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Just Come Home

By Jeff Ostrander


I’ve spent a lot of years in the Church, and I’ve spent a lot of time writing about Jesus, and I’ve spent a lot of time in pro-life ministry. But I’m not here to talk about any of that. I’m here to tell you what it feels like to be on the other side.


A long time ago, I was a kid in high school, working my first job, and in love for the first time. I knew about Jesus because I grew up in the church. I knew that sex outside of marriage was wrong. I knew that abortion killed a human being. I knew all these things, but none of it mattered when my girlfriend told me she was pregnant.


I recognized that I had done a terrible thing – something that would break my relationship with my parents and the people at church and maybe even Jesus. My mind was so consumed with this disaster, so terrified, so shocked that my “good kid” image was forever smashed, that I could think of nothing else.


Of course, that is no excuse. I am not telling you what was true in that situation, I am only telling you how I felt, but hearing this might help you understand what happened when my girlfriend told me that a pastor would take her for an abortion. What happened was nothing. I did nothing to stop her, nothing to help her.


In my fear, I turned my back on my girlfriend, I deceived my parents, I made myself even more of a hypocrite at church, and I stood by and did nothing as my first child was destroyed.


These are terrible facts to carry around with you for 50 years, but I have done it, and maybe some of you have done things like this, too.

It’s a story I don’t like to tell, but I think it’s an important story to hear.


There are three things I hope you remember:


1. People facing an unexpected pregnancy are often afraid, and fear is blinding. It fills every corner of your mind. It blocks reason and knowledge. It overpowers loyalty and compassion. Fear makes people very selfish and very resistant to alternatives.


2. People who are afraid keep secrets. Secrets promise to protect you, but they never do. Secrets promise to hide you from shame, but they make you live in shame. Secrets separate you from the people who could help. They put you in solitary confinement, except it’s not really solitary, because the person keeping the secret is also an accuser. And, of course, even if you keep your secret from everyone else, you know God sees.


3. Knowledge is good, but knowledge can cut both ways. We want our friends and our kids to know what is true, so they can recognize danger before they are in its grip. But for people like me who learned what is right, but still chose to do what is wrong, knowing brings even greater shame and condemnation.


We know our sin is unspeakable, so we do not speak of it. We know we have broken our relationship – with God and others – and so we retreat from those relationships. We condemn ourselves and assume that – if other people really knew us – they would condemn us, too. And all of this makes it more likely that we will turn further away and make things worse.


So, knowing would be enough if we were perfect people, but we are not perfect people.

As we teach the truth, we must also talk about grace. And of course, Grace is not a replacement for truth or something that diminishes or distorts truth. Grace is the way back home when we fall away from truth.


And however far we have fallen, God wants us to come home. He wants us to be forgiven and restored.


The culture of the church should reflect this fact. Just as God offers forgiveness and restoration, he wants us to offer forgiveness and restoration to one another, remembering how often we need to be forgiven.

 

I’d like to say something especially to the young people here today. You probably know a lot about what is right and what is wrong, and that’s very good. But, in spite of that knowledge, you might fail. I hope you don’t.


There are very good reasons to choose what is right. But, please remember: If you fail – if you feel lost and afraid and rejected and ruined – those feelings are not from God. He wants you to come home. You can be forgiven as I have been forgiven. You can be loved. You can escape those terrible feelings of fear and the miserable work of trying to keep secrets.


In one way or another, we often fail. Just come home.


And that is why Jesus came. Not only to teach us to avoid sin, but to restore us after we have sinned and help us to “go and sin no more.”


Now, this is hard for me to believe, but when I stand before Jesus, I will not be rejected. This is totally unfair and unreasonable. I deserve punishment and condemnation. That would be justice. That would be reasonable. But Jesus is not reasonable toward me. He will not give me justice. I can’t pay for the damage I have done. I have simply been forgiven. Because of Good Friday, I can be forgiven.


God’s forgiveness is not fair or reasonable. It is the most outrageous miracle we will ever witness. It’s hard to believe, and perhaps impossible to believe without the help of other forgiven people.


But it’s real. God wants you to come home.

 

If forgiveness is not real, then we are left with fear and secrecy.


Think of David, the “man after God’s own heart”. How many wonderful things he did, and yet the day came when he fell. In his fear, he became murderously selfish. He did everything possible to protect his secret but, of course, it didn’t work. It never works.


As he writes in Psalm 51, “I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.”  He was stuck in solitary confinement with his accuser – that is, with himself. He felt that his “bones were crushed” by the judgment of God, who knows all our secrets.


David was not set free until God sent Nathan the prophet to expose his secret. This was David’s greatest fear – being known for his adultery and murder and deception — but it was the only way he could be set free.


And, miraculously, he learned – as we must all learn – that “a broken and a contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

 

So, how do we help people who are considering abortion, or secretly mourning past abortions?

Information is good and training is good and practical help is very good, but I think it starts with figuring out who we are and what God is saying to all of us.


Many of us in the church have fallen to abortion and other sins, and many of us have lived in fear and secrecy, not sure we could ever be loved if our secrets were known.


Well, that’s where to begin. Find someone safe and tell your secret. Bring your broken and contrite heart to God and be restored. Establish a culture in your church that reflects the culture of heaven, honoring the profound value God places on every life, and welcoming fallen people like ourselves into His forgiveness and restoration.


May God bless and protect the sidewalk witnesses who go to death’s door, offering help. They deserve our honor and thanks and support.


Let’s also embrace the opportunities we have before that moment of crisis.


We can reduce the fear and secrecy and shame that drives many people – and many people in the church – to abortion. We can love mercy and walk humbly, so others will sense that their failures are safe with us. We can remind those we love that God is the father in Jesus’ story, watching the road, anxiously waiting for us to come home.


Jeff Ostrander is a writer, pilot, and flight instructor. His first novel, “A Different Kind of Sky” was inspired by his experience as a crop-duster. Many of Jeff’s shorter stories and essays are available on his blog at jeffjostrander.com.

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