By Margaret Ann Stimatz
“God indeed is my salvation; I am confident and unafraid. For the LORD is my strength and my might, and He has been my salvation.” — Isaiah 12:2
Strong and courageous? Not so much. Though a Christian for a long time, I was beset by many fears. And a few years ago, I was nose-to-nose with some big ones. It started at a small prayer group I had recently begun attending. At one of the meetings, members were discussing the first 40 Days for Life campaign scheduled for our city. This would be an effort by local pro-lifers to come together in peaceful vigil, praying and fasting around the clock for 40 days in front of our local Planned Parenthood facility.
Waves of dread rolled over me. Abortion was a topic I had managed to bypass or totally avoid for the better part of my adult life. Was that about to change? I froze, shrinking into my chair. To my immense relief, the group didn’t seek any comment or commitment from me. Certain that I had dodged a bullet, I headed for my car, chatting with a fellow member. It was then that it happened. Without warning, she invited me to accompany her the very next day to pray at our local Planned Parenthood, where abortions are performed every other Friday.
“Can’t do tomorrow,” I stammered. “But some other time, sure.”
Lord, I need Your strength
Fearful thoughts plundered my sleep that night: What if “the wrong” people see me there picketing on the street corner? Sure, abortion is murder, but who am I to impose my values on others? The whole subject of abortion is just too contentious. If I ignore this, maybe it will go away. Terrified to take a public stand against abortion, I was also reluctant to let my new friends see how cowardly I was and how I felt unable to live the faith I professed.
Despite my sorry state, the Lord managed to nudge me along His chosen way. Two weeks later I pulled my Toyota alongside Planned Parenthood. Two car doors opened, and my two friends got out. I fiddled, dilly-dallied, and nervously checked my cell phone. I said a silent prayer: Help me, Lord. I’ve never done this before. What if there’s an “incident” or someone gets nasty?
I finally joined the others outside and fell into a soothing rhythm of prayer. Nothing weird or scary or threatening occurred. There was no “picketing.” A few women, very young, entered and departed the clinic as we prayed. That was it. Afterward, I noticed a glow inside me, along with a growing comprehension that in this small, simple way I was helping carry God’s mercy onto the pavement and into needy lives.
Following God’s path
Shortly afterward, I signed up for the 40 Days for Life campaign. And since then, the Lord has led me forward in tiny steps, inviting me to pray in subsequent campaigns and also to intercede at the clinic location at various other times. He has patiently allowed me to expand my comfort zone and shed my fears at a gradual pace.
I have always been afraid to call attention to myself by carrying a sign. So, I’ve just never carried one. Additionally, I’m afraid to talk to Planned Parenthood’s customers as they come and go. I deal with this by smiling wordlessly and meeting their eyes. Thus, I connect with them in kindness, but without the pressure of words. These accommodations allow me to participate in a way that works for me, and they don’t seem to bother those who wish to be more demonstrative or verbal.
Initially, I was afraid to pray on the corner by myself, and I was afraid to pray with “strangers”—unless they were from my own denomination. For a couple of years, I coped with such situations by parking my car across the street and praying “safely” from within its shelter. In time—I cannot explain how or why or when—those fears melted away entirely.
At the beginning, I had only a modicum of willingness. All I could do was offer my quaking heart. But that was all Jesus needed. He began pouring out graces, working wonders little by little. Over time, He has released me from fear and given me a new vision. I no longer view the whole subject of abortion as something to flee. Instead, I see His little ones in grave need. These are the babies, of course, but also the moms and dads and so many others whose lives have been shredded by abortion. He has set me free to hear and obey His call. With a newly softening heart, I can now say “yes, Lord” when He asks me to love these suffering ones through visible public actions.
I am thankful that He has drawn me out of isolation and into a community of like-minded brothers and sisters. United in Him, we are able to stand on that street corner and pray. Together, we are strong. We are courageous. And we are confident that, in the Lord’s time, abortions in our city will be no more.
Margaret Ann Stimatz marvels at how Jesus never gives up. He continues to expose and redeem one fear in her heart after another. Currently, many of these center around efforts to publish her first book, Honey from the Rock: 40 Reflections for Troubled Eaters.
This article, and others like it, can be found at clmagazine.org/topic/pro-life-activism/strong-and-courageous-jesus-changes-a-quaking-heart.