Jesus · Mental Health · Myself

I Remember

Hello Pain.

Hello Shawna, you came back.

Do I have a choice, at this point?

You always have a choice. Welcome. So glad you are here.


I see you’ve got one big, gaping, scarring thought on your mind. Should we talk about it?

I’d really rather not. It’s kinda the one thing, the one off limits thing, Pain.

Yes. But I’m present there. And a lot of healing needs to be done. I think you could at least get started.

I’ll just sit for a while, if that’s okay.

That’s fine. But maybe, just maybe, you can share some memories about it? It doesn’t have to be pretty.  You don’t have to have it figured out yet.

That seems fair. I can try Pain. I’m so afraid.

You’ve got this, Love Warrior. Take all the space and time you need.

Well Pain, you nosy, prying, son of a bitch-

I took the pregnancy test in the basement bathroom of my grandmother’s house. The same bathroom where my mother peed on a stick and found out she was unexpectedly pregnant with my brother. I grabbed the sink to catch my breath. I looked at the mirror and saw her. I wondered if her mind raced, I wondered if she weighed her options, I wondered if she was afraid too.

I carried the test in my purse. Panic set in. I remember being too scared to look at the (+) again. But the only thing that I was more afraid of than seeing it, was someone else seeing it.  So when I finally got the courage to throw it away, I threw away my entire purse and everything inside it. I couldn’t bear to take (+) out and hold it again.

I was afraid, but Planned Parenthood was kind and inviting. Kinder and more inviting than any of my alternatives at least.  I remember the receptionist asking me how much I wanted to pay for the services. Bargaining for my abortion… classy. I remember feeling sick and also relieved that it would only cost eighty five dollars.

I remember they did an ultrasound to see how far along I was. They asked me if I wanted to look, and I covered my eyes. I’m ten years old again at a sleepover watching The Blair Witch Project. Close your eyes, Self. It’ll be over soon and you can go home.

I remember I was not very far along so they could just give me a pill. A blue-magic-baby-erasing-pill. They said, swallow this. Have some water. Go home and rest. You’ll probably be sick. Go get some tummy medicine and some very absorbent pads. It’s just like the morning after pill, they said. Just a little stronger, they said.

I spent the night at his house. I was delirious and the sickest I’d ever been. I have no memories of the night, only waking up to him. Waking up and he was crying, rubbing my leg. Waking up and he was standing in the corner of the room, visibly shaking and afraid. Later he told me that I was thrashing around in my sleep. I was puking but not waking up. I was bleeding through my clothes and onto the sheets. He told me he had never been more scared and he had never loved me more.

It’s over, I thought.

I walked home, back to the Christian house I had just moved into. You can’t have a pregnant girl at the Christian house. What would they have done with me? Kicked me out? I did sign a no sex contract but technically I hadn’t broken this rule since I moved in and technically there wasn’t an abortion clause, but it was probably one of those obvious, unwritten rules, you know… no baby killers at the Christian house. No pregnant girls either.

Later that day, I packed a bag with lots of Advil and extra pads and we went on our first house retreat. We introduced ourselves and stopped for Starbucks on the way up. We sipped lattes and swapped our testimonies.  I don’t remember what they said, but I remember learning quickly that the truth was not safe there. Shame was the ruler of that place and I did not belong. They would have definitely kicked me out.

We proceeded to pray and to ask intentional questions and we put on our perfect, flawless, holy faces. We played team building games. We sang worship songs. The boys checked out the hotties and the girls debated their biblical stance on yoga pants. We made hot coco with extra marshmallows and ate Cheetos till 2 am.

Smile! They said. Tag me! They said.

We selfied on the couch as my abortion soaked through my pads and onto my underwear.

I updated my profile picture.

I do remember meeting someone on that trip. One real flesh and bones person. She had thick brown hair and courage. I remember admiring her courage. She was the only person on the entire mountain who seemed like a real self. Her name was Jackie. Jackie could see me. She was the first me too person I had ever met. I loved her instantly. In a sea of loneliness and emptiness, Jackie stood there, unafraid. I never told her, but I didn’t need to. She was the only one who saw me and loved me. I’ll never be able to thank her enough times. She was the only Christian in that whole place.

I remember my life moving on. We broke up. I moved out of that place and into a new house, a dream house, with my Jackie and 3 other love warriors. It was there I started the long walk home to healing. We stayed up all night having dance parties and we painted our walls and ate cake on the floor and we had snow ball fights inside and we held each other in bed taking 1,430 pictures during a power outage. It was the first time in my life I belonged. The belonging healed parts of me. I was no longer on life support. I could walk by myself, stumbly at first, but I had people there to catch me. I wonder if they noticed how I was wrapped up in casts and bandages. If they did, they didn’t mention it or make a big deal out of my condition. They just kept pointing me down the path towards salvation.

I remember buying a pregnancy test a few lifetimes later. I remember jumping on the bed with my husband. I remember making a video blog a few minutes after we found out that we were having a baby. I remember putting a bag over my head. I remember laughing so hard we cried. I remember being afraid of pushing a baby out of my whoo-haa. I remember baby bump pictures every week. I remember writing a letter to my mom telling her about her new grandbaby. I remember holding ultra sounds next to my chest while I slept.  I remember glowing. All baby, they said. You’re all baby.

And yet.

Pain. Pain was with me every moment of that pregnancy. I remember becoming an ugly and dark version of myself. I remember googling postpartum depression, except not post, pre, prepartum depression. That’s not a thing, by the way. I remember writing in my journal, who am I becoming? Who is this monster? Make her go away. Make her stop. I’m completely alone and I can’t survive this.

Because, here’s the thing,

If the baby I bled away didn’t matter, this new baby, soon to be baby Josh, didn’t matter either.

Don’t get so excited, I’d tell myself. Don’t make it a big deal. Don’t have the baby shower. Don’t smile about it. You don’t need gender reveal cupcakes and a Facebook announcement. Stoppp. If that baby didn’t matter, this baby doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.

And then sometimes I’d get swept up in the joy and the love and the gravity of the whole thing. I could feel him move around and kick. He’d hiccup. We got our maternity pictures done. We bought outfits. We picked his middle name. And this would leave me dead inside. If this baby matters, that baby mattered.  He’s a gift from God, they told me. You’ve been so blessed, they told me. But privately, my tapes would play.

Give this baby to someone who deserves it.

Sinner. Filth. Killer. Monster.

Protesters with pictures of dead baby guts still march on the sidewalks of my mind eight Septembers later.

But sometimes, I remember something else. I remember my labor. I remember Joshua coming into the world and almost taking my life. I remember thinking, worth it, worth it, worth it. I would have died ten thousand times if it meant he got one more moment to be Makarios for this earth.

I also remember thinking, maybe this is how Jesus feels about me.

So, Pain. This is where I find myself today. Face to the floor. Screaming my lungs out. Cursing the Heavens. Fasting and weeping and hollow in every way.

I have no way out. I am the weakest and the smallest and the most helpless. The epitome of broken.

But I am invited into Pain and it is this Pain that binds me closer to the Redeeming Blood.

He paid the price and I am free.

The Father lifts up my chin, wipes off my filth, and in all of His Glory and Honor and Splendor and Power and Strength and Patience and Compassion and Wisdom and Truth, He says to me:

“It is finished.”

Holding onto this is my only refuge. I can rely on nothing else and no one else. It is finished. I have to live my life believing knowing this is true or I will not be living a life at all.

Now, my dear friends, you have complete access to the achiest part of my bones and the deepest pain of my heart. It’s an extremely difficult topic for me to actually speak about. I’ll only ask you to do a few things for me. If we must speak about it, can we refer to it as she-who-must-not-be-named? I’m just not sure the word abortion is ready to roll off my tongue yet. If you must speak about it, to each other or to someone else, will you be very compassionate and gentle with my heart? I’m too delicate and I easily come undone.

But I share this today because, whether you already knew this story about me or not, you’ve loved me like Jesus since the day I met you. You were my only friend in a hoaxy flood of ‘christian community.’ You were the only one I could confide in when the truth was spilling out of me and I could no longer contain my sickness. Sharing space with you was like sleeping 10 feet above the sun. You made me better and stronger and holier and healthier and melted my hurt away.  You stood next to me and jumped by the fire screaming queen/lover/magi/warrior, aahhoo! You are my people and this is my story.

Shame is not the boss of me. Redeeming blood is.

As for you, Pain, I’m getting kind of used to you being here. I’m still not crazy about it, but I think you’re here to stay. So let’s keep going. Tell me friend… what’s next?


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