A She sits on the edge of the chair, holding her fiance’s hand, and looks down at three different tests; all of them showing immediate positive results.
Weeks pass. After telling family and close friends she is completely ashamed and exhausted.
Sunday morning she combs through her closet to find one dress that doesn’t show it.
She works hard to cover up what she is afraid others might see.
The ride to church with her parents that morning is deafeningly quiet. All the thoughts swirling through her head of what everyone might say.
Pulling up she feels sick to her stomach, and that isn’t just the morning sickness.
She walks in quietly and sits in a pew hoping not too many people rush to talk to her, so she doesn’t have to look them in the face.
There are some pleasantries exchanged and she exhales a little, maybe it will all be ok.
Then it begins. The first whisper of someone asking a friend of the family if she is “really pregnant”.
She holds back the tears as her father approaches the pulpit to begin leading the congregation in morning worship.
As she stands to sing she feels the weight of every stare. She is positive that everyone in the room is fixated on her mistake.
Her father stands up there singing and leading with a brave face. He would much rather be standing next to her with pride than knowing she is beating herself up in that pew.
She doesn’t even remember what the message was about that day. Church ends and she charges into the restroom to keep herself hidden until everyone leaves and she can go back to her parents house; except someone grabs her just before she walks in, hugs her and whispers, “you are loved”.
I am sitting here 18 years on the other side of that day so thankful for all God taught me, and even more thankful that the weight of shame is no more. In the midst of the throes of shame, my father had hugged me and said, “If this is what it took for God to bring you back to Him then so be it, we will celebrate.”
“She is running a hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction. She is trying but the canyon’s ever widening in the depths of her cold heart……does anybody hear her? Can anybody see? Or does anybody even know she’s going down today.” (Casting Crowns “Does Anybody Hear Her”)
That song would’ve been my theme song at that point in my life. I was the daughter of a worship leader, Awana Director, deacon; you name it my parents did it. I went to Christian school when I was young, attended Christian church camps, and then went off to a private Christian college. I was raised in the church since utero, so what was I doing pregnant? That’s what happened to girls in high school who didn’t have self-esteem or who didn’t have good home lives and turned to boys to fulfill them. It certainly wasn’t what happened to “good Christian girls” who came from the home I did. But there I was, my first Sunday back in my home church. With people I had known since I was young, whose kids I had babysat or taught in Awana’s and Sunday School–and I was pregnant. The weight of shame that day is the greatest I had ever felt.
I married the man that walked the same hard road with me. We were married four months after we found out a baby was on the way. For the longest time I hated meeting new couples. Inevitably what are the first few things you talk about? How long have you been married, and how old are your kids. I felt as if shame was a knife stabbing me over and over again when we had to answer those questions. I learned to especially relish answering those same questions when we had just celebrated an anniversary but our sweet boy hadn’t yet turned the same year. Then we didn’t get the big, “OOOOHHHH”, the look of pity, or a story of someone they knew that had also “fallen into that sin”. There were too many nights to count of running home and crying myself to sleep. Even after two years I found myself still weighted down by shame. But I had forgotten along the way about grace and forgiveness. See, I always saw God as one who would throw down the hammer. A judge who was sitting up in the sky waiting to punish me for every wrong decision made. Then one night I got a call that one of the girls I knew in our local congregation in VA Beach had found herself in the exact same situation I once had. All I felt for her was love. I began talking with her about the grace and mercy of God, of the depths that Christ went to as He took our sins upon himself. I even quoted a line from a Rick Warren book, “The Purpose Driven Life” (pg. 23).
“While there are illegitimate parents, there are no illegitimate children.”
I stressed to her over and over how this baby had a purpose and wasn’t a surprise to God. On the drive home that night I sobbed uncontrollably. Why hadn’t I ever once believed that myself? It was time to shake off the shackles of shame and adorn myself with forgiveness, hope, and the knowledge of who I really was in Christ.
Romans 8:1-2 started to flood my soul, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
Here we are 18 years on the other end. My son, Dylan, graduates from high school this year. He is godly, he is strong, he is passionate, an incredible musician, but most importantly he has learned that sin doesn’t have boundaries; from the vilest offender to the church girl/boy everyone knows and loves. Our story has taught all three of our teenagers something invaluable: shame is a chain that Satan uses to hold us back from everything Christ desires us to be. We can’t move forward when we are shackled. It is only when we look down to see our shackles have already been broken that we can then look up and realize He is waiting with open arms and ready to move us forward into the future He has prepared for us. Dylan is one of the greatest joys and blessings in our lives. It was with him that I realized who God really is, a patient loving Father who longs to cradle us when we hurt, teach us when we fall, and guide us into a deeper relationship with Him.
As I asked Dylan about sharing our story his response was, “I never once looked at it as anything bad, only a lesson about who God is.”
The weight of shame is completely gone. God has taken a shameful event in my past and made it into a story of redemption. Take heart today that He will do the same for your story as well.
Rachel lives in South Florida, and is a stay at home mom who homeschools her 4 beautiful children. She is a pastor’s wife, working alongside her husband in marriage mentoring, and pre-marital counseling. Rachel is an advocate for adoption and foster care, and has helped create ministries to support parents and children. Rachel and her husband Jim have been married for 17 years. Rachel loves to lead worship, disciple women and children, and blog. Most days you will find her in a coffee shop sharing a cup with a diverse group of women as they journey this mess of life together.
From Dauntless Grace Ministries’ “About” page.