Turning the Darkest Tragedy Into Something Beautiful

Last month, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons published the qualitative results of a survey that sought to increase understanding of the emotional toll of abortion. The survey was unique in that it attempted to study the post-abortion experience on a more qualitative level than any previously conducted studies. By asking open-ended questions and then categorizing responses, Dr. Coleman allowed the respondents to openly discuss their experience after abortion in a way that was not limited by quantitative outcome measures and in a way that allowed them to describe their experience in their own words. While the participants in the survey did not constitute a representative sample of post-abortive women, there were a wide variety of ages, races, and demographics represented among the respondents. The survey gives us an accurate profile of those women who experience negative emotional reactions after choosing abortion. This is quite valuable, and despite the lack of a representative sample, there are some noteworthy takeaways from the survey as well as ideas that are reinforced by the categorized results. I wrote a post for Crisis Magazine discussing a few of these takeaways.

Click here to read Turning the Darkest Tragedy Into Something Beautiful.

Cullen Talks Healing After Abortion with Jim Havens of Love Will End Abortion

I recently had the chance to join Jim Havens of Love Will End Abortion. We talked about healing after abortion, resources that are available, and took some calls as well. I am always inspired by talking to people who have shared their abortion stories and found healing in the process. God is good, folks, and he has the power to transform lives.

Listen to the show here.

What Happens When People Share Their Abortion Stories

securedownloadIn April 2011, I began working with the post-abortion ministry Rachel’s Vineyard. The ministry hosts weekend retreats for men and women who have chosen or been a part of an abortion. Over the years I have witnessed many amazing transformations in the lives of retreatants. Not only that, I have learned an incredible amount about faith, forgiveness, and the pain that abortion can cause in a person’s life.

The retreat weekends have a unique way of helping men and women come to know forgiveness and experience the loving acceptance of others who have also chosen to abort their children. The weekends offer a safe, non-judgmental, non-politicized environment for post-abortive persons to tell their stories, examine how abortion has affected their lives, and be heard.

But what makes the weekends so effective at bringing about healing and peace in a person’s life? Perhaps the secret lies in the importance of storytelling.

Read the article here.

4 Tips For Working Toward Forgiveness in 2016

IMG_20130606_121442Forgiveness is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people forming relationships that are necessarily imperfect. Nobody goes through life without hurting others or being hurt by others. Forgiveness is a necessary part of our lives, and those who have experienced unforgiveness can attest that it brings an immense burden to our lives.

Forgiveness can be an incredibly difficult process, but it is noble work and the rewards are many. If you are someone who carries unforgiveness around, have this be the year you begin working on letting go of the anger and resentment. It’s not easy, but it is well worth it.

Read the article here.

Why is He Eating with her? She had an Abortion.

I’ve said before that one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against abortion is prayer.  We pray for the unborn.  We pray for expecting mothers and fathers.  We pray for abortionists and people who support abortion.  However, one large group of people that I don’t think we remember in our prayers (at least I haven’t) is our fellow pro-life Christians.  I’m not talking about just the leaders.  I’m talking about the everyday pro-lifer.  My heart has been heavy lately as I’ve heard recent stories of people shouting hateful things at women leaving abortion clinics, calling them murderers, and I’ve read comments on social media, from some Christians, condemning post-abortive women to Hell and saying they deserve any misfortunes that have befallen on them.

These pro-life Christians are mad about abortion, as they should be.  Anger in itself is not always a bad thing.  There is such a thing as righteous anger.  I’m angry about abortion. I’m angry about the lives lost and lives ruined in the aftermath.  I’m mad that there are so many people out there who don’t see the truth of what it is and what it does.  I’m mad that I made that choice as a teenager.

My anger will never control me though.  My anger will never take up more space in my heart than the love and mercy that I received and learned from Christ.  When anger takes over our heart space, the door to the truth closes and lies are free to roam — lies that say another person isn’t loved by our Lord because of their sin.  That’s not what Jesus taught us.

Jesus loves every single one of us sinners.  He wants us all to be with Him in Heaven.  He did not become man to dine with the righteous.  He came to offer His forgiveness and mercy.  Oh, but there were some that didn’t appreciate that.  They were called the Pharisees.

When the woman who was a sinner wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears, the Pharisee said, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39).

Jesus forgave her. He said, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:47-48).

When Jesus ate with sinners, the Pharisees said, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11).

Jesus said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.…” (Matthew 9:12).

Aren’t we all sick?  Aren’t we all sinners?  Who are we to judge who is deserving of dining with Jesus in His Kingdom?

Saying hateful things to people puts up a barrier that prevents them from turning to Christ.  If a Christian shouts at a post-abortive woman, calling her a murder, is she going to turn to a Christian when she is in despair?  Will she turn to Christian organizations when she needs healing?  Will she turn to the Church when she realizes something is missing from her life?  Think about that.

The truth is, she may, but that is because our Lord’s love is greater than hateful words.  He will open the doors that others have shut.  Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter”  (Matthew 12:13-14).

Jesus will remember who played a part in shutting the doors to others, but He will forgive them too, when they repent.

We should never shut doors by our anger.  It’s also not our job to push people through doors by telling them what they need to do.  What we must do is open the doors for others by being kind, by understanding that there is a story behind every sin that is oftentimes very painful, and by praying for those who have not met Christ.  Sometimes it takes time for them to walk through the door, but it will be so much easier if it’s been opened for them.  This doesn’t mean we need to condone sin. It just means we need to love people where they are at.  For example, instead of calling a woman a murder because she had an abortion, one can say, “I’m so sorry you went through that. If you ever want to talk about it, let me know.”  If you don’t feel equipped to listen when she/he is ready to talk, refer her to one of the many wonderful post-abortion ministries (Project Rachel, Rachel’s Vineyard etc.).

I love that Pope Francis has been outspoken about the need to forgive post abortive women.  He was not the first pope to do that, though.  Saint John Paul the Great, in Evangelium Vitae wrote these beautiful words:

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and to his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.

Beautiful.

“With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.”

“With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.”

Pro-lifers do or should know that abortion hurts women if not immediately, eventually.  Pro-abortion people don’t believe that, though.  Condemning post-abortive women is a very effective way of silencing them, thus hurting the pro-life cause.

More importantly, it prevents them from reaching out for healing, as they are fearful of people like the ones that screamed at them and judged them.

Most importantly, it’s keeping them from Christ.  Don’t try to prevent someone from entering the Kingdom of Heaven.  Don’t try to prevent me from entering the Kingdom of Heaven.  It’s a lost battle anyway as our Lord will be reaching out His arms to these people.  I’ve felt this embrace and it crushes all anger and hate.

Join me in praying for our fellow pro-life Christians, that they will not allow anger to rule their words, that they each will be an example of Christ by extending mercy and love to all people, regardless of their sin, and that they will open doors.