Finding Healing from Abortion—Part 3: The Steps to Abortion Recovery
Story by Barb Maher
Photos courtesy of Crossroads Clinic
*Name changed to protect privacy
This is Part 3 of a three-part series about abortion recovery, through the Gospel, at pro-life Crossroads Clinic in Oklahoma City, OK. Tonya Schuster is the clinic director and a longtime member of Calvary Chapel Oklahoma City. To read Parts 1 and 2, click here.
*Mary attended Passages, the abortion recovery ministry at Crossroads Clinic in Oklahoma City, OK, after having had an abortion while in college. When she became pregnant with her second child, she courageously decided she was going to keep her baby.
“My little girl is amazing, and I know that God gave her to me to give my life joy and a reason to succeed. Until I attended Passages, I had stubbornly decided that I wasn’t going to think about the abortion of my first child. I thought that if I don’t think about it, it won’t bother me. If I don’t have to talk about it, I won’t be sad. But in the first class, Sheila [Fullbright, director of Passages] asked me to pray. While I was nervous, everything within me told me that I needed to pray, [and] the prayer just felt so good.”
Mary holds her daughter Trinity. Before becoming pregnant with Trinity, Mary had an abortion in college; yet she courageously chose to keep her daughter. She received healing from her first abortion through the Gospel-centered Passages abortion recovery ministry at Crossroads Clinic in Oklahoma City, OK. “My little girl is amazing, and I know that God gave her to me to give my life joy and a reason to succeed,” she testified.
Ultimately, Mary was able to accept her abortion and take responsibility for what she had done, which brought her peace. “I’m not sure how, but I have a strong conviction that someone is going to benefit from my experience. God does everything for a reason, and I know that He placed me at Crossroads for my healing, but it was never my intention to go in and get saved.”
Today, Tonya Schuster, the clinic director and member of Calvary Chapel Oklahoma City, OK, and Sheila Fullbright, a client advocate and the Passages director, share their experiences—helping women and men understand that the Lord saves us to use us, which is a result of the hope that is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They both agree that the fundamental aspects of their ministry are prayer and reliance on the truth of God’s Word. “A powerful part of our work is helping our clients to come into the light, where truth is, so that they can be handled by God and understand what Jesus has done through the finished work of the cross,” Sheila reflected.
Through Passages, women of all ages who struggle with past abortions can take part in an eight-week Post Abortion Counseling and Recovery Program, to work through their grief and find forgiveness in Christ. God has used Tonya and Sheila to help women—and men—learn what it means to receive forgiveness for their abortions and help them in their counseling sessions to focus on the five steps to healing.
Baby Zayna enjoys her visit to Crossroads Clinic. The staff at Crossroads helped her mother, Zaib, during her pregnancy. Zaib, from a Muslim family, feared for her life when they learned about her unplanned pregnancy.
Breaking Through Denial
“Step One, breaking through denial, occurs when the person accepts or is ready to admit that they have committed the act of abortion,” Tonya shared. “When we study God’s Word together, they come to understand and accept that abortion is a sin against God, and a sin against self. In 1 John 1:9 we learn that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness; making this first step crucial to beginning the healing process.”
Working Through Guilt
Sheila explained further, “In Step Two we learn to work through the guilt that we feel and what it means to experience God’s forgiveness. Sometimes, when struggling with the guilt of abortion, there is the acceptance that God forgives, but there is a reluctance or inability to receive the forgiveness that Christ offers. Many women and men have not grown up with the knowledge of God and have never heard or understood His path to forgiveness.”
Zaib and baby Zayna, who received support from Crossroads Clinic. The clinic provided a safe house for her during her pregnancy.
Tonya added, “Part of receiving God’s forgiveness is understanding who God is. Generally, they don’t understand that God, described in Psalm 86:5, is ready to forgive and is abundant in lovingkindness towards those who call upon His name. This knowledge can only come through their willingness to hear and receive God’s Word.”
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. Psalm 86:5
Releasing Anger & Forgiveness
Step Three in the healing process involves understanding the forgiveness of God and how it helps people overcome anger towards self and others who played a part in the abortion. Tonya explained, “My high school counselor took me to get one of my abortions, and I struggled with resentment towards him for a long time. I had a hard time with the fact that an adult could give me, a 17-year-old student, a pass to get out of class so that he could take me to Planned Parenthood to get an abortion. If I want to, I can hang onto that anger, but I’ve learned who Christ is, and about His forgiveness towards me, in spite of all that I have done. Ultimately, I was able to transfer that forgiveness to [my counselor] and I don’t hold onto that anger anymore.”
Danielle and Tyler came to Crossroads Clinic for help during a crisis pregnancy last year. Now they’re enjoying their daughter Ridley.
Tonya continued, “It is very common for post-abortive women to feel and go through this type of anger towards their boyfriends, their husbands, their mothers; a lot of moms take their children to get abortions. [We] help women and men understand that if they are receiving forgiveness for themselves through Christ, then God is going to equip them to also forgive those who participated in the abortion.”
For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. Psalm 22:24, NIV
Grieving the Loss
“Grieving the loss of your aborted child, the fourth step to healing (Step Four), is a difficult step to go through,” emphasized Sheila. “Those who enter this step will ultimately recognize that this is their baby whose life was ended … a life that was intended for a plan and a purpose.”
Tonya added, “The grieving process can take a very long time if it is not faced head-on. I have a dear friend who is in her late 60s. She came to me and told me that she had an abortion, and she had never told a soul. Suddenly, she was grieving and crying because she had hidden it for all those years. Women and men who experience abortion often feel shame that goes so deep that they can’t tell people. Because of the shame, they try to block it out so that they don’t have to think about it. Grieving is painful, so when we become OK with crying and feeling the pain through the grieving process, then healing can continue. Through the grieving process, we learn that if we are willing to cry out to God, then God is not going to despise us; He is going to hear our crying and help us.”
Tonya Schuster (left), director of Crossroads Clinic in Oklahoma City, has just given a client who chose life a baby gift. The young woman stands with her social worker. Each woman who chooses life receives a baby gift from the clinic.
Focusing on Christ
Step Five in the path to healing from abortion involves learning how to focus on Christ instead of inwardly on our loss or pain. Sheila elaborated, “This last step keeps us from going back in our memories where we focus on our guilt instead of our forgiveness. Learning how to do that in all situations protects us so that the enemy cannot have a foothold.”
Tonya agreed, “Satan will remind us of the guilt and attack us if we are not focused on Christ, but Isaiah 26:3 reminds us that if we keep our minds focused on Christ, then we are going to have peace because we are trusting Him. If my mind is on my problem, on myself, my loss, or my pain, then I am not going to have that peace. Ultimately, my identity does not rest in what I’ve done but in the work of Jesus Christ to save me.”
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
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