A teen girl informs her pastor’s father that she is pregnant. The father’s reaction will astound you

Maddi Runkles, a pregnant and unwed teen, was the subject of numerous news reports earlier this year after the administration of her private Christian high school refused to allow her to walk in its graduation ceremonies in order to “teach a lesson regarding her immorality.” While I understand the school’s desire to teach students about the consequences of sin, I believe Maddi’s life could have taught students about grace — the grace that caused Jesus to tell a sinful woman, “neither do I condemn you — go and sin no more.”

I have some knowledge of this. I used to go by the name Maddi Runkles. I also became pregnant outside of marriage when I was barely out of my adolescence. Rebellion had taken hold, and I was skating in sin, believing the big lie that there were more pleasures in this world than in God. Fear drove me to conceal my pregnancy for five months, knowing that the shame and guilt I carried would only amplify — and usher in condemnation — once others discovered my secret.

Was I up for the challenge? I was raised in a Christian home, like Maddi Runkles, where we upheld Christian principles and embraced Biblical values. My father was a pastor, which added to my anxiety as I struggled to tell my parents about my pregnancy. It weighed heavily on me, especially knowing that another decision – a secret decision not to have my baby – could save me from being judged by others.

Something extraordinary happened the day I finally mustered the strength and courage to confide in my father. My father’s shoulders sagged and his head hung. We sat in silence for a moment, me holding my breath and carrying the weight of his certain disappointment and possible anger. Then came the indescribable and overwhelming sense of shame, which washed over me in waves. My father finally raised his head and looked at me through tears. “Honey, I am so disappointed,” he admitted. I am.”

It was now my turn to hang my head. “And you made poor decisions that now have consequences,” he added. “It won’t be easy — there will be struggles and a difficult path ahead of you. But I love you —- and now I think I’ve been given even more to love.” What are you talking about? My mouth was open. Before I could respond, my father rose from his chair, reached over, wrapped his arms around me, and simply held me.

It was exactly what I needed and nothing I expected. “I’m so sorry, dad,” tears streamed down my cheeks. I sincerely apologize! “Are you willing to forgive me?” “Of course,” she says. What I encountered was something I had never fully understood despite having been taught for years. Grace. I didn’t get what I deserved, but I certainly got what I was taught. Grace swept over me, unleashing its power and connecting with both my head and heart.

Grace is the gift of a big exhale, is the only way I can describe it. — Holding one’s breath and waiting for what should almost certainly come as a “get free pass” that one would not expect. That grace moment shifted the course of my life. I confessed my sins, cleaned up my act, and charted a new path, propelled by the winds of grace and truth spoken in love. My father was correct; I did choose a difficult path, and there would be challenges ahead, but when I look into my son’s beautiful eyes,

I am so glad I made the right choice after making a mistake. I’ve served many unwed teen moms and even incarcerated moms over the years, thanks to grace, teaching them the lessons I’ve learned about truth and grace while speaking in love. Here is one of my mottos, which I have shared with the incarcerated mothers on a weekly basis: A leopard’s spots cannot be changed, but a caterpillar can transform into a butterfly.

Grace has the ability to change one from within, releasing a sense of freedom and propelling one in a positive direction. Not the other way around. One of the characters in our film, “Because of Grácia,” Bobbi Ryan, faces a test similar to the one Maddi Runkles and I, as well as millions of other young women, have faced. We also tell the story of Grácia, another young woman who makes better decisions.

God is glorified in both cases because grace and mercy triumph over death and destruction — and while our paths may be easier when we make the right choices, God is there to gently restore us when we stray. Publicly shaming Maddi Runkles and refusing to allow her to walk in her graduation ceremonies will not change anyone’s mind, just as allowing her to walk in her graduation ceremonies would not have likely prompted young girls to become pregnant.

It’s a shame I didn’t learn. Grace did it. And I learned grace not by hearing about it, but by experiencing it. Maddi’s life may be far more difficult than those of her classmates who will patiently wait and do things in God’s proper time and order. Allowing them to walk together, on the other hand, could have been a God-honoring moment that communicated grace rather than license to sin, and a reminder that grace does not glorify sin, but rather covers it and glorifies God.

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