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The Christian Response to Unplanned Pregnancy

Lindsey Overseas - Not a care in the world

Running with a friend on my trip overseas. Not a care in the world

(This is a guest post from my amazing girlfriend Lindsey!)

I sat in a hostel in Rome hoping that my understanding of the Italian word for “pregnant” was wrong.

I prayed it was wrong.

I knew it wasn’t wrong.

At twenty-four years old, I was going to be pregnant and alone. I should have been that “super-awesome-Christian” girl waiting for her knight in shining armor.

But instead of waiting, I abused the grace of God. And there they were – two stupid pink lines. I was pregnant.

And to top it all off, I had tricked myself into believing that I loved someone I barely knew. It was my fault and everyone else would think so, too.

I wasn’t just a church-goer…I had really experienced the amazing love of Jesus first-hand. God’s love had wrecked me for anything else time and again.

But here I was, pregnant and serving in my church’s youth group and mentoring students. Surely, their parents would run me off. So, where did this leave me?

My immediate thought was that my church would stand outside my house picketing any continued involvement in the ministries I was currently involved with.

And since, I grew up in church I knew what I had to do. Step down. It was the only respectable answer. Maybe even biblical.

Lindsey Pregnant

Here I am at 6 months pregnant.

I imagined the gossip train (the one that would happen after they politely but firmly ask me to leave the church altogether).

Did you hear…yes…I know…pregnant! Can you believe!

So sad. So much potential for Jesus…how did this happen?

I didn’t tell them I was pregnant right away. I just quietly stepped down from my voluteering.

“It’s not a good time,” I said. “Need to focus on school.”

It wasn’t a lie. Considering the timing of the pregnancy, I would have to graduate a semester ahead of schedule in order to beat my baby’s due date.

But, eventually I started telling people. I mean, it would be obvious sooner or later. I was going to give myself the “Scarlet Letter A” before anyone else had the chance to! I held my breath…just rip off the bandaid! I told those first few people. And the intensity of the response of nearly everyone I told was shocking.

Support. Total Support.

“Yay!” a friend said.

“Oh my gosh, how exciting!” someone else told me.

The church’s response to my unplanned pregnancy mirrored the one usually saved for a woman with a ring on her finger.

I was humbled, I hadn’t even given my church the chance to prove their worth. I had immediately gone with the stereotype of the Christian Response to an Unplanned Pregnancy, even though I was one. Could it be that maybe I silently judged those that made the same choices I had?

Baby Shower and Church Friends

Friends at my baby shower

“Don’t shy away from my daughter, ” whispered the mother of a girl I had been mentoring.

This wonderful woman took me aside and opened up to me. She had been pregnant and “unwed,” too (ugh…can we STOP using this term?). She understood and not only didn’t judge me, but WANTED me to be a part of her daughter’s life.

Ironically…it was those OUTSIDE the church that gave me the response I had been dreading.

My 12-year-old sister came home distraught one day because her best friend’s dad had told her, in disgust, that she’d end up “just like me.”

What about me was so disgusting, exactly? Was it my full time steady job? My 3.9 GPA in college? Or any of my other long-term achievements? Nope…I was judged and pronounced guilty because of one mistake.

Because of AND despite everything, I decided to tell people, just to get it over with.

Okay…so I told some random church people and those I thought were “friends” of my family. I had strategically not told the staff…and definitely not my pastors under whom I was serving.

Lindsey Baby Shower Gift Opening

Me at my baby shower January 14, 2006 with my friend’s daughter on my lap.

I walked up to my youth pastor’s wife, Jana. Her and I had become fairly close. I needed her to know so that it could just be over.

“Jana, I’m pregnant.” The words hung in the air for only a moment when her shriek of excitement slapped any nervousness I felt to the floor.

Didn’t she remember that I wasn’t married?

Why wasn’t she asking more questions?

Where were the looks of disappointment and pity?

The following Sunday marked a huge turning point for me. I attended church and sat in the back by myself…not typical of me. I was still trying to maintain that “low profile.” Shame washed over me.

“God, how can you still love me? I’ve dragged your name through the dirt with my sin. I’m not sad to have a baby, but I know the way I got here wasn’t the best way.”

My eyes were closed and tears streamed down my cheeks. I opened my eyes to see God’s answer. His arms were wide open for a hug. His face alight with the most genuine smile I’ve ever experienced. In the moments before my youth pastor, Alex, reached me I heard God whisper, “This is how excited I am, too.”

God was not surprised that I was pregnant. In fact, in God’s radical sovereignty, He had put that precious miracle into my life in order to save me. Save me from my self, from future mistakes and to teach me just how much He loved me.

Ava Reese

My new baby, Ava Reese (we call her Reese), born on April 5, 2006.

The next nine months were filled with baby showers, prayers and friendship. And after my sweet daughter, Ava Reese, entered the world, it was the church that continued their support with meals, gifts, and adoration of my child.

Through the pain and the joy of my experience I have come to know a few things.

What Should be the Christian Response to Unplanned Pregnancy?

The Church should respond to unplanned pregnancies with the same grace and love I was shown because it drove me closer to Jesus. We need to be a source of refuge and hope, not judgment and interrogation. We need to be the ones throwing the baby showers, showing up at the hospital and bringing meals. It’s what our Father does.

Psalm 10:14,18 God will be a helper of the fatherless…God delivers the fatherless and causes the widow’s heart to sing for joy.

To this day, I can still see my friend’s face as he walked toward me. He was not embarrassed. He was not ashamed. He was not disappointed. He was genuinely excited at what God had done and was doing in my life. This baby was a part of that.

That church did not kick me out. That church was literally the arms of Jesus in my life.

It is because of this that I started ElleSera. I want mothers to receive the joy and celebration that ANY baby should bring. I want to remind them of that same radical sovereignty that changed my life.

Their dreams, your dreams, are still within reach. My daughter, Reese, reminds me of this every day.

Lindsey and her daughter Reese

Reese and Lindsey in 2012

 

 A Christian gets pregnant while she is still single. What the church did to her will blow you away!


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Lindsey De Leo

Lindsey De Leo is a lover of all things Jesus, Jay De Leo, her 4 kids and running. She is the founder of ElleSera, a non-profit in Austin, Texas dedicated to helping Single Mothers fill the gap left by government assistance so that they can pursue their dreams and find hope. She also likes fashion…maybe a little too much.

Latest posts by Lindsey De Leo (see all)

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  1. Reply

    Wow what a wonderful story! Very convicting cause I know my own attitude. You are one beautiful lady!

    • Nina
    • April 3, 2014
    Reply

    Wow this is a very beautiful and powerful story. I’ve had several friends who have attended church that once they had an unplanned pregnancy they were shunned. Because this had happened, I had worried that maybe all churches were like that. Either way, it’s great that this happy event happened to you and that you had so much support!

    You’re very blessed indeed 🙂

  2. Reply

    Nina-
    I am so glad you stumbled upon this story. It breaks my heart that your friends did not receive the support and love Jesus would have given them. God still uses this event to bless my life and remind me how much He truly loves me and how He sees my “mistakes.” Your friends children are a blessing-nothing less.

    Best-
    Lindsey

  3. Reply

    I pretty much love this. Partly because it mirrors my own story so closely. And partly because these are the kinds of stories I hold on to when disillusionment with the church comes (oh, and it always does). Amen and hallelujah. Thank you.

  4. Reply

    I was in tears reading this. I’m so, so grateful for Christians who value children–planned or unplanned. Both my husband and I were conceived before our parents got married–my parents got married before I was born, his parents got married when he was 15. Scorning those little ones or the mothers who bring them into this world seems to have nothing to do with the Jesus I know.

    • Reply

      I am so glad you liked this amazing story by one of my best friends. I am glad that you are here today because of your wonderful parents.

  5. Reply

    This is just wonderful. I had my first child at 16 and did not receive this kind of love from the church. I felt largely abandoned, but that was also because I didn’t really feel worthy. I’m so happy that you received such great support!

    • Teri
    • September 19, 2016
    Reply

    Thank you so much for this story of grace and love. I’ve since come back and read this again and again, as that reminder that I’m not alone. Dreams feel shattered, but I have to know that I’m actually right on the plan God has had for me all along.

      • Lindsey
      • October 1, 2016
      Reply

      Teri, God’s plan is working all along. You are never alone. My dreams are still working out…and I know He is part of it.You are not alone.

    • Long walk home
    • December 16, 2016
    Reply

    I think the church tends to swing between two extremes; all confrontation and no love or grace, or all grace and love and no confrontation, in situations where someone has been deceived and or fallen into sin via temptation. Neither is biblical. For us women, the feeling of being loved and cherished by a man who seems to be so wonderful can be a very powerful force to resist. Been there. Some of us just aren`t prepared for the emotional and hormonal overload that comes with that, or in some cases, don`t know how to recognize an evil person using guile to rob us, and before we know it, we`ve crossed many serious lines. Sin is like that. It arrives dressed as a gift, and only later, when we`ve opened it, do we find the destructive forces inside.

    As a teen, I got pregnant while not in a committed marriage, by a manipulative lothario I was no match for, being so young and inexperienced at life. The response of Christians was hardly helpful and in some ways drove the infection of sin`s wounds even deeperl. Some avoided it and me. Some were very judgemental and shaming and treated me as if I had just intentionally and casually slipped out of my robes of righteousness to enjoy a little whoredom incognito and then tried to slip back into them without getting caught, and they felt it was their job to `bust“ me. They didn`t ask me any questions about the situation; for all they knew, I could have been raped. Technically it was statutory rape as the man was older than I and I was a minor of 14. No one asked me how it happened, how I felt about it, or offered to walk with me through addressing what God might have to say about it and how to proceed in dealing with issues of repentance and cleansing or healing.

    When a pregnancy occurred as a result, my mother, who was determined not to be stuck with more kids to raise, decided aggressively that I was having an abortion. An attempt at discussing whether or not it was really a baby resulted in a vicious verbally and emotionally abusive attack from her, designed to shut down any further questions. When the doctor, in accordance with the law, attempted to offer me options, she silenced her dismissively and overrode me. She projected her rage and bitterness at being a single mom onto me and intimidating me with her rage, told me in tones dripping with disgust at my supposed stupidity, that I would never be anything but an F-ing waitress and men would use me but never want me because I had kids`. I wonder how the average teenager from an abusive background should be expected to deal with that.

    So in addition to the shame of having gotten pregnant, now I had the scarlet spectre of abortion over my head. In the hospital, an older nurse from a different generation handled me as if I were an unclean prostitute. Lying on the gurney in an ungainly and exposing position was degrading, and deeply shaming, given the procedure I was about to undergo. The sense of shame and disgust was palpable.

    In every instance that I confided that this had happened. I was shamed and held fully accountable for the abortion, as if I had alone decided this, saved up my babysitting money and secretly gone to an abortion clinic. In situations where Christians had wanted children or grandchildren and had not been able to have them because of infertility or other reproductive medical issues, I was treated as a pariah and condemned, out of their resentment: Why does this unworthy little thing get to have a child, while I cannot and want one, or my daughter who wants to be a mother, cannot? One Christian woman treated me to a self righteous tirade about what a wonderful person her daughter was, with the center piece of her verbiage being about how being a mother meant more than anything to her daughter and she was forced to give up her dream because of cancer. Clearly the message was that I however, was not such a worthy person.

    Again, no one ever asked `Was this your decision alone? Did you want to do it? How do you feel about it? Are you okay? They never asked. They never got to hear about how after the abortion, I sank into a depression as deep and long as an arctic winter and lost so much weight that people thought I had anorexia and just wouldn`t admit it. I didn`t care to live and didn`t want to eat. My mother refused to talk about it but would talk about me on the phone with her friends within earshot. No one cared to know that when I gave birth to my daughter, years later, I sobbed brokenheartedly, because the spring thaw of a new baby`s birth helped me to understand that there was someone who was supposed to be here, that was not. Someone innocent who had not been able to defend themselves and who had been unfairly robbed of their life because of selfishness. These self righteous Pharisees condemned and judged without even so much as a fair trial.

    So believe me when I say that I have experienced such things and know what `the opposite of grace is all about and what merciless jerks professing Christians can be. At the same time, as hard as such things are to go through, I don`t think grace means acting like nothing happened and its all wonderful love and hugs, skipping the process of facing the sin part and dealing with restoration. I don`t think acknowledgment that someone has missed God`s way by being pregnant and unwed should be done away with. Sin should be called sin, although I understand that the term `unwed` mother has some unscriptural cultural and societal shaming attached to it that isn`t a part of redemptive, scriptural confrontation.

    But just skipping the sin and going straight onward to celebrating the outcome, sounds more like what Paul described in Corinthians, when confronting a church with a sexual sin issue in it. He said they were proud, in their tolerance of the sin. They probably had some idea of grace that wasn`t really grace at all. He said they ought rather, have mourned.

    When we sin, others should speak to us about the sin and actually call it that. Sin wounds, infects and causes damage and pain. It brings damage into God`s world and into the body of Christ. It is not just a regulatory infraction. I like what the Amish do. I read of a situation where an angry youth had burned down a neighbor`s barn. The neighbor so affected, appeared at his sentencing and offered to walk through the process with him of dealing with the sin he committed and its ramifications and outworking, if he would consent. He did not gloss over the sin or its seriousness or act as if it was just a `mistake`. But he also mourned with the youth and was willing to bear the burden of the consequences with him knowing that sin left unchecked has destructive power that could destroy the youth. We are actually robbed of something healing, cleansing and precious when our sin is just `glanced off ‘or glossed over with quick acceptance that minimizes it and moves on to happier things. Sin affects the body of Christ. Some churches allow for something to be said from the pulpit, where the person`s sin is brought forward and acknowledged, as is the fact of their grief and repentance, and then the congregation is instructed to say no more confrontation wise, as repentance is already established, if that be the case, and to comfort the person and walk with them through it with practical instruction on how to scripturally do so. It can be a deep, precious, healing thing that brings reverence, awe and holiness into a situation in a profound way and yes, can and should lead to a celebration of mercy, grace, love and victory. If only the church would take scripture seriously in this manner.

    Thanks for considering my thoughts. Your daughter is adorable and precious and obviously a wonderful blessing to you; thank you for your courage and commitment to God in choosing to become a mother. That`s something to celebrate.

    • Reply

      I’m in complete agreement that ignoring sin and skipping to grace isn’t the right solution. I think Lindsey expressed her repentance quite clearly in the blog post and was then met with the grace of God she needed. As her personal friend, I know these things firsthand.

      I am utterly brokenhearted for your forced abortion (this really needs to be discussed in the church and I would welcome a guest post on this topic) and the heartless response of your mother and those in the church.

      I think our culture has swung from total judgement to total acceptance – hopefully the pendulum is swinging back to center – where we honor holiness and grace all at the same time.

        • Long walk home
        • December 18, 2016
        Reply

        Thank you Elaine for your kind words regarding what happened to me. I have not ever really talked about it except in the most general terms, with anyone. The birth of my daughter brought it all back. The nurse attending me while in labor patted my arm kindly and told me that she sees this all the time with women having their first child; how tragic!. And I agree with you and see clearly that Lindsey was repentant. Not meaning to imply otherwise, far from it. I was more concerned about how common it is that many churches skip all that and just proceed to `grace makes it all okay“. I have some personal questions about headcovering I wouldn`t mind asking you, if its possible to contact you.

    • kathy
    • June 27, 2017
    Reply

    I found your article very moving, very vulnerable. Thank you for sharing. I am in a situation from the other side. My son, 24 years old, just found out that he is the father of a 16 month old little boy. While confirming this as fact, he has been able to meet this little guy, trying to respectfully enter his life. He and the mom have a friend relationship and are both trying to make decisions to bring the best of life for their son. My heart hurts for what we have missed out on as grandparents and extended family. We are concerned as well about what part we pay in this toddler’s life. How strange it will be to have so many strangers interjected into his life. We haven’t even met the mother. Prayer for how God
    would have us proceed is constantly on our lips. Any advice from your perspective, Lindsey, would be greatly appreciated.

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