at healing.

What did we do right? Perhaps our reminders of the grace of God, regardless of what we have done, brought some solace. Perhaps the message of the divine search to continue to forgive, to glue pieces back together again, brought hope. I pray so. I also think the silence was worth something. Perhaps these young women have sensed our willingness to keep listening and crying with them and groping for God's kind face again. I believe it all adds up to some eternal balm.

Nevertheless, I dread these situations. Each time, a part of me dies, because I hear not only the crying of the one sitting on the sofa. I also hear the cry of one who was small and unprotected, that tiny one who was scraped out of life on earth.

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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