When youre raised in the country, hunting is just a natural part of growing up. For years I enjoyed packing up my guns and some food to head off into the woods. Even more than the hunting itself, I enjoyed the way these trips always seemed to deepen my relationship with friends as we hunted during the day and talked late into the night around the campfire. When an old friend recently invited me to relive some of those days, I couldnt pass up the chance. For several weeks before the trip, I had taken the time to upgrade some of my equipment and sight in my rifle. When the day came, I was ready for the hunt. What I wasnt ready for was what my close friend, Tom, shared with me the first night out on the trail.
I always enjoyed the time I spent with Tom. He had become a leader in his church and his warm and friendly manner had also taken him many steps along the path of business success. He had a lovely wife, and while I knew they had driven over some rocky roads in their marriage, things now seemed to be stable and growing. Toms kids, two daughters and a son, were struggling in junior high and high school with the normal problems of peer pressure and acceptance. As we rode back into the mountains, I could tell that something big was eating away at Toms heart. His normal effervescent style was shrouded by an overwhelming inner hurt. Normally, Tom would attack problems with the same determination that had made him a success in business. Now, I saw him wrestling with something that seemed to have knocked him to the mat for the count. Silence has a way of speaking for itself. All day and on into the evening, Tom let his lack of words shout out his inner restlessness. Finally, around the first nights campfire, he opened up.
The scenario Tom painted was annoyingly familiar. Id heard it many times before in many other peoples lives. But the details seemed such a contract to the life that Tom and his wife lived and the beliefs they embraced. His oldest daughter had become attached to a boy at school. Shortly after they started going together, they became sexually involved. Within two months, she was pregnant. Toms wife discovered the truth when a packet from Planned Parenthood came in the mail addressed to her daughter. When confronted with it, the girl admitted she had requested it when she went to the clinic to find out if she was pregnant. If we totaled up the number of girls who have gotten pregnant out of wedlock during the past two hundred years of our nations history, the total would be in the millions. Countless parents through the years have faced the devastating news. Being a member of such a large fraternity of history, however, does not soften the severity of the blow to your heart when you discover its your daughter.
Tom shared the humiliation he experienced when he realized that all of his teaching and example had been ignored. Years of spiritual training had been thrust aside. His stomach churned as he relived the emotional agony of knowing that the little girl he and his wife loved so much had made a choice that had permanently scarred her heart.
Im frequently confronted with these problems in my ministry and have found that dwelling on the promiscuous act only makes matters worse. I worship a God of forgiveness and solutions, and at that moment in our conversation I was anxious to turn toward hope and healing.
I asked Tom what they had decided to do. Would they keep the baby, or put it up for adoption? Thats when he delivered the blow. With the fire burning low, Tom paused for a long time before answering. And even when he spoke he wouldnt look me in the eye.
“We considered the alternatives, Tim. Weighed all the options.” He took a deep breath. “We finally made an appointment with the abortion clinic. I took her down there myself.”
I dropped the stick Id been poking the coals with and stared at Tom. Except for the wind in the trees and the snapping of our fire it was quiet for a long time. I couldnt believe this was the same man who for years had been so outspoken against abortion. He and his wife had even volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center in his city.
Heartsick, I pressed him about the decision. Tom then made a statement that captured the essence of his problem...and the problem many others have in entering into genuine rest. In a mechanical voice, he said “I know what I believe, Tim, but thats different than what I had to do. I had to make a decision that had the least amount of consequences for the people involved.”
Just by the way he said it, I could tell my friend had rehearsed these lines over and over in his mind. And by the look in his eyes and the emptiness in his voice, I could tell his words sounded as hollow to him as they did to me.