Getting pregnant at 18 was not my plan. I had dreams, goals, and aspirations that I was working to reach. I was a college student studying elementary education and Bible. I was going to be a teacher. I was going to graduate college and get a job. Then I would think about starting a family and having kids. I was in love with Tim (my current hubby, then boyfriend), we were going to get married after he graduated, live on campus until I graduated, and have a happy life as a young married couple filled with nothing but love and happiness (yeah, I had no idea how much work marriage would actually be). THAT was my plan. I had all of these plans for my life and what I thought I wanted, thought I NEEDED, but I had no clue what the Lord really had in store for me.
Then I got pregnant. This changed everything. I was not married, I was living with my mom, working part time in retail, and had three more years of school to finish. Everything I thought was certain wasn’t anymore. I felt shame, guilt, and worry. I was stuck in a cycle of sin and shame. I felt like I was being forced to abandon my youth and grow up way too fast. I was basically still a child. I was afraid of change and of the unknown. I didn’t want this life that had been put before me, even if it was because of my own choices.
I was dealing with incredible disappointment in myself. I was the teen mom- the girl that got pregnant in Bible college- I felt like I had a scarlet letter. How could this be happening to ME? I had been a Christian for a long time and loved Jesus, but why was I doing this? I was going against what I believed, what I strived for. I was going against God. And I felt like I was alone- and that was partially true. I wasn’t letting others in and asking for true community to do life with. I wanted to appear “good” for so many years, I almost didn’t know how to let others in. I was far too prideful to admit my sin, especially sexual sin (because it seems like we’re taught that it’s one of the worst sins, right?). I felt like a giant failure to myself, my family, my community, and my God.
My worst fear was that people would judge me and reject me. Growing up as a Christian in church, surrounded by other Christians, it is hard to let the veil down and share what is really going on in life. Your struggles sometimes feel like they have to be secret, because we are supposed to be “good.” I had put on a face in front of most people for so many years, and didn’t let people in. But with vulnerability comes intimacy, and that is what we are truly created for. My pregnancy forced me to wear my sin on my sleeve and show everyone my struggles. Even though I dreaded telling people that I was pregnant, it was healing. It forced me to be truly honest with everyone, especially the people that matter the most. But, nonetheless, it was scary, and I had so much fear, disappointment, and shame of my sin.
I repented, and God forgave me, as He always does. That is the most simple picture of the Gospel that I had believed for so many years. I chose (and still choose) to live in the freedom of Christ daily. Even though I felt like I didn’t know anything about being a wife or a mother, I walked into that stage of life with confidence. I learned how to live victoriously in the grace and forgiveness of God, His love, and His sovereignty. I was still a work in progress (and still am, now), but I was amazed by how all of my fears were wiped away. Everything Tim and I needed as an independent married couple was provided for us. I was honestly so surprised by the amount of grace we received from people. Like I said before, vulnerability produces intimacy. We do have damaged relationships, but that is just natural, and I accept that. We didn’t learn how to be perfect people, but imperfect people who are made holy. The only perfection in us is Christ.
I didn’t fully understand grace before I was humbled by my sin, and my marriage and my family are a constant reminder of that. My husband is a man of God who loves the Lord and leads me spiritually everyday. My daughter is the picture of joy and love. And my new son shows me hope. Because God’s son IS our hope. There is hope for that insecure, ashamed girl from three years ago. There is hope for other people who make mistakes and feel like there is no redemption. There is hope everybody, and that hope is Jesus. He transformed my life from shambles to a beautiful picture of who He is. He is a healer, restorer, father, guide, and so much more. I am still learning to be free from shame, and instead trust that God will use my life to show others His face. Sometimes I still struggle with feeling like I did it wrong when I am comparing myself to others. But, I find myself in a place of thankfulness. I am grateful for my struggIes, my failures, the places that my at God has brought me. I did not want to be in this place at this point in my life, but I can’t imagine a more perfect picture. I love being a wife and a mother with all of my heart. I am thankful that my life plan did not go the way I wanted it to. My life is so much richer because of the struggles that I went through, and I get to reap the blessings of that every day. The Lord is always faithful, and He can turn any situation into one for His glory- even one because of my sin.
I don’t want to imagine where I would be without God, and I am so glad that I don’t have to. I hope that my life is a testimony and encouragement to others, for the furtherment of His Kingdom. I am not a slave to sin and shame- and I don’t’t have to be. I am freed, forgiven, and made new.
Photo by Christine Benz.