Yesterday I spent some time with other pastors praying in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic here in our town. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, sometimes with others at a vigil, other times just by myself.
Regardless of how or with whom, this prayer strategy always feels awkward. Always. Cars honk, some for good reasons and others for bad ones. Sometimes people stop; sometimes they gawk. Each time I go I am very aware of the battle going on in me and around me.
Honestly, I don’t feel afraid or intimidated. Just awkward. In some sense, I feel sort of exposed. Almost naked-like. And I’m not sure exactly why. Perhaps it’s tied to doing something that is quite personal in such a public place. Or maybe its due to the fact that it seems like I’m not very active or productive. Don’t get me wrong – when we pray, we are doing the best and first thing we should – and could — do. It is productive. It is active. It is effective. But I don’t always feel in my heart what I know in my head. And when I’m seemingly just standing there, minute after minute, praying silently while holding a sign peacefully with multitudes of people rubber-necking me, I get the (false) feeling I’m not really accomplishing much.
But God knows just how to get the right knowledge to travel that all-important 18 inches from my head to my heart. And that’s exactly what the following story did for me – helped me realize that what I and other pastors are doing each Tuesday in October does matter, even if I don’t always see it immediately.
And if you’ve ever stood and prayed outside an abortion clinic, feeling “undressed” and vulnerable, this story is for you, too!
My friend had left me the use of her apartment as she was away … perfect because it was right where the clinic was!
The next day, I saw you people lining up with signs … I watched from the window every day and all day you were there! Different folks each time.
I had this idea in my head that abortion picketers were extremists … no “normal” person would do that sort of thing. Yet you did not look extreme … more ordinary.
Tuesday was my pre-procedure appointment. Used the wrong entrance and had to walk past you. So what, I thought. Who cares? They don’t know me or where I am going. As I walked past (hurriedly!), my legs felt like they weighed a ton. What was going on? Are these people intimidating me? Do I need to feel ashamed as I walk past? The receptionist told me to “ignore them” when I asked about you.
Every day I watched you. One day I thought for sure no one would be there. Weather forecast was calling for severe winds and rain. There in the afternoon, amid strong winds which were blowing the signs over the head and onto the grass, you stood. Three or four together. All day!
The next day I took a walk and followed you in the direction where everyone seemed to go. It was a church. After everyone left, I went inside and saw all the signs, flyer. Impressive set-up, I thought. They seem organized in their purpose!
On Friday was my scheduled appointment for my procedure. I was suddenly terrified of what was to be. My heart was almost beating out of my chest.
My boyfriend, who had promised to come the day before, did not show up to take me. Said he was tied up and that ultimately it was my choice to have it that day or wait til next week. My choice. But he’s not there to hold my hand! Lots of weighing pros and cons.
Anyhow, I want to let you know that I decided to keep my baby. The boyfriend is still a distance away but maybe he needs time to come around and see the big picture.
The reason I decided to leave you this note is to tell you that what you did was good. I felt I owed it to you for all the days you stood there in hope that others would take notice. I noticed – and in turn it gave me hope that others I know would also care to “stand for me.”
You’re welcome…whoever you are.