Nine years ago, today, was a day that completely changed my life. Completely. As in any plan I had for my life was completely shattered. Changed. Those plans became something of the past. You see, 9 years ago today, I found out I was pregnant. I was 19 years old, a sophomore at a Christian University, not married, jobless, and scared. (You can read more about that here.)
Probably one of the hardest and scariest parts was having to tell our parents. How would they react? What would they think of me? What would they think of Ryan? His dad was an elder and my dad a deacon- now preacher (enter preacher’s daughter jokes here). Our families have Christian reputations. They are administrators/educators at our hometown schools. We were about to stain that clean white reputation. Our sin couldn’t be hidden and was going to be made public. The weight of our sin was suffocating. We were going to have to announce our pregnancy. Our unplanned, out of wedlock pregnancy
Pregnancy announcements. They are so fun aren’t they? And so creative. Thanks to Facebook, I love seeing all of my friend’s cute and creative pregnancy announcements. There are a lot of fun ways to tell your parents that they will be becoming grandparents.
But how do you announce an “unwanted,” unwed pregnancy? Instead of joy and excitement, you might feel shame, fear, and guilt. I know I did.
Telling our parents
I couldn’t bear to face my family. On a Wednesday night towards the end of October in 2007, Ryan and I parted ways and both headed to attend church at our hometown church. I remember asking my mom to go for a drive with me after church.
I drove to the city park and turned my car off. Then I gave her the letter. The letter that was life changing for me, her, and our entire family. She said “what’s this?” And I asked her to read it and not say anything until she was finished. I was already crying by the time she read the first word, and she was crying by the time she read the first paragraph.
Then she did something I will never forget.
She hugged me. And she said “I love you.” And she meant it.
Ryan is a little more gutsy than I am. He said he just flat out told his parents after church that night. I know there were some tears shed at his home with his parents too.
And his parents reactions were the same as mine were.
Love and encouragement first, and I would assume followed by a feeling of inward disappointment.
The reactions of our parents to our pregnancy announcement are probably the most important part of our story. These reactions could be game-changers. These reactions are what could make or break us.
Their reaction to this less-than-ideal situation potentially could have broken and shattered our faith. But instead it strengthened our faith in a loving God. It strengthened us.
Growing up in Christian homes, Ryan and I were lucky to hear Bible stories over and over again.
The Prodigal Son and sufficient grace
One of those stories forever etched in my heart is the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Instead of just teaching us about the Prodigal son and the Father who still loved him and showed him grace, our parents got to live that story. They welcomed us, sin and all, with open arms.
They showed us love and support. But they didn’t try to take away the responsibility that resulted from our choice. We still had to be responsible. When we got married, I went on Cobra insurance, and Ryan and I paid the nearly $400 for coverage for 3 months until I could get on his. As a young couple, we got our own phone plan, paid our own rent, gas, water, electricity. We went without cable TV and internet. We grew up.
Our parents were there for us though. If one of our cars broke down, one or both of our dads would come help Ryan fix it. Ryan’s mom made the flower girl dresses for our wedding. She made some of Brocks bedding for his room. My mom would bring groceries and take us out to eat every time she came to visit. And she would also bring me a couple pieces of maternity clothes when she would come. She babysat Brock for free while I continued my college education.
We got to witness, first-hand, the power of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.
Our parents are great. They raised us in a way that makes me want to follow their footprints. God was at the center of our families from the time we were born. They read us the Bible, prayed with us, taught Bible classes and preached at our churches, and took our youth groups to activities.
Yet I still messed up. Ryan still messed up.
So to any parent of a Prodigal, I know that inwardly you you may be broken and crumbling, but I want to say something to you.
The sins of your grown children do not reflect your success or failure as a parent. Just like the sins of the Prodigal Son don’t reflect the success or failure of his father. And just like your sins, my sins, and the sins of any other person don’t reflect on the success or failure of our God and Father.
Awhile back a fellow momma, Janet Stafford, and I were discussing our similar stories and she mentioned something that has really stuck with me– There is no mistake that isn’t redeemable by God. Every piece of the puzzle is completing His glory. And while being pieced together may be hard and at times not make sense, it is so awesome to reflect back over time and see how those pieces have been fit together.
Parents- remember, you may be witnessing the beginning of your kid’s story. An incredible testimony. This isn’t the end of their story it’s the beginning. Your reaction will be part of it.
The choices of your children are their own. Please don’t chain your child’s choices to your success as a parent.
You know your situation. Some Prodigals don’t come back home. Some Prodigals come and go like a revolving door. Sometimes the best way to parent is on your knees in prayer. Sometimes the best way to parent is by encouraging your kids to grow up. You know your kid.
But remember, likely when your pride in them is at an all-time low, is when their need for you is at an all time high.
Give them grace.
*If you are a young girl who is walking this hard path, and your parents haven’t been supportive, I want to encourage you. Find support. A close friend, a welcoming church, a pregnancy crisis center (I found one that did some counseling and talked to me about what steps to take regarding health care) are all great ways to have the support you need to make it.
You are strong. You are loved. And you are His.
You can do this.
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