I am writing to you as a young woman who just got pregnant. I'm 23 and my boyfriend is 30. We met at church and have been on and off for about a year and some months now. The reason why we continuously broke up was because I knew he was unequal. I was really deep in the Word, and he wasn't. He would go to church almost every day because I was always there. I was disobedient, and instead of listening to the Lord's "no" about him I continued to see him, and now I'm pregnant by him.
We still see each other and I guess I'm trying to hang in there because of the baby. I still know that my relationship with the Lord hasn't been the same. I had stopped going to church like I used to and reading the Word and, well, just had backslidden completely.
I'm back at church now and back trying to be obedient even in the midst of this situation and have spoken to him, letting him know that if he wants to continue to be with me he has to accept that I'm going to be obedient and that means that we won't be intimate. He doesn't agree and he tells me that I must be submissive to him.
I'm scared to tell him that I need space to get closer to the Lord because he's already told me that if I give him space he's clearly going to move on. I don't know if I should just do it and move on without him and build my relationship with the Lord back up again or if I should hang in there and just maintain my boundaries. I don't think that just because I'm pregnant by him that it allows us to continue to be disobedient to the Lord. He goes to church, but I guess he just was raised differently than I was and believes differently. I believe cursing and drinking is not being obedient and he doesn't feel "conviction" towards it.
So I guess you can say we're unequal in a lot of ways. I love him and I would like to work things out, but I love the Lord and need Him in my life.
As an older woman who just had a baby, I must start by telling you my heart is breaking for you. What a difficult situation you are in. And the choices ahead will likely match your situation in difficulty. But for the sake of your baby and the sake of your body and soul, you must make them.
You are responsible now not only for yourself, but for the life of the little one growing inside you. And for your baby's sake, it's imperative that you think clearly, with as much wisdom as you have, supplemented with a heavy dose of counsel from godly advisers. That means the driver for your decisions should be what is factually true and scripturally sound, regardless of what you want to do in the moment or what feels right. Emotions are utterly fickle, especially in the presence of all the hormones of pregnancy. They can and often do lead in the wrong direction. It's not that they're unimportant, just untrustworthy.
It may seem like the best decision is to marry the father of your baby. We've even given out such advice in the past. Several years back we ran a column by J. Budziszewski advising a Christian young man who had gotten his unsaved girlfriend pregnant about his responsibilities to her as protector and provider for her needs and the needs of his unborn child. That included repentance, turning away from his sin, and marrying her, all the while modeling Christian behavior.
Your situation is not the same. In fact, it's wholly different from his and much like one discussed in another column by Budziszewski where he wrote:
Yes, I did advise the young man in "I Got My Girlfriend Pregnant, What Now?" to marry her, but no, your decision is not the same. Here's why. The young man's duty was to protect his girlfriend and the baby she was carrying. For that reason, if she would accept him, then in my view it would not be right for him to run away from the responsibilities of being a husband and father. But your duty is not to protect your boyfriend; yours is to protect your baby, and yourself as the baby's mother. Therefore, you certainly have the option not to marry the young man if he would not be a good husband and father, and you should consider this carefully. I'm not suggesting trying to raise the baby by yourself; a child needs a Mom and a Dad. If your boyfriend would not be a suitable husband and father, that would be a strong reason to place the baby for adoption.
Here are some questions that you ought to consider about your boyfriend: Would he be faithful to you? Would he do whatever was necessary to be a good and responsible husband? Would he do whatever was necessary to be a good and responsible father? Would he be marrying you only because he felt "trapped," so that he might want "out" later on? Considering that he is a non-believer, does he understand and agree that marriage is for life and that divorce is not a solution? Again, considering that he is not a believer, does he agree that the child will be raised according to the Christian faith, and can he be trusted to keep such a promise? For example, will he attend church with you and the child every week, even though he does not believe in church? Will he go to the Sunday School's annual Christmas Pageant to see the child wear a sheep costume and say "baa-a-a" to the baby Jesus, even though he does not believe in Jesus? I'm sure you catch my drift.
You also need to ask some searching questions about yourself. Marriage is for life. Can you accept this young man as he is right now until you are parted by death? Many young women think "he's not what a father and husband should be, but he'll change." You can't count on him changing; you have to make your decision on the basis of how he is now. If he doesn't change, will you be able not to resent him for being what he is?
I'm very concerned that you would continue your relationship with your boyfriend one more day, let alone consider marrying him (if he would even have you; based on your description of his character and performance thus far, it's doubtful). You have said that he makes you afraid (that's called abuse), that he drinks and curses without remorse (that's brutish at best, addiction at worst), that he's trying to force you into submission (that's call domination), pressure you into having sex (that's called manipulation) and that you are unequal in a lot of ways.
My dear, dear reader, you are unequal in every way that matters. You know the truth about salvation, have a relationship with the Lord that is suffering because of this young man and are trying to walk away from sin. At each of those points you're feeling pressure from him to do the exact wrong thing. There's nothing about the way he's behaving that makes him a good candidate for marriage. If I were in your shoes, I would run the other direction.
I suspect, however, that because you are writing, you're finding it very difficult to do so. And I believe that without the support of a godly community giving you daily encouragement and help, you may find it all but impossible. That's often the case with dysfunctional, manipulative, potentially dangerous and abusive relationships.
You may find my advice harsh or extreme. But the challenges of bringing a new baby into the world, even with the support of a godly husband, are many. (These past few days with a newborn have felt to me like trying to climb Pikes Peak while carrying a heavy pack and having forgotten to eat a good meal or get a good night's sleep before venturing out. It's hard!) I'm not sure how I would have made it without my husband's help. To contemplate doing it with the added burden of a man who is immature, of questionable character and spiritually stunted is hard to imagine.
I'm tremendously encouraged that you do have a church home and plead with you — assuming it's a biblically sound church — to meet with your pastor and his wife and fill them in on all that is happening in your life: your on-again, off-again relationship (and the reasons it has been this way), your sexual sin, your pregnancy, your temptations to give in to your boyfriend's pressure for sex and even marry him, and your doubts about permanently ending the relationship. Repent of your sin and tell them of your need for accountability, ask them to pray with you for wisdom and then ask them for advice about how to move forward from here.
If you can't get access to the pastor (if, for example, the church is too big for that kind of one-on-one with the pastor), go to whoever handles counseling for your church and meet with them. You haven't mentioned your parents, but if they are believers, I would have the same conversation with them as well. In fact, I'd start with them and then ask them to go with you to your pastor. The more good counsel you can get right now, the better.
Another source of help, also covered by Budziszewski, is the network of crisis pregnancy centers. He wrote that
visit[ing] a crisis pregnancy center — that's one of the best things you can do. You can find one in your area by dialing the toll-free number for CareNet, 1-800-395-HELP. Your counselor will help you make the decision that is best for your baby. One of the things the counselor may discuss with you is the option of letting the child be adopted by a Christian husband and wife who are already prepared to be parents. Do keep your mind open about adoption; that may be part of the meaning of caring for this gift. Real love makes sacrifices, and what is best for the child is not always the same as what makes us feel best.
He also praises the woman who wrote to Boundless in this column for her courage in giving her daughter up for adoption. Since she wasn't "morally prepared to raise her ... giving her to a loving Christian couple was a wonderful gift, not only to them but to her. To do what was best for her," he said, "even though it was not what [she] may have wished, was truly an act of sacrificial love."
And in the end, your dilemma is all about love. Not the kind of "love" you say you feel for your boyfriend, but the kind of love that would sacrifice everything for the sake of another. True love is what made Christ obedient, even to the point of death on a cross. And in His sacrifice and resurrection from the dead lies the power to forgive you and help you not only know what's right, but also follow through and do what's right. Your faithfulness to act on the truth of what's right is the path to the best possible outcome for everyone involved.
You say, "I would like to work things out, but I love the Lord and need him in my life." Now is not the time for you to work things out. What matters now is your love for the Lord. You do and will need Him more than ever before from this point forward. But if you're faithful to Him and let your love for Him motivate your obedience, He will be faithful to "work things out." It's my prayer that what the enemy intends to use for evil and to your harm, our loving heavenly Father will redeem for your good and His glory.
Copyright 2008 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.