I have had to be away from the sidewalk for a few weeks. But gratefully, I am in touch with some of my fellow prayer advocates who spend time at our state’s only abortion facility each week, so I’m never far from what is taking place.
Present on not, the prayers flow on Wednesday mornings, and this week in particular, as I curled up in bed fighting off strep throat, I laid bare my heart. Because it’s Christmas time, after all, and I can’t imagine this being the thing on my mind if I were in the place of the women who feel compelled to make this decision; to be faced with this kind of “anniversary,” year after year; to always be thinking of the babe who is no more rather than the One who came to save us.
And so I felt my prayers deeply, and reminded God that we remember how he came as an innocent child, and how that child changed the world. That we recall that he was unwanted by many, and had a target on his back. That we haven’t forgotten what his little life came to mean to the whole world, and all of its very big implications.
I asked God to be with those women and their families, and with the prayer advocates, and yes, with the workers and escorts, too. “Let a heart change today, Lord,” I said. And then I got bold. I decided it was worth it to go all out and dare to ask for a Christmas miracle. “If there is someone whose heart is open to it at all, let your words find her ears and penetrate her being. Let her feel loved enough to make a different decision.”
And then I typed these words into my Facebook status: “Today, I’m praying for a Christmas miracle on the sidewalk.” And I did, with all my heart.
The day went on, and a text from some of my friends who’d been present wasn’t too encouraging. One shared that there had been some extra distractions that had made it somewhat hard to reach the women going in. Later, a report came in of one of the escorts purposefully yelling over the pro-life messages of love to prevent them from getting through. I’ve experienced it many times before, and it’s discouraging, and often portrayed in ways that counter our actual experiences.
So it can be hard to stay the course. It can become daunting. It can feel futile. From the outside, too, we can easily begin to think that God is ignoring our prayers. We can feel helpless. Our hearts want to be light for the women and sometimes we are met with what seems only more darkness. It’s wearying.
And yet, just this morning, I shared this prayer from my devotionals on Facebook: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Lk 1:45)
And this, too: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, ‘Your God is King!'” (Isaiah 52:7)
In light of these verses, wouldn’t it be wrong of me to lose hope? So I decided to return to trust. I began to believe that whether I’d see the fruits of it or not, God had heard our prayers and brought them forward. A heart was changed; we just might never see it.
And I almost didn’t. But in time, I caught the update from one of the prayer advocates who’d had a different experience. Yes, he’d heard the yelling that had made it hard to reach the abortion-vulnerable clients. But he also witnessed something else; something hopeful. It was a woman leaving the facility without having had the abortion she’d come seeking. It was the unexpected encounter of a kind face, a warm voice explaining the reality of regret, and a story of adoption that had made all the difference in a life.
And then, in her listening, tears from the woman who had left but had not become fully convinced abortion wasn’t the answer, followed by a signal that something had suddenly changed within; that she’d realized there might be a different way out than this; that maybe love could overtake her fear. And that maybe, with the right kind of support, she could carry this baby into life, and not be haunted forever by this day, just days before Christmas.
Another stranger then stepped quietly in, and began showing her the way to the light, and soon, she was surrounded by a loving presence that helped open new doors of possibility. It is impossible for us to know what happened next and what decision she ultimately will make. Like Mary, she will need to ponder many things in her heart. But now, from what it seemed, the woman is slowly abandoning the idea of abortion in favor of life.
The Christmas miracle that I and others had spent much of our day praying for had transpired after all!
As I read the account from my friend and then tried relaying it to a loved one, tears streamed down my cheeks. Soon thereafter, I shared of this miracle on Facebook, and heard from another friend, who privately told me she’d seen my post earlier, and that, adding to my prayer for a miracle, she had fasted part of the day. Surely, this, too, had had an effect!
We were far from alone. From wherever they could offer their prayers, others did. And this little glimmer of hope that has ignited our hearts has convinced me again of the power of prayer. It is not that we are delusional and believe we caused this miracle. It is that a heart was tender and receptive, and when God heard our prayers, his whispers of love and life became more audible to the one who needed to hear them, who, on some level, was searching for them. At the moment she was perhaps feeling her most desperate, there they were, like a Christmas gift just waiting to be unwrapped.
This precious woman will not be dropped from my thoughts. She will be with me all of the Christmas season. I don’t know her name — I don’t need to, for God does. He also knows her heart, and every heartache she’s ever experienced, and every yearning. And I trust that now, she is learning how much she is loved by him.
Dear Lord, thank you for the best gift of all — the gift of hope of a new life that might have expired today if not for the love of those who seek your face. You are the Prince of Peace. There is none that surpasses the hope you offer our broken world. Thank you for this eternal treasure. You are everything.
Q4U: Have you experienced a Christmas miracle this year? What was it, or what miracle do you await?