Few would argue that the “Mom, I’m pregnant” announcement is at the top of a parent’s list of knock-the-breath-out-of-you announcements you hope not to hear from your unmarried child. As someone who has written on the topic of sexual purity, I have stated often that my kids are not exempt when it comes to worldly temptations. I was humbly reminded of this fact a few weeks ago when my oldest son delivered the news, “Mom, I think Casey may be pregnant.” (For those who may be new to my blog, I announced my son’s engagement back in late December in this post.) Faced with the sobering moment of truth that followed his disclosure, I did what most any mother would do — I wrapped my son in my arms and assured him that with God’s help, we’d get through it. Ryan and Casey are good kids who made a bad choice. Two months into their engagement, they let their guard down and as a result, they face a new challenge – shortly after marrying, they will become parents.
Ryan and Casey are deeply sorrowful for their sin and are facing the natural consequences that can result when choices are made outside of God’s will. Their wedding ceremony will be scaled down in size and the date will be moved up. They have had to make a long list of difficult phone calls to their attendants, relatives, and close friends. They have had to break the news to mentors, Sunday school teachers, and youth ministers who have at times in the past, pointed to them as leaders and role models. And they recently met with Casey’s long-time pastor and humbly asked if he would still be willing to perform their wedding ceremony. Keith and I are grateful for the grace Casey’s pastor extended to them along with a firm reminder to remain pure for the duration of their engagement. He also reminded Ryan of his position as the spiritual leader in the home and held him to a higher level of accountability over the sin, a position that both Keith and I fully endorse. In addition to the awkwardness and embarrassment of having to share the news with people they know and love, Ryan and Casey will begin their marriage on a very lean budget that has little room for error as they juggle student loans and drive cars with over 150k miles. But perhaps the biggest penalty for their actions will be the precious time they will forfeit as newlyweds as they are thrust suddenly into parenthood.
Ryan and Casey have exhibited a godly sorrow over their sin – the type of sorrow that is sincere and leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). In the days immediately following the announcement, Casey and I were visiting over Skype and she shared that shortly after they discovered they were pregnant, Ryan told her “Well one thing is for sure — neither one of us is where we need to be in our relationship with the Lord.” I have always tried to emphasize “heart examination” (Psalm 26:2-3) over “behavior modification” when it comes to parenting my children. (As if I could even begin to modify my 22 year-old adult son’s behavior!) Needless to say, it was music to my ears to hear that my son had taken an honest appraisal of his heart and more importantly, his relationship with the Lord. We all know how easy it is to come to a place where we clock-in on Sunday morning, but fail to lay our hearts bare before God on a daily basis. Often, God will allow wake-up calls, though painful at the time, to nudge his children out of spiritual slumbers.
I have often stated that I’m not a fan of the “pretender game.” I played the game early on in my Christian walk and learned the art of painting a fake smile on my face even if my life was unraveling at the seams. It’s a miserable game to play and I gave it up years ago, opting instead for honesty and authenticity. As the dust began to settle in the days that followed the pregnancy announcement, Ryan, Casey, and both sets of parents, unanimously agreed that we do not want this baby to be a secret baby. While Ryan and Casey’s decision to have sex outside of marriage is a sin, the creation of a new life is not. A baby is never a form of punishment. That said, we are celebrating this precious new life and anticipating his/her grand entrance into the world sometime in mid-November. I have no intention of pretending this didn’t happen, nor will this situation become a hush-hush topic in my ministry. On the contrary, it will become a part of my ministry. (In fact, I look forward to sharing some insightful comments my son recently shared that I hope will offer some encouragement to parents who are at least trying to “train up their child in the way they should go…” Prov. 22:6)
For as long as I can remember, my bio has stated that I’m a “mom in the trenches.” The truth is, the trenches are awfully messy and muddy at times. I want to have the freedom to continue to talk openly about “muddy moments” that occur in the parenting journey. More importantly, I want to be able to openly testify to God’s faithfulness when He cleans up those muddy messes in our children’s lives (as well as our own!). As parents we are called to plant and water the seeds of God’s truths into the hearts of our children, but alas, we must leave the growth and results up to God. And as many of us reading this have learned firsthand, God often uses trials and adversity (even those that result from our own sinful choices) to nudge us closer to His path, and as a result, produce growth in the one relationship that matters most in this life – our relationship with Him. I pray that Ryan and Casey will be forever changed as God weaves His beautiful love story of redemption into their lives.
Last week, Ryan was able to join Casey for a doctor’s appointment and saw the baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound for the first time. As you can imagine, it was a sobering moment. He and Casey have fallen madly in love with this child (as have the grandparents-in-waiting!). There is nothing that can adequately compare to the love a parent feels for his/her child. And yet, God loves us, His children, even more. As Ryan and Casey’s hearts swell with unconditional love for their child, I pray it will serve as a reminder of how very much they are loved by God (not to mention, their parents). This child will be much-loved and celebrated every step of the way during this pregnancy. Casey comes from an amazing Christian family and her parents have served in ministry leadership for many years at their local church in Huntsville, Alabama. Like us, they are blessed with a strong network of support from friends, family members, and a local church family. I know I speak on behalf of both the Courtney and Walker families when I say that we covet the prayers and support from our Christian family during this time, as do our children, Ryan and Casey. The truth is, this situation did not catch God off guard or leave Him scratching His head in confusion. He has a plan and is in the business of working all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28) With Easter right around the corner, I am mindful of my own long list of muddy messes and the redemptive power of the cross. May we never cease to be overwhelmed at the mere thought of God’s unfailing love for us… While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)
(UPDATE: Please take a minute to read my note of thanks, posted here!)
(Photo credit: Carla McLemore Photography)