The God Who Sees

"..what I'm really talking about is the Gospel. There is hope and healing here for those who find themselves in any unplanned situation..."

These last few weeks have been disturbing for me, to say the least. The darkest recesses of my past have been revived as the topic-du-jour for national debate, and it no longer feels possible to disengage. So many years have passed, and yet: no one really knows my secret. Is it guilt that has prevented me from speaking out? Embarrassment? Fear? These questions and more are on aggressive repeat in my head. And they're just one fraction of the fallout, even a decade and a half after my choice to have an abortion.

But I’m not here to put forth another pro-life narrative, born of the admittedly narrow perspective of a young, privileged white woman. What I want to do is share my experience as a formerly-unbelieving, now-forgiven woman who was wounded by abortion; to highlight God’s compassion for abandoned women and children, as seen in the story of Hagar and Ishmael; and to proclaim a wider, pro-Jesus perspective on the current abortion debate.

While many women are shamed into silence after an abortion, I was stunned into it. Even with my somewhat reckless worldview, I somehow never expected to find myself unexpectedly pregnant (isn’t that usually the case?), much less having unrestricted access to an abortion, or the sense of powerlessness to do anything other than go through with it.

These things are surprisingly easy to omit from normal conversation.

But in talking about this now, I hope to declare it worthy of telling. Because what I’m really talking about is the Gospel. There is hope and healing here for those who find themselves in any unplanned situation (and in the end, I’m pretty sure that’s all of us.)

There is also—perhaps, most unbelievably—access to God’s transformative redemption. I am not the same person who made the choice to end someone else’s life 14 years ago. When I look at journal entries from that time and even years later, I see a guilty, confused, broken girl, bound by her sin, wandering and lost.

God saw her, too. He found her. And He alone saved her. He forgave her; gave her clarity, restoration, freedom, an anchor and a seat in heaven (Ephesians 2:6)—the opposite of everything she used to know. From a state of disgrace, through His amazing grace, now she is me. It took many years, but the power of His salvation and His unconditional love truly transformed my heart, my entire life. [1]

From the beginning, God has been at this awesome business of seeing and seeking and saving. One of my favorite examples of this comes from the Old Testament and involves Hagar, whose very name means “stranger,” whose entire life could easily be described asunfair.

What she was involved with in Genesis 16 reads almost like a modern-day soap opera. We see Sarai and Abram, tired of waiting for God to fulfill His promise of an heir in the form of their own son, concoct a plan to force Sarai’s slave, Hagar, to sleep with Abram in order to get what they want.

Abram and Hagar do conceive a son, but everything backfires. Hagar scorns Sarai; Sarai rails at her husband in anger; Abram says, essentially, “This isn’t my problem.” So Sarai severely mistreats Hagar, and Hagar runs away.

Alone in the wilderness, Hagar, we read, is eventually found by the angel of the Lord. They have a little talk and something confusing follows...he tells her to go back to the woman who hurt her, back into slavery. And she actually does.

Another interesting note here is that Hagar refers to him as “El Ro-i” which means, “the God who sees me.” This is the only time in the entire Bible that this name is used for God, and it came from the mouth of a helpless, hopeless, pregnant, runaway slave. I love this. The next and final time we see Hagar in the Bible is a few chapters later, and more drama ensues. Long story short: she and her now-teenaged son Ishmael (whose name means, not coincidentally, “God hears”) are cast out into the desert again by the same family as before, with nothing but bread and a little water.

“When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, ‘Let me not look on the death of the child.’ And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy, and he grew up…” –Genesis 21:15-20

Here is a picture of our perfectly compassionate God meeting every abandoned woman and child right where they are in their suffering. Hagar has given up, literally closed her eyes to all other possibilities. She is worried, fearful, forsaken and oppressed. Have you ever felt this way? He has a laser precise plan of redemption for you, your choices and your past, too. One that you can't even imagine.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” –Ephesians 1:7

I never thought that I would ever experience any kind of post-abortion healing, let alone feel free enough to talk about it—both before I trusted this gift of Christ, and even after being saved. In the very infancy of my faith, I quietly assumed that my second pregnancy would go horribly awry. When my firstborn son suffered a near constant case of colic, I became convinced that I was finally receiving a portion of the punishment I so rightly deserved.

But in growing closer to God, relying on His word, and depending on Him to be the truth, I was able to stop listening to the lies and finally, fully accept His grace. I now know that healing is possible. And freely talking about it is not only possible, but necessary.

As Psalm 107:2 tells us, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” We must engage—and I don’t just mean “we who have been directly affected by abortion.” I mean “we who have been directly affected by Christ.” We must stop feeling guilty, or embarrassed, or fearful. We must start talking about who this God is and how He saves.

Our narrative must be pro-Jesus, above all, if we want to appropriately address the widespread suffering that abortion causes. Only He has the power to produce the transformative redemption we so desperately need. And only He knows how this debate will end.

[1] For additional post-abortion resources, please visit Claris Health Support Services.

Read part 2, part 3, and part 4.