Published: 8 years ago

An Open Letter to the Lady at Target

This is a little strange, since you and I never spoke.  Likely, you never even knew I was there.  Both of us were shopping in the pharmacy section; I was scoping out some cold medicine, and you were nervously pacing at the end of the aisle.

Chalk it up to my obsessive habit of people watching (some would call it nosiness), attribute it to way too many episodes of Monk, but something got my attention.  The way you were shifting from one foot to another, the tension that seemed to emanate from you…it simply made me take notice.

I think your shuffling and anxiety would have elicited the same nosiness whether we had been in the pharmacy or dairy section or the CD aisle: whether it was medicine or milk or a Norah Jones album, I would have taken notice of what you picked up.

As you walked past me, the first thing I noticed gave way to the second – you had selected a pregnancy test, and you weren’t wearing a wedding band.  I realize that doesn’t necessarily mean anything…lots of women forget wedding bands at home all the time.  But honestly, you didn’t look old enough to be married.  You looked to be a junior or senior in college; at most just a couple of years past getting your undergrad degree.

As I finally decided on the generic-brand Zicam and headed towards checkout, I thought that you looked like you were a condemned prisoner heading to the guillotine.  That nervous side stepping back in the pharmacy aisle was once again showing up in your walk.  It was almost as though you were second-guessing your purchase.  I suspect that – although it would go against your nature – it would be better to slip the box in your coat pocket and smuggle it out of the store than to carry it through the express line.

Your face flushed bright red as you plunked your purchase down on the counter.  You probably felt like you had just announced to the entire world that you were facing the decision of a lifetime.  You paid and then practically ran out of the store.

As I drove out of the parking lot, I want you to know that I prayed for you.  I had never seen you before and will likely never see you again, but I’m concerned for the state of your soul and your emotions, and I wonder what the next 24 hours will hold…

I want to know if the test ended up positive.  To say that would change your life is a vast understatement, but I wonder just how your life will change?  Were you just looking for a good time but were saddled with a kid?  Is the baby’s father someone you would even entertain a life with?  Does this make you rethink every relational decision since your high school years?

I want to know if this sends your life into a tailspin.  Is this the first scare you’ve had, or just the latest one?  Are you questioning your readiness for a child, your capacity to be a mom, your ability to give birth?  Will this change the way you date and relate with men in the future?

I want to know about the guy.  Are you going to tell him?  Is he still in the picture?  Will he stick around if the news is positive?  Do you love him?  I hope that he will be a man and take responsibility, but I fear that he’ll run.  You’ll get the blame for not being careful enough, and he’ll be off to the next conquest.  I wonder if you’ll marry him out of desperation or guilt or shame or hope that this baby will really cause him to love you.

I want to know about your parents.  How are they going to take the news?  Are you afraid that you’re about to break your daddy’s heart?  I pray that they will support you, love you, and promise you that they will stick with you, no matter what.  I hope that they will see this grandchild as a blessing and not a curse.  I trust that they will remember that you are still their scared little girl who needs their unconditional love.

I want to know if you have a church family.  How will they treat you?  I’m afraid that you’ll be shunned…branded with a scarlet letter “A,” treated as though you have contracted a dread disease rather than carrying a human life.  I hope I’m wrong.  Everything in me wants the believers in your life to rally around you.  I want them to refuse to dispense pithy platitudes, but instead take you to the gospel and share the rock-solid hope of Christ with you.  I pray that they won’t whisper, backbite, judge, or gossip.  I hope that they will become Jesus with skin on, and that you will feel the unmitigated, unmerited, unexpected love of God through them.

I want to know if you’re going to keep this baby.  There are only two alternatives if you decide you’re not ready to be a mom.  I hope you can get beyond your emotions long enough to know that terminating the pregnancy will haunt you for the rest of your life.  I hope that God places people in your life that will nudge you towards adoption.  We have couples in our church that have made it their personal ministry to take children into their homes and raise them to love Jesus.  Many of these couples maintain relationships with the birth mother and introduce them to Jesus as well.  They’re nothing short of amazing, and I hope you meet someone like that.

I get the fact that it would have been weird for me to approach you.  My pastoral instincts kicked in, but striking up a conversation would have been awkward at best, and uber-creepy at worst.  I really wish my wife had been with me when I saw you.  She would have done one of two things: either told me that my imagination had gone wild and I was being far too melodramatic, or her very compassionate heart would have kicked in.  She would have deliberated for a few minutes, but would eventually have tried everything in her power to just happen to bump into you and start a conversation.  If I know her, she would have given you a little hope and encouragement and probably her cell number, and you would have ended the encounter feeling like someone was in your corner.

I can’t know what’s happened in your life since you walked out of Target, but I do know this: God can take your mixed up emotions and make something great out of them.  He will take your mistakes and forgive them.  He can give you a brand new start just as soon as you ask him.  I know you feel like your heart and mind are going in a hundred different directions, but I pray that you’ll come to know Jesus in the midst of this crisis.  I pray that you’ll see this as an opportunity for God to love you deeply and remake your heart.  I’m praying for you even as I write this, and I’m confident that God has just begun his good work in you.

9 Comments.
  1. Lauren D says:

    Thanks for sharing. It was a good reminder to me to check my thoughts when I see someone who is struggling. Do I respond with pride, apathy, or with the love of Jesus?

  2. amanda says:

    Daniel Franks – I simply love you. You are a good guy and a wonderful minister.

    My family is lucky to have you in our lives.

  3. Robin Pike says:

    This was a very touching post you made. They words you wrote brought tears to my eyes as I was in the same position 30 years ago. I wound up pregnant and had no one to turn to. I wish you would have said something to that lady as I am sure she would have appreciated it and just collapsed in your arms because someone was truly concerned… I know I would have loved to have someone like you.

    I know that God will help her through her time of distress and that He will guide her through the right decision.

    I have a feeling that I have found this post for a reason — God wanted me to read it. My family and I are struggling right now with not have a roof over our heads for a couple of weeks and now living in a home that doesn’t have fridge or stove, no tv, or phone. But we are working very hard to get ourselves out of this mess… and we will.

    Again, thank you for sharing this store… it has gotten my mind thinking…

    Robin 🙂

    • Danny says:

      Robin, thanks for commenting. I’ll be praying for you and your family as you work through your current struggles. I’d encourage you to memorize Lamentations 3:22-24: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

  4. Billbad says:

    So, let me get this straight. A perfectly normal girl is feeling nauseous one day and, like most normal girls, she presumes she must be pregnant, so, in between vomiting, she runs into her local big-box consumer store to get a test, …and someone concocts this entire sappy story from it? She’d probably get a kick out of this if she knew.

    The worst part of this story isn’t the possibly-pregnant girl who doesn’t happen to be a Christian cultist, but the millions of Chinese people living in shacks who made the big-box store possible for the writer (and the girl) to practice his/her fat, lazy, American consumerism. If there is a “sin” in this story, here it is!

    If the girl in Target was feeling any shame, it came from your widespread cult brainwashing, not from your imaginary sky man who would be forgotten if you wouldn’t keep convincing helpless, naive people.

    Where I come from, children grow up healthy & happy, with one parent or several, “married” or not, and, like me, they never quite understand the 3000 (yes, that many) conflicting cults of the world.

    I am the confident, educated, guilt-free result of not having a cult-twisted parent and I feel sorry for anyone who was, but not so much for the girl in Target who is enjoying her youth and ultimately continuing the cycle of human life outside of your archaic Christian ideology, as she should.

    Now, erase this quickly before you have time to consider it, then ask your imaginary friend to “save” me.

    • Danny says:

      Billbad,

      Thanks for taking time to comment on the post. Even though we’re in disagreement on my encounter & subsequent response to the post’s subject, I think we can clearly agree on one key point: if the lady was indeed pregnant, what she didn’t need was shame. She needed compassion, she needed a friend, she needed kindness (and of course that would be true whether she was pregnant or not). I hope you sensed that was my intent. I don’t subscribe to guilt, but grace, because that’s what I’ve been shown.

      While I can’t engage all 3000 “conflicting cults” in the world, I can engage you, since you responded to the post. I’m sorry you hold the view that you do on Christianity. While it’s certainly your right to do so, it’s simply not accurate to paint all Christians with the broad brush of “brainwashing…archaic…ideolog(ists),” just as it would be unfair for me to say that all atheists / agnostics / etc. are educated, articulate, free-thinking individuals. You fit that category, but certainly you can point to people who do not.

      You’re dead on that some Christians fall into the fundamentalist trap, but Jesus portrayed a gospel of grace and mercy. Don’t get me wrong – his life wasn’t just a model of how to “live right.” His death provided a way out of our sin. It’s obvious you don’t see that – perhaps because the hypocrisy and fundamentalism you have seen is clouding your view – but I’d encourage you to intellectually engage with scripture and with intelligent, articulate Christians before writing the whole thing off as the mad ravings of a cultist.

      I appreciate the open invitation to pray for you, which I will certainly do. Feel free to contact me either in this comment thread or via email (“Make Contact” tab above). I’d be happy to talk more.

      -Danny

  5. Amber says:

    Well Danny, This post certainly portrays the girls we see daily. They are scared and they need support and they need people like you who care.

    It brought tears to my eyes as you asked about her family, boyfriend, etc because that is what is so sad to us. So often she is alone or even worse she is being pressured by them all to do what her heart is telling her not to do.

    Yes, it would have been a bit weird and even creepy for you to approach her…BUT, I encourage you to get a few referral cards to the pregnancy centers and throw them in your wallet in case you have a similar thing happen again.

    A board member of mine would have them in her purse and if she saw a young person who was pregnant she would walk up and say, “You may have everything you need for your pregnancy but if you don’t then these people are here to support you.”

    I see your pastor’s heart and I appreciate it!
    ~Amber

  6. Cherry Jo Mercer says:

    Awesome insight Danny….God is certainly using you and Marion, your family, and your ministry for His glory. God bless you all. Praying for you as you guys minister at Cottage Grove this weekend.

  7. Amber says:

    I was so not looking for you to get blasted like that…..yowza. Thank you for responding from the same place you wrote the original piece. You showed class, compassion and good boundries both times. I appreciate a pastor modeling appropriate behavoir in real-life situations. This is what it is to be salt and light…..and to take the time to let God craft a loving response to senarios, real or imagined.

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