"I've done something bad, Jen," my friend whispered over the bustle of the diner, leaning over her dessert plate. "I've really done it now." I leaned in, too, and asked her to speak up. I couldn't hear her; also, I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
We'd been close for years, since meeting on a trip with Habitat for Humanity. I'd known her early in her engagement to her husband. When she'd shared her misgivings about the marriage, I'd listened. When she'd forged ahead anyway, I'd flown cross-country for the wedding. Now she told me that she was having an affair. And that wasn't even the most horrible part: she was pregnant with the other man's baby.
I felt not an ounce of judgment. I was still single then, and I hadn't exactly mastered the art of healthy relationships. My first panicked thought was, "How can I help her?" Her husband was still in the dark, and her lover had taken the baby news with a heart-crushing, casual offer to pay to "get rid of it."
Obviously, she'd made a series of bad decisions (as we all do, in one area or another), and they had led her to a final, abhorrent one. With the lover now out of the picture, she had to choose between having a baby that would most certainly destroy her marriage; or terminating the pregnancy and starting fresh with her husband, assuming she could live with the lie or he could forgive her. Neither appealed. She felt alone and ashamed, and even worse, powerless to find future happiness no matter what the outcome.
We stared at each other, both of us horrified. I'd never experienced an actual moral dilemma of this magnitude. How many edgy, indie movies had we watched together, films with a flawed heroine (Hope Davis, say) caught in a wrenchingly tough situation? Now I felt the same clutch of sympathy in my throat, but this time it was real. A life and a marriage hung in the balance. The disastrous consequences were going to happen. As the only person my friend had chosen to tell, I felt an enormous burden of responsibility in how I would respond.
I also knew the logical conclusion to this story. A practical-minded friend would comfort her, and then offer the common-sense reply: Cut your losses, get the abortion, go back to your husband and, never ever do this again. But I'm Christian (Presbyterian, to be exact), and that ancient, biblical story of Christ's love, redemption and continued interest in the world influences the way I interpret what happens around me. I believe that a silent God is at work in the circumstances of everyone's life. God's existence, his message of hope and healing, underpins everything.