April 1, 2010 I found out I was pregnant. April Fools Day. Palm Sunday. The happiest, yet scariest day of my life. I was happy about her from the beginning but I knew my parents would be upset.
Should I be upset?
At the time, I felt like I should feel guilty or disappointed because I was still a baby myself. I was in my last semester of my senior year of college, I was in a committed relationship but we weren’t married, and I hadn’t “lived.” And although I hadn’t developed a personal relationship with God by this time, I knew what it meant to sin. It was one thing to do what you do in private because you can keep up the idea of purity, but being pregnant would mean the product of that sin walking around with me; which should have birthed an initial feeling of shame, but I always felt genuine joy about having a baby from the very beginning.
Although I didn’t personally feel shameful, I know my parents did. They were understandably upset. Up to that point, I had always been the most ambitious and goal driven of all my sisters, so Dominique being pregnant meant I was forfeiting all those things I had been pursuing. My mom and dad were also teen parents, so in their eyes, I was repeating their mistakes and struggles even though I knew better. Which I did…but I still felt joy.
I didn’t know it then, but writing this now, I can only conclude that God was present with me. Even though I was happy about having a baby, I struggled emotionally for the entire nine months to find a balance between my excitement and my families vocal disappointment. It wasn’t until I started going to church for myself that I found peace.
By this time, I knew for sure I was having a girl. I was sitting in bible study and my pastor was preaching on God’s grace. He was loosely using the example of having children out of wedlock, and women who live with the guilt, fear, and shame for their whole lives after having an abortion. This was over four years ago so I’m paraphrasing but I will never forget him saying, “The baby was never the sin—the act that produced the baby was sin, but God’s grace frees us of that burden, so that despite our shortcomings, we can have joy through the birth of a blessing.”
How gracious of a God, that even through my sin that pains him, he would see fit to give me a gift that would produce joy.
He went on to quote Hebrews 4:16:
“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
This told me that I was free to experience the joy of my child because His grace is sufficient to wipe my slate clean! It was enough that I repented of my sin and turned from it. In order to be spiritually reborn and for God to see me as faultless as Adam and Even were before their first sin, He sacrificed His son so that I would have eternal life with Him in Heaven as well on earth through Holy Spirit. This is the epitome of mercy and grace.
Jesus was pure, faultless, and without sin, but sacrificed so I wouldn’t have to carry the burden of my faults. And not only could I be free from the burden of my sin, but I could still come boldly to his throne and He would be merciful and help me when I need it most.
I can’t put into words how much peace this gave me at the time, and how it is speaking to me today as I write it. God never meant for us to experience sin but because it is in our human nature to sin, he gives us a way out of it by choosing him. Not that we would be perfect but that He would be strong in our weakness.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul describes how he pleaded with God to remove the “thorn” from his side and God replied, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).” Yes, it was a physical burden Paul carried, but despite his weakness, Paul was powerful in spirit and character because he depended on God’s grace to sustain him. It brought glory to God when people saw Paul with this ailment, yet he was still rich in the fruits of the spirit.
It brings God glory to profess the areas that we have been weak, because we can now speak to God’s restoring power. Satan is the messenger of negativity and the originator of sin; all difficulties or burdensome circumstances can be attributed to him, but it is God’s grace that allows strength and character despite that. Of course It would be ideal if we never sinned, and saved ourselves from a lot of turmoil and pain, but God knew we could not do this alone. That left to ourselves we would sin and we would be too weak to free ourselves from it, but because of His sacrifice, we don’t have to stay in that position or mindset of defeat.
Coming to even the slightest understanding of this literally freed me of other people’s shame and my own feelings of disappointment so that I could live. As a 21-year-old, I still struggled with some things after coming to this realization of God’s presence and my path wasn’t always straight from that point, but this was the moment I knew God was with me and this is why I named my baby Grace. Years later, I now know that being free and “living” is not just defined on my own terms of what living should be, but to have eternal and abundant life through Christ on earth as He lives, walks, and speaks through me every single day.
And now, my little girl will be 4 years-old in a week. I know I struggled through some of those years, but I finally see myself as a mother that she will be proud of when she is my age. 🙂