The mercy of God can be unfathomable to comprehend. How is it that Jesus loves us so much when we have been so offensive to Him, even after we try again and again not to sin? It’s something that I have learned to accept with a humble heart, leaning into the mystery of the love that God has for me when I could not have been more opposed to what He wanted me to be doing.
I received a message not long ago from a woman I had counseled when I worked at Planned Parenthood. This woman was very angry with me. She said I had lied to her, telling her that her baby would not feel pain, that her baby was not developed at all. She said she didn’t even want an abortion and then wrote, “I hope you feel good about the fact that all of these babies are dead because of YOU. I hope you dream about them. I hope you hear them crying….You were so happy to talk me into having an abortion. I have lived with regret since that day because of your lies.”
She went on to say that while I have written books and had a movie made about my life, all she is left with is a “dead baby and lifetime of regret.”
Even though her words are harsh, they still ring true. I’m certain that I did lie to her. I’m sure that even if I did sense a hesitancy in her, I didn’t take the time to explore that. I’ve said this before and I will say it again now. I am no hero. I stopped doing something that I should have never been doing in the first place. That’s not heroic. That’s simply correcting an evil.
I’m not mad at her words. I grieve for her. I wish I would have done things differently for her sake and for so many of the women I counseled at Planned Parenthood. During my time at Planned Parenthood, I facilitated more than 22,000 abortions, including my own two abortions. That’s a huge number of dead babies that were made in the image and likeness of the God I serve. And yet, God has forgiven me. That’s the only reason why I can sleep at night. It has been through the fierce mercy of God that I’m able to get through every day without the weight of what I did at the abortion clinic weighing me down.
The sad thing about what the woman wrote to me is that she did it from a fake profile. I couldn’t even write her back. I wanted to acknowledge her justified anger and apologize for what I did to her. Even though my job is to quite literally talk about all the amazing things God has done in my life, it doesn’t mean I’m not sorry for what I did, for all the lies I told women.
The day that the U.S. Supreme Court heard the big abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, I was outside on the steps and there were two corrals. One was the abortion side and the other was the pro-life side. I was close to the aisle that separated the two sides and couldn’t help but watch the abortion advocates as they chanted and held their signs. They were so angry. But what struck me most, bringing me to tears, was that I used to be on that side.
I was chanting for the destruction of life in the womb, lying to women, telling them they needed an abortion to succeed. When it was my turn to speak, I went off script and speaking directly from my heart, I said I was so sorry for what I did at Planned Parenthood, that I was so, so sorry for telling women they needed to get an abortion. I was holding back tears at this point and saw the rapt attention of many people in the crowd.
It was an unforgettable, raw moment, one where God’s mercy was evident and apparent. Here was this woman who did some really horrible things, yet who God reached with His love and mercy and transformed so entirely that now she was speaking up for babies in the womb and mothers who were victims of the atrocity of abortion. No one is beyond the mercy of God.
God loves you immensely. He has placed you on His heart and is ready to extend an unfathomable amount of mercy to you. But that also means we need to be merciful, too, not holding grudges, not keeping track of offenses against us, and not holding onto anger. Keeping our eyes fixed on Christ and allowing Him to increase in us as we decrease is the key to winning hearts for God.
Abby Johnson is CEO and Founder of And Then There Were None and author of Unplanned and Fierce Mercy.