When the truth came out in the pediatrician's office, her words pierced my heart like fiery arrows. "Pregnant?
" I thought, blinking back sudden tears. My heart pounded furiously, and my head was reeling with her announcement. I couldn't even hear the words that followed. So many anxious thoughts entered my mind that I struggled to grasp hold of any of them.
Finally, in desperation, I reached out and grabbed denial. I thought, No! This can't be true. There must be some terrible mistake! But it didn't take long for denial to slip away and reality to set in, followed by feelings of sadness, disappointment, fear, anger, and ultimately feelings of failure. I was devastated.
As I drove our teenage daughter, Desirée, home in silence that afternoon, I felt like all of the dreams we had for her life had been left behind in that examination room—shattered like broken glass. In only a moment, everything had changed.
Struggling to make it home in one piece, I tearfully considered what the pregnancy would mean to her life … to our family … and to my ministry as a writer for a prominent Christian organization. Will she have to drop out of high school in her senior year? What will happen to being captain of the dance team? Her part-time job? What about college? How will we break the news to family and friends? How will this affect her three younger sisters? What will people think? What will they say? These and other questions clouded my mind and burdened my broken heart.
It took all the strength I could muster to tell my husband, Aubrey, what I had just learned. When I managed to get the words out, he stared blankly in disbelief, not wanting to accept it. Then, as the truth began to sink in, I could see that he too was devastated, as were her younger siblings.
Later that evening, we received a brief letter from Desirée that expressed her sorrow for disappointing us and shared how much she regretted disobeying God and us. She told us that she'd already asked God to forgive her and asked us to do the same. She ended the letter by letting us know how much she needed our love and support for all that she knew she'd have to face as a pregnant teenager. We could tell from the letter that she was ashamed, confused, and afraid. Our hearts went out to her.
Together, and privately, we shed thousands of tears and prayed countless prayers. And though we assured her of our love, forgiveness, and support, we were hurting. Our entire family was shaken, and life for us would never be the same again. I wondered if she realized that the choices she'd made would affect everyone who loved her?
"This is not the end of the world"
Over the next several days, I allowed my pain and disappointment to consume me. My heart ached with grief for the loss of our daughter's innocence, her childhood, and our dreams for her life. In my despair, I cried out to God, "Why did this happen? How can we possibly face this?" I questioned our parenting skills. How could we have failed so miserably when we thought we had covered all the bases? Taught all the right values? How could she have fallen so far short of the target? I wondered.
Eventually, hurt transformed into anger. I couldn't understand why Desirée had chosen so unwisely. She'd been taught Christian values and the importance of making wise choices from a young age. She knew what God's Word said about sexual immorality, and that sex was to be reserved for marriage. Just a few years earlier, she had made a pledge to purity in a promise to God, her parents, her future husband, and to herself. Aubrey honored that pledge by presenting her a purity ring as a symbol of her commitment. I was so angry with her for betraying her commitment and our trust.
Thankfully, it wasn't long before I realized how my response to Desirée would be affected by allowing anger to control my attitude—not to mention the consequences to my own well being. I asked God to forgive me, and prayed, "Lord, please replace my anger with your love and forgiveness. Help me to be the mother that Desirée needs me to be. Help Aubrey and me honor you in everything we say and do as we work through these difficult circumstances." Still, I continued to grieve.
Our first trip to the obstetrician was extremely hard for me. After running several tests, the doctor asked Desirée if she planned to keep the baby or if she was considering other options. Though our family is against abortion and would never have actually chosen this, I have to admit that, secretly and selfishly, I just wanted the whole thing to go away. But after viewing an ultrasound and seeing that innocent life growing inside of her, I knew that the only option for us would be to love and embrace this baby with every fiber of our beings.
Even so, I was a mess. As I sat beside my young daughter, discussing the pregnancy with the doctor, I broke down in tears. He seemed to understand and did his best to comfort me. I will never forget his words: "I know this must be difficult for you, but be encouraged. Your daughter's childhood might be over, but her life is not. This is not the end of the world."
I realized that what he said was true. But if it wasn't the end of the world, why was I feeling as if it was? Eventually, through prayer and self-examination, I realized that in addition to normal parental disappointment, I was dealing with a pride problem. I discovered that what troubled me most was what other people would think of me—as her mother. Somehow, I had tied our children's accomplishments and their mistakes to my own sense of self-worth. I felt like a failure.
"Isn't this what the Christian community is really all about?"
I remember sitting in church one Sunday, burdened by the knowledge that others would soon know about the pregnancy. Then God spoke to my heart through the words of the teaching pastor. In the midst of his sermon, which had nothing to do with the topic of teenage pregnancy, he made a statement that was a turning point for me. "If God were to take into account all of our sins," he said, "who could stand?"
I realized that no one is in the position to judge another. Why was I so concerned with what other people thought?
As a result of that sermon, I came to understand that, in addition to trying to project a perfect image, I had fallen into a trap that ensnares many parents in the competitive culture in which we live—the unspoken competition to raise "perfect" kids. The more impressive the child's accomplishments are, the more respect, admiration, and status the parents enjoy. I realized that, though this kind of pride is natural for parents, it is wrong. It forces parents and children to hide their true selves and the very real challenges in their lives.
The truth is the same people we are trying to please or impress have weaknesses, challenges, and trials of their own. Everyone makes mistakes. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). No one is perfect.
I felt so relieved. I let go of the pride I'd carried for as long as I could remember, and humbled myself before the Lord and man. I openly and sincerely shared our circumstances with family and friends, and allowed them to see the disappointment and the pain we were experiencing as parents and as a family. I told them of our desire to lovingly walk our daughter through this difficult time in her life, and to help get her life back on the right track, spiritually, morally, physically, and in every other way.
Much to my surprise, each and every person responded with love, encouragement, and a commitment to pray. Some even told us of their own problems, and asked us to pray for them as well. I thought, Isn't this what the Christian community is really all about—loving one another, bearing with one another, forgiving one another, encouraging one another and building each other up? It was an awesome experience!
I learned firsthand that being open with others about the challenges we face, allows them the opportunity to see God at work in our lives, and in turn, frees them to be open and honest about their own struggles. It was a lesson in humility that I would never forget. My life was forever changed.
"Refine her, Lord … refine me."
Another message that helped me was from an audiotape by Dennis Rainey on, "When Your Child Breaks Your Heart." He quoted Proverbs 22:15, which says, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child." I considered what I was hearing. No one wants his or her child to make choices that contradict the values and beliefs they've been taught, but inevitably they will because their hearts are filled with foolishness.
I was eager to hear more. "Therefore, as parents," Rainey continued, "we have to anticipate foolishness from our children." Beginning in infancy and continuing through adulthood, children will do things from time to time that will hurt and disappoint us, but God will use those foolish mistakes and tough lessons along the way to strengthen and refine them into all that He has created them to be. I was suddenly reminded about the purpose of trials in our lives and my heart was encouraged. "Refine her, Lord," I prayed, "…Refine me."
It was a long, hard road for Desirée, but she learned many life lessons over the next nine months. She had to tell her peers, teachers, and counselors at school. She had to face the dance team, for which she served as captain. Some were disappointed, some supportive, some judgmental, and some of her peers actually glorified her situation, as if having a baby at her young age were something to be admired. This was strange even to her.
I'll never forget the anguish in her face the day she had to tell the supervisor at her part-time job about her pregnancy. Struggling with "morning sickness," she didn't even want to go to work that day, but Aubrey and I insisted. She was not going to use her condition to shirk any of her responsibilities, and would learn that "to obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22b).
But as she got out of the car and weakly walked toward the mall entrance, tears came streaming down my face. My heart was breaking for her. I hurt so much for her that I wished with all my might I could rescue her from all that she was facing. But I couldn't. I couldn't save her from the consequences of her sin—the choices she had made. This was one problem that Mommy couldn't fix.
I wondered if this is how God feels when we, His children, sin and then have to face the consequences of that sin. He understands the necessity of those hard lessons, and therefore allows us to go through them. I knew that in spite of my feelings, I had to allow Desirée to learn the lessons God had for her, but it was very difficult.
Desirée eventually had to give up her position on the dance team, her part-time job, and other after school and weekend activities. She lost many of her privileges, and some of her friendships. But in the process, and with our guidance, she grew in her relationship with the Lord and began making better choices in her desire to please Him.
As her parents, Aubrey and I constantly supported and encouraged her through the challenges associated with teen pregnancy. We developed a plan: She would have to maintain her grades in school, complete her high school education as scheduled, graduate on time, and go on to college in the fall. This involved sacrifice for the entire family, as we worked together to get her schoolwork back and forth to her teachers during her maternity leave. Upon her return to school, we all had to pitch in and help with the baby so that she could attend classes, study, and complete projects.
Over the next several months we watched God work out all the details of Desirée's life, as she trusted in Him. Her pregnancy went well, and she delivered a healthy, beautiful baby girl, Jadeynn Nicole. With a lot of hard work, she was able to complete her senior year on time and graduate with her class. And with me helping with the baby, she was able to go on to college that fall.
A life-changing experience
Through this experience, Desirée matured into a very responsible young woman—attending college, working part-time, fulfilling her role as a mom, and making wise choices regarding her social life. About two and a half years after the baby was born, she and the baby's father finally received the blessing of both sets of parents to be married. They had a beautiful, Christ-centered wedding on June 1, 2002. It's amazing to watch our daughter blossom and grow in her role as a godly mother and wife.
During that very difficult time in our lives, we watched in awe as God caused "all things to work together for good …" just like He promised in Romans 8:28. What we initially viewed as a tragedy God used for our good and for His glory! It was a life-changing experience—one in which we all grew closer to the Lord and to each other. Through it all, He healed our hearts and showed us that we were not alone, that He is faithful, and that in all things He has given us the victory.
In addition to the many great life-lessons our daughter learned, I also grew tremendously. I learned what it really means to trust God and to depend on Him completely. And I learned about real compassion, true forgiveness, the value of humility, and loving the way God loves … unconditionally.
I also discovered that true Christian parenting isn't about raising perfect kids, because as imperfect parents that would be impossible. Instead, it's about accepting our children as God's gift (Psalm 127:3), loving them unconditionally, praying for them faithfully, building godly character into their lives, and guiding them through the ups and downs of life. And yes, it's about anticipating foolishness.
I am now free to rejoice in the fact that no matter how far short of God's glory we, or any of our children may fall, God has provided a perfect Savior both for them and for us.
The greatest blessing of all was the gift of our beautiful granddaughter, Jadeynn Nicole, who became an invaluable part of our hearts and lives the moment she entered this world. She is an absolute joy and a "celebrity" in our home. Though we never wanted our daughter to have a baby as a young unmarried woman, we can't imagine this precious child not being in our lives. We are so very thankful for her. And we are equally thankful for Jaxon Aubrey, our amazing grandson that Desirée and her husband were blessed with recently.
What about all those dreams we had for our daughter? God showed us that His plans for her life are far better than our dreams could ever be. After all, He loves her perfectly, as only He can. His Word tells us in Psalm 139:16 that He saw her before she was born and scheduled each day of her life before she began to breathe. Every day was recorded in His book! We understand now that Desirée's life is right on track according to His will.
As I continue to watch, pray, and cheer her on through the peaks and valleys of life's journey, I often find myself smiling as I ponder the truth that my daughter is more than perfect … she is exactly who God created her to be!