[Editor’s note: some names in this story have been changed.]
Once, I was driving on an icy interstate at seventy miles per hour, when I hit a pothole that lifted all four tires off the road. As I began to spin, I realized a) that I was a complete fool for driving seventy miles per hour on an icy interstate, and b) that my only option now was to hold on and hope that when the spinning stopped, I would be alive to learn from my mistake.
That’s the closest thing to how I felt in the moment my roommate told me our mutual friend was getting an abortion.
If you had asked me during my sophomore year if I was a Christian, I would have said yes. Now I look back at my drunkenness, slothfulness, and complete lack of faith, and I am amazed at God’s ability to change hearts.
In a life of partying and drunkenness, you meet a lot of people who like to party and get drunk. One such person was my roommate that year, Hal. Hal and I would spend our nights getting drunk together with other people in our apartment complex—often with a girl living at the end of our row of apartments named Jane.
I can’t say Jane and I were close. Hal was my closest friend, with whom I would share everything, and vice versa. And Hal and Jane were good friends, so I would tag along. One night Hal confided in me that Jane was pregnant by her deadbeat boyfriend from high school, and she wanted Hal to drive her to the abortuary the next Thursday to kill her child.
I had no idea how to process the fact that my best friend was planning on helping murder a tiny baby in its mother’s womb. After Hal told me this he swore me to secrecy and I agreed, but my conscience had been pricked and I couldn’t think about anything else for the remainder of the night. I went into my room and I began to weep. Yes, my heart was hard against God and His truth, but I had just discovered a soft patch that I didn’t know I had.
I called some people from a church I attended in my hometown, and asked their advice. One woman who runs the Crisis Pregnancy Center there suggested I look for help somewhere more local, so I called a friend who had taken me to church two weeks before. I hadn’t liked this church. Honestly, it made me angry. I was living my life contrary to God’s Word and although now I know that the preacher at that church was simply being faithful to the Word of God—at the time the preaching was the stench of death to me. Still, somehow I knew that this church would be able to offer me counsel.
So I called up my friend, who told me he would ask one of the leaders of the college ministry to meet with me.
That morning when I woke up, I remember wishing it was some terrible dream. That evening, I met with Alex, a college Bible study leader from my friend’s church. As Alex began to ask me about the details of the situation, I was torn to pieces. On the one hand, the brutal consequences of the life I was living were staring me in the face. On the other hand, I desperately wanted to cling to my life of sin.
After listening patiently for some time, Alex began to open up for me just how bad I really was, and I began to see that as ill-equipped as I thought I was to address this, I was infinitely more ill-equipped than that. He suggested that I talk to Hal and see if I could get him to speak to Jane and keep her from going to Planned Parenthood. As I headed home, I had every intention of following his advice. But when I got back, I was unable to muster the strength to talk to him about it. In fact, I could barely stand to speak. My stomach was tied in knots. I couldn’t even eat that evening, so I went to bed and told myself I would talk to Hal tomorrow.
That next morning I woke up and I had no idea what to do—with Hal, with Jane, with Alex, with anything. My heart was sinking in despair, I just wanted to go back to my comfortable life where I didn’t feel any responsibility for the people around me, and I had no regard for anything beyond how much I was going to drink on Friday night.
But God wasn’t finished pulling me by the ear out of the muck.
I walked to the shuttle, where I knew I would see Jane as I did every Thursday morning. I hoped beyond hope that today she would miss the shuttle. By that point, I was totally and completely determined not to deal with this situation. I was so terrified I began to shake standing at the stop waiting for the shuttle ride.
Of course, Jane was on the bus that morning and in a moment we were sitting next to each other as we did every Thursday. I began our conversation as usual talking about the weather and the music on the bus that morning. It was Easter week so I asked if she had any plans. She told me that she intended to go home and I realized I wasn’t sure I would see her again before she did.
So I went for it. I told her I knew her situation and that I wanted to speak to her about it. I tried to be as kind as I could, but she basically shut down and stopped responding.
I realized just how right Alex was the night before—about me, about everything. I was infinitely ill-equipped to be the person speaking to her. I felt like the weight of the world had been placed on my shoulders, and rather than rise to the challenge, I had buckled. I knew I had ruined this relationship and was going to be facing Hal’s anger in the near future. The remainder of the shuttle ride was in silence.
I got off at my stop and as I walked to my class I vomited. I was nearly in tears. I could barely walk. As class began, I received a barrage of text messages from Hal. The gist was that he was angry, he felt betrayed, and he was going to punch me in the face, repeatedly. I began to cry again as I felt this friendship, the cornerstone of my sophomore year, slip away.
I called Alex for some support. I can’t imagine what he thought of the pathetic, weak, faithless fool on the other end of the phone, in tears because he had just done the first act of a fledgling—almost non-existent—faith.
I had no idea what was going to happen. At that point I had already signed a lease with Hal for the next year. I was ready to go to the apartment and just allow him to punch me repeatedly in the face. It would make him feel better, and I thought I deserved it. Alex offered to go with me to speak to Hal, and be a sort of calming presence there, and, you know, help make sure I didn’t get punched repeatedly in the face.
Alex picked me up from campus. I spent that entire ride in fear of what awaited me at the apartment. Not just the danger of physical harm, but also the severed relationship. I spent some of that ride asking Alex to lie to Hal about his knowledge of the situation. That’s how guilty I felt about everything.
When we arrived at my apartment, I texted Jane to ask if she was still willing to speak to me about what she was planning to do. She informed me that she had no interest in hearing what I had to say and that she was quite upset at the fact that I knew. I texted back that I was willing to be there for her if she changed her mind. That was the last interaction I ever had with her.
We went up to my apartment. As it turned out, when we got there, Hal was not home. So we waited, my stomach churning.
Hal finally returned home. He had gone and played basketball with some friends and managed to cool off over the course of the day, so we began to talk.
I can’t remember all the details, but I remember telling him a child is a human being. I remember telling him that a murder was going to take place.
He accused me of it being merely political, of seizing this opportunity to shove my conservative ideals down his throat.
No, I told him, God had placed me in this situation. I had to say something. And I wanted our relationship to survive this.
He said he was still upset with me for having done this without talking to him.
I told him I understood.
When we finished talking he got up and went to his room. Alex and I walked outside. I was going home that weekend and there was nothing I wanted more than to be a hundred miles away from everything that had happened over the course of the day. I told Alex that, but he admonished me not to run away from God, but to begin going to church and actually start living in a godly way.
I had no response. My strength was gone. Every ounce of my energy had been sucked up by this day. When Alex further admonished me to be at Planned Parenthood next Thursday, when Jane went to murder her child, I didn’t even want to think about it. And when Thursday came, I couldn’t muster the strength.
Of everything that happened, that is my deepest regret. I wish I had been there. I wish I had been stronger. I wish I could go back and do it again.
But I was weak.
Still, I believe God used my weakness to display His strength. They killed that baby, but somebody stood up for him, however weakly, however badly, however sinfully.
I can’t even say that at the end of that day I was a Christian. What I can say is that this was the beginning of God removing my heart of stone and giving me a heart of flesh. I was weak then, and in many ways I am weak now. But at least I have the strength now to proclaim with Joseph, “What man has meant for evil, God has used for good.”