I know that the Holy Spirit prompted me to turn on the television at a time when I ordinarily would not have done so. The program on the Christian station featured women talking about their abortion experiences and how they had found forgiveness and healing. The Holy Spirit was leading me to do something in this area. I was saved in 2000, but the three abortions of my past had begun to weigh heavily on me. There was a toll-free number at the bottom of the screen. I called and received the number of a center near my home.
At my first appointment, I was anxious, timid, and so burdened with this area of my life that at first it was difficult to answer the counselor's questions regarding the dates of my abortions. For many of my formative years, I had been conditioned to think that I had no worth and that anything I said was of no value. I had become withdrawn and shy. Since my salvation, I lived daily with the comfort and knowledge that someone loved me unconditionally, and that Someone was God. However, as I grew in other areas of my spiritual walk with the Savior, I was still vulnerable in the area of my life concerning my abortions. I had repressed so many of my emotions and memories of this difficult period that, even though I knew the Lord was prompting me to deal with the hurt, I couldn't just instantly express all that was locked up inside.
My counselor, Jackie, was very patient with me and explained that she too had been through an abortion many years ago. She told me that even after salvation it was some years before she was able to seek help and healing for this very private and emotional part of her life. As she shared her story and how she had dealt with the pain of her abortion over the years, I could see some similarities in my own experience. She prayed with me and said that we would be working on a Bible study called, Forgiven and Set Free, by Linda Cochrane. She reassured me that even though at times it would be difficult, she knew by faith and personal experience that the Word of God would heal my wounds. She believed that Satan knew our vulnerabilities and would always work in those areas to try to diminish our effectiveness in ministry. She said that when the Lord forgave us, He did not intend that we should live with the bondage of shame, guilt, and fear. She encouraged me to believe that I would one day find closure so that Satan could no longer use my abortions to keep me in bondage and hinder my ministry for the Lord.
Initially, I was not as diligent about the study as I should have been. The Holy Spirit convicted me, and I pushed forward. I found that the more I focused on the study, the more the Holy Spirit revealed to me. Satan tried to hinder my steps. There were times when family needs consumed my time and I could not complete all of my homework. However, I pressed on.
Forgiven and Set Free challenged me emotionally and spiritually. The chapters are designed to work through every part of the decision to abort and the consequences that follow. I came to realize that I was still harboring an unforgiving spirit toward others who had been a part of my life during the time of my abortions. I also had anger issues to deal with. I came to acknowledge that now was the time the Lord wanted me to deal with those issues. I accepted my role and specifically asked God's forgiveness for what I had done.
As I progressed in the study and began to allow the Lord to work through the years of shame, guilt, and grief concerning my abortions, I developed a newfound boldness in my walk with Him. I was already faithfully attending a church. I became more committed to serving Him by giving out tracts and leading a Bible study. I was becoming more of who God intended me to be. He was refining me for greater service, and part of that process was healing my grief and shame so that Satan could no longer use it to accuse me.
During one of my sessions, the center's director was my counselor. I was struggling with how I could ask my babies to forgive me. She suggested that I visualize the children sitting in front of me and ask each of them to forgive me for what I had done. I did this, and it gave me great comfort, lifting a heavy weight from my heart.
Through counseling, I was able to fully understand how in the years following my abortions, much of what I had experienced—the anger, depression, and lack of trust—were all common consequences of those decisions. As difficult as it was at times for me to continue through the study, the truths of God's Word worked in my heart to facilitate forgiveness, healing, and freedom from the burden of my abortions. I am so thankful for His abundant grace and mercy.
My counselor and I began to discuss the possibility of in the form of a memorial to my children, as was suggested at the end of the study. I knew that my babies were in Heaven with Jesus, but now I wanted to acknowledge the fact by formally presenting them to the Lord. My counselor suggested having a memorial at my church. Sensing that I wasn't ready to make any decisions at this time, Jackie prayed with me and encouraged me to continue praying about what the Lord would have me to do.
It took several more weeks of immersing myself in the truths of God's Word through the study as it related to my abortions before I knew that a memorial service was what I needed to do. It was important for me to openly acknowledge that they were babies I had forsaken, and they needed to be recognized as such. I decided that the service should take place at my church with my pastor, Pastor Dixon, leading the service. Of course, this meant that I had to go to him and share about my abortions. It wasn't easy, but through many tears, I was able to tell him about my painful past, and the Lord truly did pave the way. Not only was my pastor compassionate and understanding, he was willing to have a service at the church, even though it was new territory for him.
The memorial service took place as a part of our regular prayer service. My counselor provided some of the items needed for the service. We set up a table with a white cloth and three small candles. Pastor Dixon had recommended that I name the children. Their names were placed in front of the candles. Pastor Dixon led us in a beautiful tribute to my children. His wife read a beautiful prayer that spoke of the little ones who lost their lives to the tragedy of abortion. Other ladies read scripture and sang, and I read my testimony and sang a solo, praising my Lord. Each candle was lit, and a fresh white lily was placed at each name as Pastor Dixon completed the memorial service by reading from the Bible and entrusting my children to the care of the Lord Jesus. Finally, not only did I know I had closure, but I had also given testimony before others of the children I had sacrificed to abortion many years ago.
The desire of my heart is that through this others may know and understand the depth of God's forgiveness and healing if they have been touched by the tragedy of abortion, and that those contemplating abortion will know that it's not just a procedure but also the sacrifice of a God-given life.
Jackie Longwell volunteered at Wayne Pregnancy Care Center in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and wrote this article about her client, Annette.