A crisis pregnancy center on the campus of the University of Louisville invited me to share my testimony with the students. I was to tell the story of keeping my child conceived through rape, and to encourage students to make courageous choices themselves.
The room quickly filled with the most diverse group I had ever addressed: an equal number of men and women, many black and white students, Christians who gushed to me about how excited they were to have this event on campus and others who showed up simply to receive extra credit.
The most disconcerting dichotomy, however, I didn’t realize until moments before I spoke. Apparently I was entering a longtime battle between zealous pro-life advocates and radical pro-abortionists. These two groups had a history of picketing each others’ medical centers, facing off on the streets, and, unfortunately for me, attending and disrupting each others’ public meetings.
I started off with a joke, trying to create a little camaraderie. To my amazement these precious young people responded. As I continued speaking, I could see them settling in, unfolding their arms, and fixing their attention on me. I didn’t hold back. I told them how hard it had been, how scary it was, and how things didn’t always go as expected. I told them of my doubts and fears. And I told them how God had carried me through those dark days, how my church and community supported me, and how scripture was my lifeline. The women were sobbing, and guys were unashamedly blowing their noses as well.
What a great moment it was when I introduced them to my daughter, who had proudly joined me for this event. Everyone cheered, and Rachael beamed. No one cared about politics. They just wanted a word of hope. They were delighted to be startled by beauty.
Most of the questions asked during the Q&A time afterward were sensitive, appropriate, and really quite penetrating as students applied my message to their own lives.
Only one woman—a volunteer for a nearby abortion clinic—seemed intent on disrupting the gentle spirit that had come over the group. She commented that I could make such a choice only because I had resources that not everyone has access to; I agreed with her, and assured her that the pregnancy center would be that kind of community for anyone facing a crisis pregnancy, that no one would have to face their situation alone. Her next tactic was to attempt to pull my daughter into the fray, saying, “Rachael, tell me how you feel about your father?” The mama bear in me quickly cut that conversation short, but I felt an odd sort of tenderness for this woman. Why hadn’t she been able to receive the peace and joy that the others were experiencing?
She caught me after the session was over. I expected more hostility, but she simply wanted to apologize. She realized she had gone too far. “No problem,” I said. We chatted a bit more, and she went on her way.
That’s all. She didn’t start bawling and passionately change allegiances, declaring herself a new person. She’s probably at the abortion clinic now.
I learned a few old lessons in new ways that night: First, don’t worry about your enemies; just love them. Mostly, they’re just normal people who disagree with you. Second, you’ll never lose a battle if grace wins.