When I saw the extra pink line on the cheap home pregnancy test, all I could feel was fear. I had seen that line three times before and felt jubilation. This time, however, it was different. This time, I was pregnant because I was in the middle of an affair.
It had started six months earlier. I had already decided I wanted to divorce my husband and I had fooled myself into thinking that God thought so too. It would be better for our kids, I figured, not to grow up with parents who hated each other. At the time, I thought I knew what it meant to know God since I’d asked Jesus into my heart when I was four years old and been baptized by my Baptist preacher of a grandfather. Over the years, I had witnessed fellow church members break rules about lying, drinking, and fits of anger, so I didn’t feel the least bit guilty when I broke God’s rule about adultery. After all, I believed my lover was the man God had for me. Except he wasn’t and Jesus wasn’t going to let me live in the lie that I could save myself.
Staring at the positive pregnancy test, my fear began to manifest in question after question: What would my husband think? My parents? My other three children when they were old enough to understand? Would I be shunned by my church once everyone found out my secret? We’d only just started attending there. In my fear, I became convinced that an abortion was the most reasonable answer to every question.
In an effort to make it look like we’d tried everything to save our marriage, my husband and I had begun attending the new church just a couple of months before I became pregnant. And it was on those Sunday mornings that I first began hearing hard truths about what being a Christian actually means: turning from sin and following Christ. I didn’t realize what was happening at the time, but the Holy Spirit was changing my heart and even preparing my husband for the news that would soon be coming. As self-absorbed as I was, I refused to see how God was shaping and molding my husband so that, when catastrophe struck, he would show me the heart of Christ rather than the ugly world I so feared.
The moment I finally told him about the baby was more terrible than I imagined it would be. Sitting in our little living room, he looked at me and calmly asked, “Are you serious? Is this a joke?” When my only response was sobbing, he surprised me with an earnest embrace. It ruined the scenario I had prepared for; I expected an explosion of anger and yelling. But his comforting arms showed me a kindness I had never known, especially from him. My fear softened a little; it was his to share now too. We both agreed it would be best for me to have an abortion, and he accompanied me to the only clinic in our city that offered the pills I needed to rid myself of what felt like nothing more than evidence of my sin.
Three weeks later, however, I learned a hard reality: my hormone levels were still consistent with pregnancy. My doctor told me to come in for an ultrasound. There, I saw my eleven-week-old baby dancing on the screen. I knew then that I couldn’t hide. I had to face the people in my life and explain what I’d done. I realized I didn’t fear the baby—I feared everyone else knowing the truth. Backed into a corner, I knew that the only way forward was by confessing all I’d done and and repenting. I started with the people who terrified me most: our new church.
Telling our new pastor that not only was I pregnant with another man’s child, but that I had also tried to kill the baby was almost as terrifying as telling my husband I was pregnant at all. Once again, I was shocked by the reaction. He prayed for us and urged us to seek counseling so that God could repair and redeem our marriage. We’d gotten that advice before, so I was reluctant to hear some stranger tell me a bunch of gimmicky church cliches. However, I was desperate to be free of my fear—it, not the baby, was the real burden.
Counseling didn’t go the way I thought. We were paired with an older couple in the way Titus 2 describes, and the woman who mentored me lovingly taught me what it means to fear the Lord and what that fear really is. She showed me how Jesus wasn’t making me deal with my sin on my own but was walking through it with me. It was during those sessions with her that I learned how God had provided for me so that I could know him and draw near to him. How could I not have a reverence for the creator of life—for this God who saved my child and loved me even after all the horrible things I had done to offend him?
When that abortion failed, I was forced to fear the God who had made the tiny life inside me. I didn’t know at the time that learning to fear God wasn’t scary. Now I could look back at everything that led up to the moment and see Jesus pursuing me. And in seeing him clearly for the first time, I cried out to Jesus to save me. I had tried and failed to save myself, and he had provided tangible evidence of his nature all along the way: the kindness shown to me by my husband, the embrace and discipline of the church, and the peace that passes understanding when I finally put my trust in him. Fearing the Lord isn’t scary at all. Fearing the Lord has freed me from the destruction of fearing other people. And fearing the Lord has brought me more satisfaction in my life than I thought possible.
Cover image by Sharon McCutcheon.
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