As God’s children, the Holy Spirit is always with us. Teaching us, guiding us, protecting us and leading us to salvation if we allow Him. Often His impact may be small… just little nudges. Other times His impact is profound and changes our lives.
The story of Abby Johnson has the “fingerprints” of the Holy Spirit all over it! Just released from Ignatius Press is a new book that is chilling, and at the same time, full of hope: unPLANNED.
Abby was a director of Planned Parenthood, running a local facility in Bryan, Texas. She was a true believer in a woman’s right to “choose,” a fetus was just a clump of cells, and so on. She liked her job and felt she was helping people. After 8 years with them, Abby’s role was mostly managerial but she also assisted in many other roles as needed. Assisting directly in an abortion was the only exception.
One morning in September 2009 when Abby got up, she had no reason to believe that day would be any different than any other. She was confident in her pro-choice beliefs and had not even the slightest intention of changing them. Little did she know that by the end of the day she could no longer accept them. Pro-lifers were the “other team” yet soon, she was surprised to find herself switching sides. Abby could not be happier, or more grateful, for the not-so-little nudge.
I can relate. One morning in August 2009 when I got up, I had no reason to believe that day would be any different than any other. I was confident in my life-long Protestant beliefs and had not even the slightest intention of changing them. Little did I know that by the end of the day I would be telling my wife I could no longer accept my Protestant faith. Catholicism was the “other team” yet soon, I was surprised to find myself switching sides. I too could not be happier, or more grateful, for the not-so-little nudge.
My story is more common. In Abby’s case, she was asked to directly assist in an abortion. No big deal, she would be operating ultrasound equipment at the request of the doctor. This is something she was trained in but had never done during an actual abortion. For the first time, she could clearly see the baby, his or her reaction to their space being invaded by the deadly probe and witness the horror of their death as they were ripped-out and crushed (it is far more disturbing as she tells it). She then knew that she had been lied to. What she saw changed everything.
The evil of that abortion could not be stopped. To my mind, the Holy Spirit used that tragedy to show Abby – up-front and very personal – exactly what it was. Abby would soon quit her job, literally cross the street and join The Coalition for Life. Now she would be outside of the facility that she previously ran, letting the Holy Spirit work through her and praying for all inside.
There is much more to this story. Some time before the Holy Spirit had been preparing Abby and her coworkers. His agent that day was a Catholic religious sister. The story is recounted in the book:
“Oh my word!” I heard a coworker gasp. She was standing by one of the front windows facing the fence.
“What is it” I asked her.
“A nun. There’s a nun in full habit standing in the driveway.”
“I walked over to the window to look, and soon several of us were gawking out the window. The temperature was near 100 degrees that day, yet there in the hot sun was a nun dressed in a heavy, dark brown habit that swept the ground. Her head and hair were completely covered so that only her face showed, a face lifted toward heaven, eyes closed, clearly praying. Believe it or not, I’d never seen a nun in full habit before – at least not in person. I couldn’t help but think of the Reverend Mother in The Sound of Music, though this nun was clearly far younger, probably about forty.
“Her face looks so sweet,” said one of our clinic workers. “But anguished.”
“There was an awkward silence. Then one of our clients, who had just had an abortion, was escorted out the door and to her car by one of the volunteers. Our eyes were glued to the nun as, her eyes fixed on the client, she moved from the center of the driveway to the side, making room for the client to pull out of the drive. And then she began to weep. She fell to her knees and wept with such grief, such genuine personal pain, that I couldn’t help but think to myself, She feels something far deeper than I ever will. She is honestly pained. This is real to her – this grief at knowing that client had an abortion. A sense of shame washed over me. I tried to shake it off but couldn’t get past the fact that a nun was grieving over what was happening in my clinic.
…”The truth was, the sister’s simple, prayerful presence bothered most of us, Catholic, ex-Catholic, Protestant and unchurched alike, as if she somehow represented our consciences. The sister was small, bubbly and joyful. She had a radiant smile, yet clearly over the months we could continue to see that she was deeply and personally grieved by the abortions. How many other people cry outside my workplace because of the work I am doing? I wondered. I didn’t like the question.”
I think about that sister, how the Holy Spirit used her, what her prayers may have been and how God answered those prayers. I can only guess what she prayed for, but the souls of the children killed, the conversion of the abortion workers and an end of abortions are good bets. That the facility director would awaken to the truth, quickly quit and join her might not have been something she envisioned. Then again, maybe – nothing is impossible for God.
The abortions have not ended. I have no doubt that Abby was quickly replaced and the evil work of that place has continued uninterrupted. What we do not know is the impact of Abby’s story on mothers in crisis and how many pro-abortion hearts have or will be converted. While the full goal has yet to be reached, God’s plan is often a path we can not foresee. The Holy Spirit was working through the sister and (simultaneously) God had answered her prayers.
Today Abby is a dedicated, high-profile and very active pro-lifer. She sees the good intentions of people on both “sides,” but now knows the reality of abortion. The Holy Spirit now uses her experience to convert others, in this book, in speaking engagements and in numerous videos. Some in the abortion industry attack her saying that Abby is not sincere and has other motives. Bull! Their hard hearts have prevented them from considering the truth. Listen to Abby as she was moved one evening to address her past friends, co-workers and their counterparts everywhere – with humility, understanding, compassion and love:
Oh, one more thing… Abby and her husband Doug are currently in RCIA, converting to Catholicism. Abby allowed the Holy Spirit into her heart and He has guided her far from the very dark place that enslaved her.