As my wife and I stood silently praying in front of the abortion clinic the woman across the street got increasingly agitated. She yelled at us, mocked us and continually called us haters. Over the course of the next hour, she held up signs that read, “Timothy McVeigh Fan Club” and “Haters.” She took pictures of us with the signs in front of us. The entire time, we did not talk or fight back, we simply stood there, silently praying for those entering the abortion clinic.
Ironically, after we finished, my wife said, “I’m pretty sure I know her.”
“Yeah, I worked with her teaching middle school.” Sure enough, the woman who had been accosting us was in fact one of my wife’s former co-workers. I’ll call her Nicky to honor her real identity.
That wasn’t the only time we’d see Nicky at the abortion clinic. Over the next month, she made it a point to show up whenever we would come to pray. At times she would call other friends to come and help her “stand up” to us. Each time we did the same thing, we never spoke to anyone, we simply prayed silently for God to touch the heart of everyone entering the clinic.
Nicky’s tactics were relentless – mocking, criticizing, cursing, yelling. Honestly, it was difficult to keep a good heart towards her. I found myself praying for her as much as anyone. I also had to ask the Lord to work out the negative stuff that was surfacing in my own heart. There was no way I could pray for life to prevail if I was feeling anger and hate.
To my surprise, as I was praying for her, I felt the Lord speak to me to buy her lunch. I knew this was His voice and realized that unless I could reach out to her in love, my prayers for those in the clinic would be hindered. So I did it.
After we finished praying, I asked my wife to call Nicky over. With a surprised look, Nicky greeted Maribeth by her first name.
“I thought that was you, but I wasn’t 100% sure” she said.
With that the two began to exchange pleasantries and catch up on five years of details.
Do you remember the old Roadrunner/Coyote cartoons? They were arch enemies until they got off work and then they’d talk like old friends. It felt like we stepped into that cartoon.
I spoke up, introduced myself and asked Nicky if we could take her to lunch. She said she wouldn’t be able to because her back was injured and really bothering her. I offered to pray for her and she accepted. She didn’t notice any immediate change. But thanked me for the prayer. What a crazy situation!
One minute she’s accosting us for praying at the abortion clinic, the next minute she’s accepting our prayers for her physical healing. As we readied to leave I handed her $10 for lunch. I told her even if we couldn’t go together I still wanted her lunch to be on me.
That was the last time we saw Nicky. She may have been back at another time when we weren’t there, but we never personally encountered her again. I have prayed for her many times since.
In our moments together I asked her if she believed that we hated her or others, simply because we prayed at the clinic. She confided that she didn’t think we hated her or the people in the clinic, but she wanted to make sure nobody was intimidated by us. Unfortunately, in doing so, she mocked us, defamed us, and attempted a very public character assassination. When she realized there was an old co-worker on the other end of her attack, she was a bit embarrassed and turned actually quite amenable.
I’ve reflected on that situation many times over the years. I’ve prayed about how to stand for righteousness in the face of popular opinion and the spirit of this age. Here’s a few thoughts that have settled in my heart:
1) Expect Persecution – Jesus promised us that if we stand for truth we will experience persecution. You don’t have to try to bring on persecution, simply standing firm for truth and righteousness will cause it to come. Don’t be shocked when it does. I’m pretty sure the character assassinations are going to intensify in America in the days ahead.
2) Fellowship in Sufferings – One way we can go deeper in intimacy with Jesus is actually through incurring persecution. There is real fellowship available with Jesus in suffering. As you’re going through it entrust your heart to Him and meditate on what He went through to purchase your salvation. Gratitude will break forth on your soul.
3) Anchor Yourself to Biblical Truth – Truth continues to become less and less popular as society continues to drift further and further away from Biblical values. Don’t allow yourself to drift with the popular current. God does not revise truth every few years to match the darkening state of the world. If you have clarity on what the Scripture says, you will have boldness to stand amidst a compromised culture.
4) Love your enemies – Even in the face of intense hatred and vitriol, love. To love our enemies requires us to get God’s heart for them, which requires us to get God’s heart for us. Revelation of His heart for you will give you insight into His heart for the one who persecutes you. Intimacy in prayer is required in order to love when the pressure is on.