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Monday, September 21, 2009

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

          When I first heard about 40 Days4Life I thought the most difficult thing I would have to do was to stand in front of Planned Parenthood and pray.  But that was before God had me do it alone.  Standing in front praying with others, while hundreds of cars honk and flip you off seems easy once you have to do it by yourself.  Then, when I figured out God wanted me to carry a sign which reads “Twenty-one years ago I had an abortion, I still ache,” I thought that would be the hardest thing I would do, until, of course, He had me do that alone as well.  After that, I felt talking about my experience was going to be next to impossible.  That seems easy as well; now that He’s made Himself clear that He now wants me to talk to the people going in to Planned Parenthood.  Uuggh!!

I know that I’m the perfect person to talk to them.  Who else knows better how much their lives are going to be affected by going through with this?  Who better to understand what they are feeling at this crucial moment and who else can talk to them about what they are about to experience without making them feel more defensive, on edge and hostile?  I know all this but still, I pray desperately for courage every time I go.

I get ample opportunities to talk.  There are plenty of people coming and going at the PP that I try and visit three or four times a week.  My sign actually helps me as a conversation starter which I suspect may be the main reason God gave it to me to hold.  It also acts as my shield if you must know; I feel safe behind it now that I’ve forgiven myself, even as I know there are some who judge.  That isn’t any of my concern.  I spent the last twenty years in a guilt induced fog; I don’t allow myself to go there anymore.

Still, even with my sign I shy away from most of them, because it’s so important for me that I don’t make them feel worse than they already do. Also, it makes me very uncomfortable.  This is my hang-up.  God had given me a purpose, has turned my horror around and given me the opportunity to make something good of it.  I can not let those opportunities pass because of my fear and objections to venture outside of my comfort zone.  Still, I wrestle with it each time I’m there.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk to three couples who pulled up one right after the other.  If someone had actually looked at me they probably would have found me comical with all the agonizing faces I was probably making in my inner struggle to open my mouth and say something. But each time, because they wouldn’t look at me, because they seemed angry, because they went right in and didn’t give me time to muster courage, etc, etc. etc. I didn’t say a thing to any of them.  And I beat myself up for twenty-four hours, telling Jesus I would do it next time, I promised.  I’m sure He just raised His eyebrows, smiled and said, “Ok, we’ll try again later.”

            I had spent about forty minutes in front of Planned Parenthood this morning without one opportunity to speak to anyone.  I continued to sweat and tell myself I was going to talk to the next person who pulled up…until they pulled up.  I made eye contact until I was sure a burning ray would materialize and force them to look at me, but nope, I stood rooted to the spot and they ignored me and went inside.  I stood kicking myself and mad.  Why was this so difficult for me??  I had five minute left before I had to go and I told God, “OK!!  Give me one more chance and I promise I’ll talk to the next person!  No matter what!!

            A man who had been sitting outside the clinic when I first got there had gone next door to an antique store.  At that moment he came out carrying a metal toy car about a foot long with white wall tires and a swing back tailgate. 

            I automatically said, “Did you get something good?”

            He detoured going back to the clinic and with prize in hand came toward me to show off his treasure.

            “Guess how much I paid for this?” he asked, obviously excited.

            “Um, ten bucks!” I said, just as enthusiastically.

            He gave me a frown, “Uh, no, $43.75,” he said in a low voice.

            “Oh,” I said, “Well, how much is it worth?”  I asked hopefully.  I didn’t want to make him mad on a totally unrelated subject.

            He perked right back up, “Well, this, here is probably worth…one maybe two hundred dollars!” he said, holding it proudly up for me.

            “Well, that’s great!”  I said to him, “At least you got one good thing out of being here today!”  I thought that would be a good opening.

            “Yup,” he said, and walked swiftly back up to his bench, far away from me.  Dejected, I once again, went back to my easy task of walking up and down the sidewalk. 

            “That is not what I had in mind when you said you would talk to him,” God whispered in my head.

            I turned around and march up to the invisible barrier between my acceptable spot and the fence that kept us from harassing PP’s customers.

          “So what’s your story?” I yelled at my new friend, “Why are you here?”

            He sighed and slowly got up, coming as close to me as the gate and shade would allow.  “You don’t want to know,” he said with another sigh.

            “Well, I bet it’s not any worse than my story,” I said, hoping it wasn’t.

            “Well, I didn’t realize until I pulled in here that this was wrong,” he said, his voice breaking.  “I was totally ok with it, well, not totally ok but I know now, it’s not right.”

            He went on to tell me that he had pulled up, saw the volunteers praying on the sidewalk and knew he didn’t want his girlfriend going through with it.  He told me they had fought and she had paced up and down for awhile trying to decide but in the end had gone in.  She had been in there for over an hour by the time I had got there.  I begged him to text her to come out and talk to me but he wouldn’t.  I told him my story and how hard life had been.  I begged him again to try and call her.  He said she would not talk to me.  He told me he considered himself a Christian but hadn’t lived like one in a long time. 

            Finally, after thirty minutes of talking to him, I asked, “What’s your name?”

            “Raymond,” he said.

            “That’s my Dad’s name,” I said, smiling.

            “From today on, my life is going to be different,” Raymond said softly.

            “I hope it is,” I said,  “The best things we can do with our mistakes, is learn from them and try and do some good with them,”  I said,  “This is my good,” I added, shaking my sign at him.  “Maybe you could get to know God, go back to church,” I suggested, shyly.

            He looked at me, thoughtfully, as the waste truck pulled into the parking lot.

            “Well, Raymond, I will pray for you and your girlfriend,” I said in a hurry,  “I got to go, I can’t stand watching them bring out their big yellow and red barrels,” I said to him.

            “Why, what is it?” he asked, eyeing the truck.

              “It’s the baby parts,” I said quietly to him.  “Are you sure you don’t want to call her?”

            He shook his head slowly. “She won’t listen.  I tried more than once.”

              Feeling an unimaginable amount of sadness and dejection for the little one I couldn’t save, while thoughts bombarded me that I had failed, I looked away at the truck and then back at him.  “Ok, well give me a hug, Raymond.  Do something good with this ok? Promise me?” I asked, as I gave him a hug.

“I’m gonna live my life differently from now on, Shelley.  Nothing is ever gonna be the same…” he said, his voice shaking. 

            “God Bless you, Raymond,” I said softly in his ear.

            I realized as my dissappointment flooded my heart that I wasn’t going to save a baby that day.  That was hard to take.  But I realized at the same time, God doesn’t expect me to move all the mountains, or even some of them.  That’s His job.  My job is to only plant some seeds, open some doors so Jesus can open hearts.  Maybe I hadn’t failed, I thought as I turned to leave.  Maybe, I had done something for Raymond that might not have happened had I chosen to keep quiet.  I went to leave but looking back, I couldn’t help noticing Raymond’s shoulders slump as that weight settle uncomfortably on his back and I wondered how long he would carry it.  Would he, like me, carry it around for twenty years?  Or maybe, hopefully, because I had been there, and had accepted the courage God offered me, would he give that weight to Jesus and let Him carry it for him, much like Jesus had carried our sins back when He carried His cross up to Calvary.

Shelley Allsup

Posted by Shelley Allsup on 09/21 at 10:41 PM
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