Lifeline Pregnancy Help Clinic: Sharing Compassion, Changing Lives.This phrase is plastered on a billboard, printed on thousands of business cards, and even written on the very walls of our building. In addition to sharing compassion with clients, we also hope for lives to be changed — not merely for behavior to be modified. In order for this to happen, it is part of our job to not only provide informative prenatal and parenting education, but also a soul-nourishing space for clients to experience the life-changing Truth that serves as a foundation for our ministry. And so, each Monday at 11 a.m. a small handful of our clients gather for a brief Bible study.
We’ve just completed a study of the book of Ruth, and as we begin our study of the book of Matthew by reading the genealogy of Christ, I pause after reading a list of barely pronounceable names to ask if anyone recognizes any of the names listed. One asks, “Boaz. Wasn’t he the one who married Ruth after she thought God had abandoned her?” Another hesitates, but questions, “Rahab? Was she a… prostitute?” I’m nodding as they are recalling, and invite them to make some sense of it all: What does this tell us about God? Without any hesitation this time, as if it actually makes perfect sense, a client responds, “He wants everyone. He wants us all, no matter what.” With no better words to offer, I just keep on nodding.
A few verses later we’re reading that “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”’ Can we imagine the fear that Joseph felt, making his commitment to Mary all the more noble and uncommon? Can we imagine Mary’s thoughts and concerns as a young, unwed, pregnant woman? Or how people may have talked about her and this unplanned pregnancy? I glance up, and three silent faces are looking intently back at me. Yes, of course, we can imagine. And it seems God can still use unplanned pregnancies to change lives.
Lots of remarkable things happening in just a few words — an angel appearing and speaking in a dream, a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit, a plan to save people from their sins — so we pause to reflect. What do we each actually believe here? Do we really believe what we are reading is true? One client readily answers, “I know it sounds crazy, but I believe it.” Another is silent, not sure. A brave and honest third shakes her head, and quietly confesses, “No, not really.”
I’m struck by the familiar words of a familiar story sounding fresh today. And struck by their honest answers, not right answers. That God was working to redeem and save instead of abandon Ruth? Impossible. That Rahab, a prostitute, would be included in the family of God himself? Unbelievable. That an angel would appear to a man, and that man would actually stick around to marry an already pregnant woman and parent a child who was not his own? I, sitting beside the clients here, have to admit it sounds too incredible to be true. A baby born of God, because of love, to save us people? And I agree. No, not likely, not really. But somehow absolutely, inexplicably true? Life-changing? Undeniably.
by LeAnn Dent