By Linda J. Cochrane
“Abortion tears up the heart of the female as well as the male” Stuart commented when addressing the pain of his past abortion in the video titled “Set Free”. When men face the pain of a past abortion both the leader and the participant are changed. Watching God heal through the application of His word to the hearts involved encourages both, as they witness His mercy and grace. Vinny, a nurse and new on staff at our pregnancy center led Walt, a post aborted father through “Healing a Father’s Heart” a post abortion bible study for men. Neither Vinny nor Walt had participated in anything like this before so I captured their responses as men who were both new to the healing process.
Here is Walt’s story: I paid for my ex-girlfriend’s abortion in 1979. It was a rather cold and thoughtless event for me. I had a suspicion that the child wasn’t even mine. I never thought about my actual abortion. I was an active alcoholic and drug abuser. I didn’t tell anyone or even think about it until a few years later when I became clean, sober and a Christian.
The use of drugs and alcohol usually increases after an abortion. It is not unusual for men to use substances to cope after an abortion experience. Drugs and alcohol help us to numb the thoughts surrounding an abortion. Coming to Christ opens our eyes to the things we have done in the past. Areas of our lives we are not proud of like “paying” for an abortion.
Walt: I was at a Full Gospel Christian Businessmen’s dinner and the speaker talked about abortion and what it really was. Up until that point I was a liberal and pro-choice. At the end of the evening I confessed my sin, asked for forgiveness and was prayed over. I became active in pro-life work, initially with Birthright and then in my church, trying to get my local church to take a stand against the national church’s paying for abortions in their medical plan. Over the ensuing years, whatever church I was attending I would look for every opportunity to get the message about what abortion was.
When Walt’s eyes were opened he wanted to speak the truth about abortion. Walt was working to change abortion in our culture and share the message of what abortion “really is.” Taking a stand is what he felt called to do after knowing the truth. Many times speaking the truth comes across to others as self-righteous. After healing, as in restitution, when we have been released from a prison of unforgiveness we want to tell others this truth in love. Many people working in the pro-life movement have not had the opportunity for healing as Walt has. Walt is now feeling called to help others heal. We need to change this by offering individual counseling or group Bible Studies to men in the community and especially the pro-life communities.
Walt: Last year the Lord inspired me to pick up two books, one on shame and one on anger, two areas I thought were not a big problem in my life anymore. But God clearly wanted me to deal with these issues. My wife and I went to the memorial service our local pregnancy center holds each year in remembrance of those children killed by abortion. I went up to light a candle for my aborted child. It was here I was invited to attend a Bible Study. I said “yes” to starting the Bible study because I felt that perhaps I could help others. I did not know at the time I needed this. I had never looked deeply into the wound of abortion. When I began the bible study I saw that shame and anger was a deep wound God wanted to heal. This study, although it really is more of a journey, has chipped away some more of a stony heart I thought was all flesh. It has shone light on deep shame I didn’t consciously know was there. It resolved anger disguised as righteousness.
For men this post abortion anger and shame needs to be explored to lead others to forgiveness and healing of those they were hurt by. Like Walt many in the pro-life field have unresolved anger that comes across as self-righteous behavior. Many do not think they need healing as Walt thought also. But Walt found a safe place with Vinny and explored both shame and anger as well as grief and depression. Both were amazed at the healing God provided.
Vinny: I began meeting with Walt and going through the study, I felt honored and blessed that I could help a man/father realize that God would heal his broken heart. I could sense God’s presence when Walter and I met. As I facilitated the healing process I realized I was leading a man, not to myself, but to God and His faithfulness. We gathered in His name, and He was there with us. I see His faithfulness on display and it is amazing to watch the healing process for Walter unfold in front of me.
As a leader in facilitating healing, Vinny had it right when he recognized that he was leading men to the healer. It takes a lot of the pressure off the leaders when they don’t have to be the answer for the pain they see in others. Most Biblical facilitators are reluctant leaders because they don’t feel qualified and haven’t been trained. There is training available for leaders and professional counselors to help in this area. The most important quality for a leader is a humble heart.
Vinny: I could see Walter relaxing more and more with each of our sessions because he had learned to trust me. But it’s really Walter’s trust in the Lord that allowed the healing to take place. I felt His comfort as Walter and I prayed and talked. That comfort encourages me to listen, direct, support, and encourage Walter. I was there to guide him to the Ultimate Healer and the Ultimate Forgiver.
The healing process is very difficult to do on your own. We were never meant to grieve alone. We were meant to grieve in community. Vinny became Walt’s community proving he could be trusted. Vinny listened and encouraged Walt in the process. Listening is a hard task when you see others in pain but well worth it when you see them push through and are on the other side of comfort.
Walt: It has been a painful and sometimes bewildering journey as I traveled to a place I had never been before. It also has been an interesting yet gentle journey to meet a little girl named Judy who would have been 34 last month, someone I had forgotten about. An unfeeling “non-event” had become a girl I will finally get to meet in heaven. I have felt like a criminal deserving incarceration for a heinous murder. In the healing I became like a beloved child, held by my loving Father until the pain went away.
Vinny: Yesterday, Walt told me he had named his baby “Judy” I could see he took great comfort in that. I could actually see that he looked more at peace and relaxed after he told me. As we continued talking, I mentioned his healing and the changes I had noticed in his physical demeanor. Again, I can witness God’s faithfulness at work in Walter’s life and in his healing process. God promised to bring peace, comfort, healing, and joy to those who are hurting. He does bring comfort and peace to those seeking to know Him.
Walt: The things that really struck me is, as a man, I’m to be a protector of my family. Can you imagine? I’m 64 and am just learning this! I had never thought about my own lack of response to the mother and whether I hurt her by my total indifference, and I had never seen the total devastation that killing a child, and especially your own child brings. It seems insane to say that! How could one do that? Through my own experience of the pain and reality, I now am learning to love instead of be self-righteous. Sometimes we are the meanest to the very people who have committed the same crime we did. Most likely because they remind us of what we have done.
Walt: God is all about healing. I love telling about God’s work. It released me from a prison I was unaware of. It has been, and continues to be, an important step in bringing me to fullness in the Lord. What I’ve known for a long time but a better understanding of the depth of His love, the desire He has for my growth and joy, how much He wants us to live life to the fullest that our joy may be complete.
Vinny: Men suffer privately and in silence because of abortion, but true healing can and will take place because of God’s grace, mercy, and love. I truly believe that Walter suffered privately and in silence for many years, but it has now been affirmed to him that God has indeed forgiven him.
Men deserve healing from the pain of their past. They need compassionate brothers to rise up and lead them through the process of grieving. Walt’s story is being played out all across America and they need Vinnies to stand by them. We have a responsibility in our communities to get the word out that there is healing. In the words of another post aborted father, Randy, who found healing in “Healing a Father’s Heart” when finished he commented. “When the restoration came it was painful, swift, and complete and in the end sweet, very sweet”