As the forty-second anniversary of Roe v. Wade draws near, we are reminded of how large and formidable the abortion industry has become in the United States. Planned Parenthood survives with a heavy dose of government funding, even as overall abortion numbers are down and seem to indicate the entire industry is diminishing.
The battle between life and choice is being fought one story at a time.
On one side is 25-year-old Emily Letts, who uploaded to YouTube, as a “positive” story, what she claims is her abortion procedure (the actual procedure is shielded from view and the authenticity of Letts’s video remains in question). It became an overnight viral phenomenon, spawning websites dedicated to gathering up more stories from women who seem to harbor no regrets for their choice, with the intent of alleviating the private shame.
On the other side are those who know such deep guilt can only be relieved by the open confession of sin, a story Lecrae Moore lived out firsthand, and a message he’s now willing to share. It was honesty that opened the door of healing for the 35-year-old Grammy Award winning hip-hop artist who has come forward to admit he advocated for the destruction of his own child in 2002.
Good, Bad, Ugly
Lecrae put his story in the public spotlight voluntarily, and in a big way, in the track “Good, Bad, Ugly” from Anomaly (2014), an album which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The first verse recounts the true story of his sinful relationship with a past girlfriend:
I remember back in ’02
I was in school and actin’ a fool
My soul got saved, my debt had been paid
But still I kept running off with my crew
Sex on my brain, and death in my veins
I had a main thing, we stayed up ‘til 2 (Smokin!)
Waking and baking we naked, my body was loving it
Soul was hating it,
And time and time after time, our bodies were close
The girl was so fine
We heard a heart beat that wasn’t hers or mine
The miracle of life had started inside
Ignored the warning signs
Suppressed that truth I felt inside
I was just having fun with this, I’m too young for this
I’m thinking me, myself, and I
Should I sacrifice this life to keep my vanity and live nice?
And she loves and trusts me so much that whatever I say, she’d probably oblige
But I was too selfish with my time
Scared my dreams were not gonna survive
So I dropped her off at that clinic
That day a part of us died
The arc of the story lands hard on the last line: “a part of us died.” Lecrae openly takes public responsibility for his sin, and he recently took time in Atlanta to share his story with John Piper and John Ensor, the president of Passion Life Ministries.
“I was a young man trying to figure out what I was going to do with life,” Lecrae said in the roundtable discussion. “I hadn’t finished school. I had met the Lord, but I was still trying to get my footing in terms of walking with Jesus. There was so much that happened. Literally, in the middle of that relationship, I was feeling the conviction. I felt like God was giving me opportunities to escape. We were doing drugs and engaged in sexual activity consistently.
“At the time, I believed an urban myth that if you consume enough drugs you would become sterile. I thought we would never get pregnant. I remember we were both working at a call center, and we went out for our smoke break one day, and she hesitated to smoke the cigarette. And that is when she informed me that she was pregnant.”
My Life over Yours
Lecrae sensed abortion was the wrong decision, but he also saw abortion as an easy escape from the responsibilities of fatherhood. “Had it not been for the conviction of the Spirit, who I was suppressing with drugs and alcohol, I don’t know if I would have felt anything. But I was so callous and so hard-hearted that it was almost second nature to say: ‘Oh, well, you ought to get an abortion.’ I was so self-centered at this point in time, and not God-centered at all, that it wasn’t even a question; it was just me convincing her that this was the right thing to do.”
Lecrae: “Sometimes we try to bury our sins, but the healing process begins when we let them come to light.”
Which he did. The abortion clinic was around the corner from her house in a disenfranchised, poor, urban community. As the lyrics say, he dropped her off.
“After the abortion, I really pretty much shut it out of my mind, literally to the point — it is shameful — I ignored all her calls. I quit dealing with her altogether. The last time I saw her I remember she was curled up on a bed crying, and I pushed all of it out of my mind. And what I kept were pictures of her, as a memorial in some senses.”
The memory could not be shut out of his mind forever. He knew the abortion he persuaded, like most abortions, was not explained away by compelling medical reasons but was — in his own words — “me choosing my life over yours.”
In this overriding choice of self-preference over the life of a child comes the guilt that lingers. He kept a picture of the ex-girlfriend as a secret memorial to their unborn child. It would become a reminder that would later force open an old wound as he prepared to marry his fiancée.
“Years down the line I was going through premarital, getting rid of pictures of my ex-girlfriends, to say my mind and my heart are focused on this woman here, and I don’t need any reminders of anything. And I came across her picture and I couldn’t throw it away. And my wife said, ‘Just throw it in the trash.’ I literally broke down over the guilt and the remorse and the shame of it all. That was the beginning of the healing process for me.”
It was a healing process he wanted to share. When he wrote and recorded the story in the Anomaly album, he first prepared his mother with a phone call for the story she didn’t know.
A Sweet Invitation
Long before Augustine penned and published his honest struggles with lust in the fourth century, public confession has proven to be a powerful force in leading others to humble admission before Christ. Lecrae’s confession of sin, first to his future wife, and then to others in his life, and then to the public, is an invitation for many who find the guilt of abortion impossible to shake.
“Public confession of sin is such a liberating thing for others to come forward,” says John Piper of Lecrae’s story. “And if they don’t come out of the darkness, then they can’t have the sweetness of forgiveness. The gospel teaches us how to live, but it also rescues us when we fail to live the way we are supposed to live. And that is what makes it sweet. And so the fact that you have been so public — to call your mom on the phone and to throw away an old girlfriend’s picture and to weep in front of your wife — that story should release men and women from the shadows that are so enslaving, because the gospel is healing.”
Millions of adults now have the same opportunity to find healing. Every year around the world, nearly 45 million abortions leave 45 million children dead and 90 million others, both women and men, with permanent scars to carry. As John Ensor soberly reminds us, “For over 20 years now, the guilt and regret of abortion is the most common human experience of our generation.”
And yet there remains a default response, to cover over the sin in isolation and shame. From that experience Lecrae is pleading for others to consider an honest confession of their sin to God, which is the first and necessary step to finding true healing (Psalm 32:3–5).
A Call to Preachers, Artists, Writers
Public confessions open doors for others. Whether it comes in self-effacing lyrics by Lecrae, an honest book by Augustine, or the ancient poetry by the psalmist, we learn confession by example. And these examples come at a cost. “It takes a strong person to be vulnerable,” Lecrae said in an interview last year. “When you’re hurt, you hurt other people, but when you’re healed, you try to heal other people.”
“Millions of people who live in the shadows of shame and regret in our society urgently need the message of hope in Christ.”
And that’s what makes Lecrae’s story such a powerful force of healing in the lives of many now. Openness with sin and confidence in the forgiving power of Christ bring eternal healing from the deepest stains of guilt (Hebrews 9:22). This message of hope is urgently needed for millions who live in the shadows of shame and regret in our society.
On the ground, Ensor is sounding the message through pregnancy help clinics, places where he is seeing tremendous gospel fruit. “In these 2,452 pregnancy help centers across America,” Ensor says, “a complete stranger walks in the door, and in three minutes in that counseling office, they are weeping and telling you about their sex life. You are in. You can ask questions: Where is God in this picture? Where is your family? Where is the boyfriend? You are into their whole lives, and all you have to do is help them: help them think, help them practically, and share your hope with them.”
Through platforms, endless work is possible for preachers, artists, and writers who are willing to humbly but boldly speak out like Lecrae.
“I think a lot of teachers, pastors, and artists don’t want to touch this [abortion] with a ten-foot pole,” Piper says. “What can you say about this that is new and halfway meaningful? They don’t stop and ask: What are the roots that are feeding this? And there are dozens of roots: fear and greed and lust and prayerlessness and unbelief and unwillingness to suffer. And pastors can get all over that. Artists can get all over that. You don’t need more statistics to expose how bad the problem is. But rather, where is it coming from? Whether it is racism or whether it is abortion, if you go beneath the actual phenomenon, it can be talked about forever.”
Inexhaustible roots spread out underneath abortion, and the fallout of unwanted pregnancy is daunting, reminding the church of her high calling. Abortion reflects a failure of men, Ensor says, who find abortion as a way to be sexual predators with an easy way to clean up the mess and walk away. Instead, the culture needs a model of true, self-sacrificing masculinity, Lecrae stresses. “I think it is a bigger issue of men standing up and saying: I am going to be a dad, and I am going to take leadership, and I am going to be a force in my community to break a lot of these cycles.” The church has an opportunity to step up and model this masculine responsibility, and to step in and care for mothers and children, and particularly in vulnerable urban environments.
Personal restoration is possible, and Lecrae is a living testimony. By God’s grace, he was willing to face his sin honestly and openly, to weep and confess, and to draw near the blood of Christ. He’s now married to his wife Darragh, and they have three children. Lecrae is, in the words of Ensor, “standing tall as a godly man. . . . That is powerful stuff.”
“Yeah, and it’s possible stuff,” Lecrae responds. “If God has called you to something, he will equip you to be what he has called you to be. He has called you to be a responsible, faithful, diligent leader, as a man. And he will equip you to do that, and he has equipped me to do that. I never would have imagined I would have the resources, the understanding, or any of the things that I have now. But by the grace of God, I am here.”
Piper: “The gospel teaches us how to live, but it also rescues us when we fail to live the way we are supposed to.”
God has called Lecrae to confess his sin as a visible story of the healing and restoring power of grace in this generation. Not all stories end like this. The stories celebrating abortion will never prove to be a means of escaping the guilt. Such escape is left to those who humbly confess their sins before a holy God. “I broke down one day,” Lecrae tweeted this week. “Sometimes we try to bury things, but the healing process begins when we let them come to light.”
In the light is where Lecrae continues to share his candid story, with an honesty that beckons others out of the shadows to walk in truth, before God, and there find cleansing in the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7).
The full interview with Lecrae Moore, John Piper, and John Ensor is available as a 37-minute video and edited transcript here.