Many of us were glued to the news last Friday, as the story of the shooting in Colorado Springs unfolded. A lone gunman, Robert Dear, killed three people and wounded nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
This past Wednesday, I was intrigued by the actions of a dear friend and former classmate, Sarah, when I saw this:
Sarah took a bouquet of roses and a letter of apology to her local Planned Parenthood office, on behalf of Christians who believe in messy grace.
Her bold act really sparked my thinking on what I can personally do to show grace and love in tangible ways. I asked if I could ask her a few questions and share her responses here.
Me: Sarah, what was your motivation for this random act of kindness toward your local Planned Parenthood this week?
Sarah: I’ve been in the cosmetology industry for the past seven years. I see women and hear about the hopes, disappointments and tragedies of their lives five days a week. So honestly this wasn’t a “random act of kindness”, it was a seed sown for and in memorandum of a lot of hearts that have been hurt. It was for those who hate Christians because Christ has been so misrepresented and those who have felt the sting of abortion.
Hurting people hurt people, that’s easy and requires no accountability, Christians and non-Christians are capable of that. My thought was “What if I just say I’m really sorry for the pain that has been thrown at you in the name of God?”
[clickToTweet tweet=”I’m really sorry for the pain that has been thrown at you in the name of God. #PlannedParenthood #graceismessy” quote=”I’m really sorry for the pain that has been thrown at you in the name of God.” theme=”style3″]
Me: Your letter mentioned that Christians and Planned Parenthood staff have the same goals: to bring empowerment and hope. Even if we agree that our goals are the same, there are many who feel strongly opposed to the methods of Planned Parenthood. What would you say to those who feel no apology is owed, especially after the hidden camera footage from the past year?
Sarah: It was really upsetting to see the sale of babies (I can’t just use the word fetus, it feels like I’m making them objects instead of little people). I know the stats, I’ve seen the church yards covered in crosses symbolizing all the abortions that have happened since 1973. But even though the killing, the selling and the disregard for life is heinous, so are Christians who act like we are judge and jury.
I know the founding of Planned Parenthood in the early 1920’s was to support, protect and defend the plight of femininity. Their motto is “We care. No matter what.” That’s stunning! The letter actually was two-fold: an apology and a thank you. Yep, I said thank you to Planned Parenthood. I thanked them because, at their roots, they cared, no matter what. That sounds a lot like Jesus. Have they wandered from that? Yep. Can they get back to where they started and even better? Of course.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Unconditional love ignites restoration. #graceismessy #PlannedParenthood #lovewins” quote=”Unconditional love ignites restoration.” theme=”style3″]
Me: I remember the aftermath of the 1998 abortion clinic bombing by Eric Rudolph. I have driven by the countless protests and seen the angry faces of those claiming the banner of Christianity. Aren’t you worried about your message being unclear? That in saying, “I’m sorry for what happened,” you are also approving of abortion?
Sarah: That’s an interesting question. I’m not worried that it’ll be unclear. I wrote that I am a Christian intentionally, I also wrote I’m a pro-life one. If people think I approve, they don’t know my heart or they’re choosing to be blind. Shrug. That’s not my concern, bless their hearts.
I’m not saying, “Here’s a bouquet of roses and a little note, I totally am ok with the 55,772,015 abortions that have been performed since Roe v. Wade was finalized!” I’m saying, “Hey, I choose to love you unconditionally, like Jesus, and I’m sorry for those who don’t. And I congratulate how you love-even if it’s different from mine. Even if the outcome is something I strongly disagree with, your intent was spot on.” Some say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Well I think the road to reconciliation is paved with seeing those intentions, celebrating them and then seeing how we can change for the better.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The road to reconciliation is paved with the celebration of good intentions. #plannedparenthood #graceismessy ” quote=”The road to reconciliation is paved with the celebration of good intentions. ” theme=”style3″]
Me: A New York Times article recently described Robert Dear:
…an angry and occasionally violent man who seemed deeply disturbed and deeply contradictory: He was a man of religious conviction who sinned openly, a man who craved both extreme solitude and near-constant female company, a man who successfully wooed women but, some of them say, also abused them.”
In the same Facebook post where you shared photographs of the beautiful bouquet of roses and your gracious letter to Planned Parenthood, you said, “…unconditional love is a big deal and will always ignite restoration.”
If you had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Dear or those with views similar to him – the people of Westboro Baptist Church, for example – what would you say?
Sarah: Oh man, the Westboro Baptist Church. I have made it a point to “keep my love on” (thank you Danny Silk for writing that book!) and the WBC and people like Mr. Dear make me want to go ham and shut it off! I won’t, promise. They need unconditional (sometimes uncomfortable) love too.
I would ask them if they ever saw their Savior protest in the manner they do or if He was more inclined to say, “You who haven’t sinned, throw the first stone.” The point is we’ve all failed miserably. So let’s support and value each other, even if we vehemently disagree.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Unconditional love sometimes feels uncomfortable. #graceismessy #PlannedParenthood #lovewins” quote=”Unconditional love sometimes feels uncomfortable. ” theme=”style3″]
Me: Finally, what would you say those who have read this story and feel they could never do something as bold or controversial?
Sarah: For me, it’s not about simply doing good deeds. Honestly, that sounds a little trite. The whole “random acts of kindness” thing can be done by anyone in a Starbucks drive-thru. I don’t only want to encourage nice deeds; I want the heart check of loving someone where they’re at-imperfections, different viewpoints, etc.
At the end of the day we’re probably never going to see eye to eye. Heck, we have hundreds of denominations for that very reason! I don’t need you to agree and I don’t need to agree with you. I do need for you to know that you’re unconditionally loved as-is; not when you finally start behaving like I want you to. The celebration of people–wherever they’re at–is vital to them actually experiencing that love. If you’re unaware of your own value or if you feel lacking in your capacity to love people who are different from you, go spend a little time with Love Himself.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Christ has been misrepresented. #plannedparenthood #graceismessy #lovewins” quote=”Christ has been misrepresented.” theme=”style3″]
Me: Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your heart with us. If I have learned anything from your bold act, it’s that open dialogue and vulnerability are the launching pad for reconciliation. And love cannot be boxed in by denomination or political affiliation.
Follow Sarah on Instagram! @iamsarahparker
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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