Part 2 - "The God Who Stays"
Matthew West - “The God Who Stays"
If I were you, I would’ve given up on me by now, I would have labeled me a lost cause, because I feel just like a lost cause. If I were you, I would’ve turned around and walked away, I would have labeled me beyond repair, because I feel like I’m beyond repair.
Oh, but somehow You don't see me like I do, somehow you're still here... You're the God who stays, You're the God who stays, you're the one who runs in my direction when the whole world walks away. You're the God who stands with wide open arms, and you tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart from the God who stays.
Healing can be a long and ever-growing process and for someone like me who needs to stay in control of her emotions and conquer the pain quickly, I have learned that the quick run around the pain keeps me stuck and always back where I started but the slow walk through it brings truth and healing and is always where I encounter God the most. Writing this part of my story has been difficult but so worth the journey as God continues to show up for me day after day, holding the pen that writes my story and assuring this unworthy soul that he truly is The God Who Stays.
The following words are a glimpse into the ugly-raw parts of my broken life. I write for all of you who have experienced any type of loss, grief and/or shame... you are not alone. My passion is to see your heart set free from the pain of your past and discover what God has purposed for your life moving forward. So, grab a cup of coffee or whatever soothes your soul and let’s go sit on the Front Porch while I share part 2 of my story.
If you have not read - Part 1 “Dear Younger Me” – click here.
“The ugly part of your story is going to be the most powerful part of your testimony”
It was the summer of ’77 just before my senior year of high school. My friends and I were looking forward to our final year together, so we spent our last summer doing the things we had grown to love over the years in our small Texas town… hanging out at the lake, roller-skating at Skate Haven where the words, “all skate-all skate” would be etched in our minds forever, country dancing to songs like ‘Amarillo By Morning’, movie nights at the drive-in theater laid out on the hoods of our cars trying to catch a cool summer breeze, and cruising up and down 57th street looping through Sonic with every other teenager in town.
We were told that this would be the best times of our life as we dreamed about our futures and all the things we hoped to do. I had planned on graduating high school and going to ACC (ACU now) for as long as I could remember, but my hopes and dreams would fall apart in late summer as I would be faced with a decision that would change my life forever.
The phone call came while I was at work. The nurse on the other end told me she had my test results back and it was positive. I was pregnant. I don’t remember much about the minutes, hours or days that followed that phone call, but I do remember the panic and overwhelming emotions I felt as I was left to deal with a pregnancy at 17 years old and the painful circumstances that landed me there. Having a baby was something I had always looked forward to someday but hearing the words “you’re pregnant” on this day left me paralyzed in fear as I thought about the potential fall-out to come.
I was a daddy’s girl and the thought of disappointing him with news of a pregnancy was unbearable as I feared the judgement and shame that would land on him and me from the church and the community. Telling my mom was not a safe option as she had warned me in the past to not come home if I ever got pregnant. The possibility of judgement and rejection from friends and family at 17 was devastating and the father of this baby did not want any responsibility, so he gave me $250 to make the problem go away. I felt alone in my secret with no safe place to go.
I was told about a local OB-GYN clinic in town that would talk to me about my options, so I scheduled an appointment and went in for a visit. The doctor went over my two options- either have the baby or terminate the pregnancy. He explained that terminating was a quick and easy procedure since I was early in the pregnancy and not actually carrying a baby but a blob of cells and tissue. There were no sonograms at the time and because he was the doctor, I trusted him. He also assured me that I did not need parental consent to have this procedure and that was all I needed to hear. No one would ever have to know. I made the appointment, paid him the money, received an injection and would return the next day for the procedure.
That night would be the darkest night of my life and one that I can't seem to forget. I opened my bedroom curtain as I often did at night staring into the dark sky filled with bright stars hoping that God would see me. I begged him for a rescue. A tug-of-war was going on inside my heart and my womb and I wondered where He was in that moment as the darkness consumed every part of me. In my grief I curled up, cradled my stomach, and told my tiny blob of cells and tissue that I was sorry. I was so desperately hoping for a miracle… a rescue… something. But nothing came. Just darkness and silence.
I remember little about procedure day, only the sadness and heaviness of my heart as I walked into the clinic and laid on a cold table with tears rolling off the sides of my face. Then it all goes blank. A part of me died in the clinic that day. I walked out hoping for relief but somehow knew my life would never be the same again. This simple procedure had changed me. It took something precious from me and I allowed it. I buried the secret of my abortion and the loss of this child deep within, along with all the other secrets of my past.
My senior year was covered with a sad darkness that left me numb and isolated from all relationships. In my guilt, I married the baby’s father after graduation and justified every blow to my body as a punishment for the abortion. The marriage would last just over a year… a year filled with beatings and the miscarriage of my second pregnancy. Six weeks later, I found out I was pregnant again and the fear of losing this baby gave me the courage to get out. I had a beautiful baby girl, packed up what little we had and fearlessly headed to Abilene, Texas for a new start.
A new baby helped fill the hole in this 20 year old heart and I was excited about our new life together. We moved with $50.00 in the bank, a new car, and a new job at the hospital which I was very excited about. But it wasn’t long before things would begin to spiral down. My daughter battled pneumonia in the hospital at only a few months old and would then spend the first 3 years of her life sick with every virus that came her way. My life became a revolving door of lost jobs and new jobs, no insurance, new daycares and many moves in search of more affordable housing… always trying to keep my head above water. Then my worst nightmare happened as I watched my car being towed away for missed payments. What little control I had drove off with my car that day.
I was alone and in desperate need of help which made me very vulnerable to any man that came along claiming he wanted to take care of us. Having learned no boundaries with men, I would repeat all the same patterns as I had done a few years before. I began dating a senior college student and became pregnant within 5 months. I assumed we would get married but the fear and shame he felt with a pregnancy out of wedlock led him to hand out an ultimatum of having an abortion or raise two babies on my own. Since I had not been able to support one baby, I felt I had no choice but to go with him and have my second abortion. I remember more details about this procedure day... same story of 'a blob of cells and tissue', laying on another cold table with tears rolling off the sides of my face, feeling invisible, insignificant, broken, and very angry as the machines turned on and my small blob of cells and tissue was ripped away from me. We left the clinic that day and never spoke about the abortion again... ever! I would silently grieve alone and push this new pain deep inside my heart alongside all the other pain from the past. We would eventually marry and have a son together and just like before, the physical abuse became my punishment. Six years later and a final trip to the ER with head trauma, I left.
I was now living in Dallas and my heart was in desperate need of healing and a life-change so I went back to church not knowing if God would ever want me back. I carried the shame of two divorces, physical and sexual abuse and the hidden shame of abortion each time I walked through the church doors. But God would put good friends in my life and a sense of community that I desperately needed and I would continue to keep my wounds deep inside only showing others what I wanted them to see.
I met my third husband at this church who I believed was the love of my life. I fell deeply for him early on. We dated for nearly 4 years as he questioned my divorces and whether or not I was marriable… as well as my ability to be a submissive wife. Carrying around all my past insecurities, I spent the next four years on a mission to prove myself worthy of him and of God. He would choose to marry me, but the next 25 years were spent still trying to prove I was valuable and good enough for a husband that left me starving for his attention, affirmation, and unconditional love.
We had two beautiful sons within 15 months of each other. The first pregnancy would become high-risk resulting in many sonograms from early on. As I watched each sonogram of the developing fetus over the weeks, I began to feel anxious as memories of my abortions started to surface. I had so many unanswered questions as to what I was seeing on the screen and what I had been told by the doctors all those years ago. As reality set in, I pleaded for God’s forgiveness through both pregnancies and made all sorts of promises in exchange to keep my babies. It would be the first time that I felt God heard me as I gave birth to two healthy baby boys who captured my full heart.
The abortion trauma continued to resurface over the next few years with various triggers always sending me into an emotional melt-down anywhere I happen to be. My husband walked in on me during one of these episodes and in a moment of needing to purge the truth I told him about my high school abortion. He seemed shocked and had no words for me… then he walked away and never spoke about it again. This healing opportunity gone bad only reinforced the shame I carried and the need to keep it hidden. But it did not go away. Instead, it showed up in destructive ways throughout our marriage.
But God had begun a pursuit of my heart and would slowly begin to pull me out of the pit of lies that I believed about myself and about His love for me. I can look back now and see how He was tenderly laying down some truths for me to stand on, not only for the pain of my past but for the pain that was still to come.
Twenty-five years later, my heart would not only be broken but left in a pile of ashes with the ending of our marriage… of our family. The loss of what was to be my happily-ever-after would trigger all of the other losses in my past and throw me deep into a pit of hopelessness like I had never known before. I cried and screamed out to God every day asking “WHY?” "Why was I here in all this brokenness again?" The survivor inside me was lost and could not find a way forward. Grief had a tight grip on me. In a broken mess and laid out on the floor one day, I told God that I was tired and unable to keep going so either take the pain from me or take me home with him... and feeling like I had always deserved the pain, home seem like the best option.
But then God…
To be continued… (Part 3)
*If you have been through the trauma of abortion or are in an unplanned pregnancy, I would love to offer you a safe and private place to talk. You are not alone. Please contact me at: Terri@FrontPorchGirl.com
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, and a hymn of praise to our God.