Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: Abortion isn’t only a huge national issue. It’s also a huge personal tragedy that affects families one at a time.

Jennifer Smith: It was about the day before the abortion, and I walked into the bathroom, put my hands on my abdomen, and I just said, “I’m sorry.” Those were the only words that I ever spoke to that child.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 15, 2015.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that has now affected literally hundreds of millions of women, children, and families. Many churches will be marking Sanctity of Human Life Sunday this coming weekend, and they’re asking the Lord to have mercy and to bring grace and healing to parents who have been affected by abortion and to the nation that has allowed this practice.

This week as we lead up to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we will be hearing the story of one woman, Jennifer Smith, who chose to have an abortion. As you listen to Jennifer’s story, you’ll hear some parts that are a painful reminder of the deadly consequences of sin. But over these next days, I also believe you’ll come away with a lot of hope.

So no matter where you’ve been or what you may have done, I hope you’ll see that God can forgive you. He can heal you. And then He can use you to build His kingdom in powerful ways.

Jennifer Smith is the former director of the Pregnancy Care Center in Niles, Michigan, just down the street from the headquarters of Revive Our Hearts. As we’re about to hear over these next days, she has had the privilege day after day of watching God at work in situations that look hopeless.

Leslie: If you have younger kids with you, today’s program may not be appropriate for them.

We’ll begin the story when Jennifer Smith was about sixteen.

Jennifer: In high school we had a speech class, and because I was a Christian and had those kinds of values, I actually did a speech on the topic of abortion.

Leslie: In her speech she explained why she thought abortion was wrong. This was a topic that was in the forefront of Jennifer’s mind since a friend of hers was pregnant.

Jennifer: She showed me a picture of . . . Well, at the time they showed what looked almost like an x-ray film rather than an ultrasound image that we’re used to now. But you could see that this was a baby.

Leslie: But this friend felt that a baby would interfere too much with her extracurricular activities, and she was contemplating ending the child’s life.

Jennifer: She was a cheerleader, and so she would say, “I can’t cheer. I can’t have this baby.”

I said, “You can’t kill your baby because you can’t cheer. I mean, cheering is a couple years of your life, and it’s a minute portion of that. And so to kill a baby to cheer makes no sense at all. What are you talking about? How could you do this?”

Leslie: If Jennifer Smith could go back and talk with that friend again, she would have approached her differently, but at the time Jennifer feels like she . . .

Jennifer: . . . condemned her for having an abortion.

Leslie: This sixteen-year-old who condemned abortion in speeches and conversation learned a sense of right and wrong early in life.

Jennifer: Growing up as a girl, I was in Sunday school. I remember memorizing the books of the Bible. I remember doing little Sunday school skits and singing, “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Jesus Loves Me,” and those types of things which very much carried into my adult life. But as a little girl I was very plugged into Sunday school and enjoyed those songs and just getting to know the Lord. I had just a very innocent viewpoint of Jesus and who He was.

I grew up with one brother and mom and dad in the home, so that felt really good and right, and so I did want that for my children. And growing up, I did want to be married with kids.

My relationship with my mom and dad seemed to be really strong. They both loved me without a doubt. I didn’t have any question as to whether they loved me. My mom was a really strong Christian, and my dad was very active in his job. We were allowed as kids to spend time with him at work. He worked at the Y, and so it was easy to be spending time with him as a kid. So I think the relationships were really, really strong.

Leslie: Jennifer imagined investing her life in others.

Jennifer: I always wanted to be a teacher.

Leslie: In high school, she would assist other teachers by helping out in younger grades.

Jennifer: My heart would just go out to children who would come to school knowing that they had some background issues that were really hard to go home to.

Leslie: Jennifer Smith seemed to be an upstanding young lady. She grew up in church, came from a good family, invested in others, and spoke up on her convictions. Yet something was missing. She looked like a good rule follower on the outside, but this was covering a heart that wasn’t fully surrendered to the Lord. Eventually, the facade began to crack.

Jennifer: I had a friend who was actually enrolled in Christian school. She went twelve years or so by this time, she might have even graduated. She was a few years older than me. But she started drinking. I remember going with her one time to her cousin’s house, and we were drinking together. It was the first time in a long time that I had a big smile on my face, and so it felt really good.

Then that kind of just introduced a little bit of questioning in my head. Like, “Wait a minute! This is fun!” I’d been told, “Drinking is bad. Don’t do it.” But I’m having fun! So I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that information.

Leslie: Jennifer felt like her mind was always going during this time, yet because her mind was not set on the things of God, this constant string of thoughts was confusing.

Jennifer: I’m a thinker, and so my brain is always going, and drinking kept my mind from going.

The Bible tells us to set our mind. It doesn’t tell us to dull it, and that’s exactly what I had been doing. And so it just left me open to all kinds of temptation.

Leslie: Once Jennifer was sober again, her thoughts would take off again. This time the thoughts were full of questions: “How could you do this? Don’t you know you’re making the wrong decisions?”

Jennifer: So that almost led to more drinking because then you do have that guilt, and you do have, “What in the world is going on? How do I fix it? How do I get out of this mess? What do I do?” And that becomes overwhelming.

There’s no way apart from Jesus to fix this, and if you’re not looking for Him, and you’re just looking for the world's answers to that question, you’re not going to find it. And so that’s what I was doing, and drinking was the only answer I could find to just shut that voice up so I didn’t have to hear it anymore.

And that led me to making all kinds of wrong decisions. Obviously, if you’re drinking a lot, you’re not in a clear frame of mind to be making wise decisions.

At the age of sixteen, this same year, I had a guy that I thought was really, really popular and cute and funny. He indicated some interest in me, and I was very, very flattered by that. The topic of sex came up quite a bit between us. I was taught, “Don’t have sex before marriage.” I don’t know how much well-grounded reasons there were for why not have sex before marriage was there. It was just kind of a, “Don’t have sex before marriage.”

So when this guy was showing interest in me, it was like my heart just melted. When I started dating this guy, my dad had said to me, “He just wants another notch on his bedpost.” And when he said that, it crushed me because I thought, “I thought this guy just liked me. I didn’t know it was because of that.”

Then something triggered in my head that I needed to do that to keep him. I think it had a reverse effect of what my dad was trying to do. I’m sure that he was trying to protect me, and I’m sure it was coming strictly out of love. He just wanted me to be aware, just like any dad would.

Sure enough, I ended up losing my virginity to this guy, and he just treated me awful after that. So it confirmed that’s why he wanted to be with me.

I felt horrible. I felt completely guilty, and I knew that I had given away something that could never be taken back. I just felt like it was over, like, “What’s the use of trying now? I’ve destroyed everything, and so why even attempt to live right?” That was the feeling that I had. It was just really strong. I was heartbroken, and the drinking very much covered up the heartbroken side of me.

I don’t know what happened in my mind, but I just thought, This is why guys want to be with you. It doesn’t have anything to do with who you are as a person, what you think, even what you look like. They just this one thing. And so with a combination of that thought rolling around in my head and a lot of drinking, I just sort of delved into that whole lifestyle.

If I wanted someone’s attention, that was the way that I got it. And so it was a regular occurrence. I can’t say that it was weekly, but it was definitely more often than I would like it to be.

Of course, this is from a kid’s perspective. Parents are usually a little sharper than what we give them credit for, but I knew that they were aware probably by the age of eighteen, and they did express concern. My mom especially was really wanting me to get whatever help she could find, but I was very resistant. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I was very callous and sarcastic and just like, “This is my decision. It’s my life. It’s my way, and I’m going to do what I want to do.”

It got to a point where I was not wanting this anymore. There was a part of me that really was sick of it and angry. So I would be at a party and I would either become super callous and just assent and be like, “Okay, fine, whatever—have sex and be done with it,” or I would try to fight it off.

There were some times when the guy is being rather forceful that you have to ask yourself, “Can I get out? Physically, can I overpower this guy?” More often than not, the answer is “No.” And so some of that was just sheer giving up. It was like, “I don’t have a choice here. I have to run the risk of being injured physically or do this.”

A lot of it later on became more of that, just giving up because I didn’t want to fight. Party situations can definitely have those aspects to them where a guy will try to get you alone and then just think that because you’re drinking, it’s okay to do whatever they want.

Leslie: Around this time, Jennifer met a young man named Ray. While most guys she met wanted to be physically intimate and then move on, Ray seemed different.

Jennifer: I remember the next day he called me, and he asked me to go out. I was really surprised because it was not something I was used to. I was used to guys just being, “Whatever. Who cares?” Everything was really casual, and he wanted to go out again.

So we started dating, and I really liked him. At that point I was thinking, I’m not going to cheat on him. I’m not going to do anything wrong because I like this. This is really cool. He likes me for me, and I’m just going to stay faithful to him.

Leslie: Ray and Jennifer decided to get married. And even though it would prove to put stress on their relationship down the road, this couple went ahead and moved in together before marriage.

Jennifer: I actually think that we decided to live together for a couple different reasons. Culturally, it was just the norm, and especially more on his side of the family. It was just what people did.

Leslie: Even after meeting Ray, Jennifer’s lifestyle still put her in a lot of danger.

Jennifer: I was out partying with friends. There were a bunch of friends from high school at this bar I was at.

Leslie: Her friend from the Christian school left the party, leaving Jennifer with a group of men. She felt comfortable with this, assuming these were all her friends that she could trust.

Jennifer: If they drove me home that would be fine, because they’re my friends.

The next thing I remember about that night was waking up in a hotel room. I had no idea how I got there. I had no idea what happened. I did know that something happened because there was just physical evidence that something happened.

Leslie: About a month later, Jennifer took a pregnancy test and knew her life would never be the same.

Jennifer: I almost knew before I took the test. I don’t know if it’s a mother’s intuition there or what, but I knew. There’s something that happens when you get pregnant that you just know it’s life. That’s what it is. It’s life residing in you, and you can’t escape that.

Leslie: So was this the child of the supposed friend who had taken advantage of Jennifer, or was it the child of her fiancé?

Jennifer: I wanted to make sure, make sure, make sure that this was not his child. I wanted to do everything I could to avoid having an abortion because, here I am the girl who said I would never have an abortion, condemning friends who did, and now I’m contemplating it.

So I went to a pregnancy center, and they did a pregnancy test on me. They confirmed the pregnancy, which I already knew because I’d taken one at home. They showed me a really gruesome video on abortion, and at that time I thought, I’ve got to hurry up while this baby is little.

I think their heart was just to share truth me and show me the reality of what I’d be doing. But the thought that came to my head was that I’ve got to hurry because this baby is little enough.

After that, I had an ultrasound done. I actually went to my family doctor and asked him, “What can I do?” He said, “Well, you can do amniocentesis and find out whose it is for sure.” Looking back, he was really trying to talk me out of this abortion. So he scheduled me for an ultrasound right away at the hospital.

So I went and had an ultrasound done. They confirmed to the day that this was this man’s child and not my fiancé’s. And at that moment, I just went on autopilot. I’m, like, “I’m having an abortion. That’s all there is to it.”

I went and told my fiancé—after all these guys that didn’t love me at all, here was a person who did, and now I had to tell him this happened, that I was pregnant by someone else.

When he first found out I was pregnant (now this was before I found out by who), he was kind of excited and wanted to have the baby. He had already had a child at this point, and he was welcoming another child. When he found out that it was not his, I remember his reaction was that he threw a glass up against the wall. And he was agreed, “Let’s do this. You’ve got to have an abortion.”

Leslie: At one point, Jennifer did wonder, What would it take to change her mind to deliver and keep this child?

Jennifer: I remember crying in my car, thinking, If somebody would just take me out of this set of circumstances, sit with me in a house and just care for me, that would be the only way that I could do this. If one person would just grab me, take me away, and live this out with me step by step, then I could do it. But I would have to have a really long-term commitment from that person. That thought did enter my mind, but I didn’t find that person.

I think that my mom most certainly would have done it had I even given her the chance, but I never did.

It was about the day before the abortion, and I walked into the bathroom, put my hands on my abdomen, and I just said, “I’m sorry.” Those were the only words that I ever spoke to that child.

So I went to the abortion clinic. I remember vomiting all over the place. It was just the most grueling thing I had ever experienced. It was awful, and I felt condemned at that point.

Leslie: Abortion isn’t only a big national issue. It affects the stories of individual moms, dads, and children. We’ve been hearing one of those stories from Jennifer Smith.

The portion of the story we heard today ends in a very dark place, but, Nancy, over the next couple of days, we’ll hear about God’s power to forgive sin and redeem a broken life.

Nancy: Leslie, the part of Jennifer’s story that we’ve just heard is a good reminder of an important truth: It’s not enough to grow up having a sense of right and wrong. Each of us needs to realize that a polished outside can cover a sinful heart.

Perhaps you can relate to Jennifer’s younger days when she looked like a good rule follower, but you’ve never gotten real about the sin in your heart. Being a rule follower will never make us right with God because we can never follow all the rules. Jennifer’s story shows us that eventually that facade will crumble.

The only way to be right with God is by confessing your sin before Him and asking Him to forgive you because of what Jesus did on the cross. He paid for every sin, including those big, visible sins like abortion, and also those hidden sins of the heart.

So if you’ve never done it before, would you put your faith in Christ today and ask Him to forgive you? If you’re ready to be right with God, not just in terms of your external behavior, but at the core of who you are in your heart, we’d like to send you some information that explains more about what it means to be a child of God.

We’ll be happy to send that resource to you at no charge. Just give us a call at 1–800–569–5959 and tell us you’d like the resource about how to be sure that you’re a Christian.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.

For a lot of women, the story like the one we heard today brings up painful memories. They’ve ended the life of their child and are still dealing with the regret of that decision. At Revive Our Hearts, we know you can be free from guilt and condemnation. That’s why we’d like to send you a Bible study by Sandy Day called Living in His Forgiveness.

It was written specifically for women who want to be free from guilt after an abortion. As you go through this study, you’ll understand the freedom available to you in Christ. You’ll learn how to forgive others and know that you’ve been forgiven. And you’ll walk into the future with a new sense of hope and joy. This might be just the study you need, or maybe it would be perfect for someone you know.

We’ll send you Living in His Forgiveness when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any size. You can ask for it when you call us at 1–800–569–5959, or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, Jennifer Smith thought that after aborting her child she’d be close to her fiancé and life would go back to normal. But her life was racked by guilt. Find out how she finally found deliverance. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.