(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.
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?
“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.
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.
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. (As of 2019, Lindsey is married with four children. Here is her post on gifts for stepdaughters.)
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.