The Cost of Confession
by Laurie Westlake

Was it worth going public with my sins? I had to decide.

I have had three abortions. Making this announcement never rolls off the tongue, nor does it become old hat. The last of my abortions occurred 20 years ago, but to this day I still experience pain, sorrow, resentment, and anger. The abortions left devastating scars, scars so deep that to examine them is to enter my private place of self doubt and weakness.

Yet I?ve been cleansed through God?s forgiveness and saved by grace. Daily I experience His loving touch. I turned to Christ after a friend gave me a Bible during a time of marital crisis. The marriage failed, but my faith grew, and God eventually blessed me with a Christian husband. Today, my life as a wife and mother of three is completely different from the life I led 20 years ago as a college student. Although I used to turn to alcohol to numb the pain of the horrific decisions I made and to fill the emptiness I felt after my boyfriends abandoned me, I now find fulfillment that only Jesus Christ can offer.

In spite of my new life in Christ, I served in my church for years without speaking of the abortions. Mine was a shameful past that I intended to keep secret?even from my husband, Steve.

Then four years ago, I was invited to join a steering committee that was looking at the possibility of opening a crisis pregnancy center. I sensed God wanted me to work in a women?s ministry, but I was uncomfortable in the crisis pregnancy arena. I didn?t consider myself worthy of saving babies, since I?d aborted three myself.

Then God orchestrated an event that would change my life. I reluctantly attended a meeting at which a crisis pregnancy counselor from another town spoke about prolife work. She stated that our pregnancy center would need someone to lead a post-abortion Bible study to help women heal from past abortion experiences. What? There?s healing? At that moment a fog lifted, and I understood why God had me in that meeting. Right then and there, I confessed my abortions to the people in the room, then offered to be the one to lead women to a closer walk with God through the Bible study. I also went home and told Steve, who, after the initial shock, lent his total support. As a result of my confession, not only did I lead post-abortion Bible studies, but I also became director of our crisis pregnancy center.

Being obedient to God?s call brought more blessings than I ever imagined, and I watched as He turned my ashes of grief into a crown of beauty (Is 61:3). Day after day, I shared my testimony with the hurting, the lost, and the confused who came to the Women?s Resource Center. I became convinced that when we?re reflecting the light of Christ through our own forgiven life, others who?ve had a similar experience will turn to the same source of hope. And my own life reflected the truth in James 5:16: ??Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.??

But then the day came when my obedience to confess would be challenged. A reporter from our local newspaper had heard of the work we were doing at the crisis pregnancy center and called for an interview. Thankful for the opportunity to share our work, I agreed to meet with her. I spent two hours telling her about the work God was doing to help local pregnant women carry their unplanned babies to term. As we chatted on her way out, I also mentioned the abortions I?d had. The reporter left amazed. Later that evening, she called me at home again?this time to write my personal story.

My first reaction was to say no. But as she pressed, I told her I?d consider it after prayer and counsel. My fears exploded! I?d lived in this small community for over 35 years, and I knew everyone. I worried about how this would affect my husband and our children, then ages 2, 4, and 10. No one outside my small circle of Christian friends, family, and the women I counseled knew of my past. Revealing my wounds to an entire community did not appeal to me. What good could come of it?

After much prayer and counsel with my husband, I felt God tugging on my heart and telling me to humble myself and glorify Him. Finally I decided to go ahead with the interview. Although the abortions happened long before I met Steve, he was prepared to face whatever persecution lay ahead right alongside me.

But first I had to tell my 10-year-old son, Ross. He deserved to know before the entire community read it in the paper. My son responded maturely to the news of my past, stating that he knew I was a Christian now and was proud to see me helping others through my own past mistakes. I warned him that some people might gossip, but I didn?t think it would be a big deal.

I called the reporter and agreed to the interview with the condition that the article glorify Christ. The reporter agreed to quote me verbatim. Three days later my story of promiscuity, alcohol abuse, and abortion was spread all over the front page of the only daily newspaper in town.

Reading my own story in print was shocking. I wanted to hide from the world, but I forced myself to face the day. Thankfully, the Lord sent three close Christian friends to confirm that I?d done the right thing. My fears began to subside. In the following days, I grew less tense, receiving only positive comments on the article from close friends and family. Within a week or two, I?d forgotten the whole event and my life went on as usual, serving God and my family.

That?s when the enemy made his move. I began to notice women whispering behind my back when I was in line at the grocery store or at a checkout counter. A casual acquaintance mentioned I?d been the topic of conversation at a party she?d attended. And someone I thought was a friend got word to me that her husband asked that I not call their house ever again. I was devastated. But the most excruciating moment was when Ross came home and tearfully acknowledged he?d overheard his friend?s parents speaking of my ?dirty laundry? all over the front page.

After gently consoling my son, I sent him out to play, assuring him, that we answer to God and not to man (Acts 5:29). I, however, fell apart. I was so angry with those people, and so angry with God. How could He have let my son, an innocent child, hear such a thing? Let me take the heat, but not my son! I accused God of abandoning me.

After spending half a day lying face down on the floor sobbing, I dragged myself to my kitchen table and grabbed my Bible and prayer journal. I began to pour out my heart to the Lord and begged for some meaning to all of this. Had I been obedient, or foolish? I told Him I could never face the people of this town again, and that no one anywhere had been through what these people were putting me through.

I scribbled in my journal, No one knows how it feels to be persecuted for obeying you. At that sentence I stopped. A still, small voice inside my head whispered, I do. My mouth fell open, and my tear-stained face looked up. Yes, Jesus knew. He knew the pain of rejection. He knew the pain of watching loved ones suffer. He, after all, was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He knew.

My tears again began to flow, not for me this time but for the misery of the cross. If Christ could make Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and become obedient even to death on a cross, then surely I could suffer verbal insults on His behalf. Granted, I was not chained in a prison like Paul, or stoned to death like Stephen, but I did receive a blessing that day?a blessing that would last a lifetime. First Peter 4:14 says, ?If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.? Being obedient to confess, and being more concerned with what God wants rather than with what humans think, brought some awesome fruit of the Spirit. I received an abundance of peace in my soul and a new level of faith in God. Every corner of my previously dusty and dirty life had been revealed and swept clean. It was like taking a breath of the purest mountain air, knowing I no longer had secrets to keep.

And as a result, numerous love offerings came in for our crisis pregnancy center. The article eventually caused many women to seek help at the Women?s Resource Center, and we received a new location to call home, thanks to an anonymous donor.

Confessing is still not easy. But it is through confessing our sins that we?ll find a open door to share the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?and that is the very essence and joy of life.