This post was originally published on April 13, 2015. I share on this blog because this is one of the largest altars of faith of my life. This season forever altered the course of my walk, and because of that I share this with you:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. ~Romans 8:1-2
The above statement is truth, it’s the infallible, perfect, all encompassing Word of God. Maybe you’ve heard this verse many times before, or maybe you are reading this for the very first time. In my case, I had heard it many times over the past couple of years as I started and grew in my relationship with the Lord, yet I never knew how true and real those words would become during a season which should have been the darkest of my life.
How exactly do you begin to describe what would become the perfect storm? You know the kind of storm that has the ability to shake you to the core and obliterate everything in its path. That’s what is going through my mind as I sit and type this. So my prayer is that God leads me and writes this for me, because my mind just begins to spin as I think about all the things I want to communicate to anyone who is willing to read. And once again God reminds me that this has nothing to do with me, it’s all about Him. So here it goes…
On the evening of September 26, 2014 I laid in a hospital bed, hungry, with an epidural, and Pitocin running through me. I was happy, bored (as the contractions were not progressing), hungry (yes, I was starving…don’t mess with a very pregnant woman and her food. I had not been allowed to eat since 9 am), but overall I was excited that soon our precious baby girl would be with us. All of that changed rather suddenly when the doctor came in and asked my sister to leave. I knew it was serious because throughout the day they had done everything and discussed everything in front of anyone that was in the room. Immediately I thought something was wrong with the baby. I knew the look, her face said it all. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the conversation that was about to take place. You see, none of the mommy to be websites, pregnancy books, or moms who had gone before me warned me about this. I was blindsided and sucker punched by the news this doctor (my OB-GYN wasn’t on call that day) was about to give me.
It all started simple enough; she asked me pretty basic questions about my pregnancy and lifestyle. These were the typical questions your doctor asks you at your first appointment but not 12 hours into labor. Then things got weird…Her gaze hardened and it seemed like her eyes and judgment pierced right through me as she asked me about using illegal drugs. The shock literally shook me to the core. I could barely verbalize the redundant “NO” as each question got more and more probing. I looked at my husband, just to find him just as confused as I was. All the while, in my mind I’m thinking, “just get on with it sister, get to the point!” When I thought this couldn't get any worse, it did. Then as my husband sat next to me, confused and bewildered, and held my hand, she began to ask me about my sex life. And when I say sex life, she was not referring to my sex life with my husband. She, in front of my husband and with monitors hooked up to me, asked very specific questions including whether I was engaging in “risky” sexual behavior with people other than my husband. And all of a sudden I knew where this was going,
The doctor, with a condescending tone in her voice and a look in her eyes that made me feel so tiny, said to me that my test had come back HIV+. My world crumbled, my body shook, my head was spinning. I looked at my husband, who was squeezing my hand and saw a look in his face that I had never seen before. If I were to try to describe it, the closest description I can come up with in words was that of a perfect and equal mix of confusion and disbelief. That I could totally understand, what I wasn’t prepared for was what I noticed next. I saw in his face and his eyes full and complete love and support. I saw Jesus in him. When I say that, I mean I saw perfect and absolute love, a love that could only come from God. No human being is capable of showing that love unless Christ is in them. When people talk about shining the light of God, loving like Jesus did, being the hands and feet of Jesus, this is what they mean. It wasn’t pity or compassion or the very true love that a husband can feel for a wife that I witnessed at that moment. That moment, that second, where my world should have been crumbling apart, my husband was there in person living and breathing Romans 8:1. I knew that I knew, at that moment that there was no condemnation for me because I was in Christ.
And then reality hit. Snapped out of that sense of security, I was ambushed by information, medication I had to take, the possibility that I passed this on to my daughter. All of this swirling in my head and I had no decisions to make because the doctors had made all of them for me. Questions, bewilderment, shock, sadness, anger, all hit at once. And then began my self condemnation. What did I do to put my husband and daughter at risk? I read all the books, pinned all the pins on Pinterest, went to all my appointments, it did not make sense. The doctor then told me it must have happened in the past three weeks because I had been in the hospital to screen my blood pressure and unbeknownst to me they had done an HIV test, along with the one they did at the beginning of my pregnancy. None of this made sense. No, I hadn’t done intravenous drugs and no, I hadn’t had risky sex outside of my marriage (at 9 months pregnant there was no action going on period). Did any of this stop me from going on an internal witch hunt of every sin I’ve ever committed? Nope.
No assurance from the doctor that it must have happened in the last 21 days (and later on that there was a slim chance that it was a false positive) stopped me from thinking of every single sexual encounter I had before meeting my husband. Every kiss, every stupid mistake, every drunken night, every party, it all came flooding back to me at once. I had repented, been born again, been made new from the inside out by the grace of God, but I got sucked into the sin of condemnation. God didn’t see me like that, whether I was HIV+ or not. He had forgiven me but that moment I realized, I hadn’t forgiven myself. Oh how sad and dark those few seconds were. And I say seconds, not because I had this miraculous breakthrough on the hospital bed, hours into labor, tired, exhausted and confused. I say seconds because like they say, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” There were decisions to be made, medications to start, and a secret to cover up.
Don’t get me wrong, God was present there every step of the way, I literally and physically felt him in the room with me throughout the whole ordeal. He worked miracles and showed up in so many ways that I could write pages and pages about, but at that moment nothing was washing the condemnation I felt away. I felt ashamed, isolated, dirty, unwanted, and alone. I made the choice to put on a mask to the outside world, family, friends, church, everyone. I always thought I had no stigma in my heart about people living with HIV and AIDS. I knew the facts, I knew people with HIV, heck I even had a friend whom I lived with when I first moved to San Antonio that was HIV+. I thought I was good, what a heart check I got when I heard the test results.
I lived two weeks walking in the shoes of a new mother diagnosed with HIV+. Yes, to the dismay of the doctors that wanted to study an early detection case with a child, all confirmatory test came back negative. I could write about the hell of living through messed up test orders, being promised an answer in 3 days, then 5 days, then that they sent my blood to California, and no answers. I could write about the doctor who threatened to call CPS if I didn’t go to the free AIDS clinic with my newborn baby, or the stress of having people around constantly and hoping the doctors or nurses wouldn’t say something that would tip anyone off, or the fear that people would treat my baby different because of my status. And the most laughable now but one of the most painful things at the moment, I could write about the judgmental but well intentioned women who couldn’t understand why I wasn’t breastfeeding. But I’ll leave all of that for another time.
Today the one take away that I believe God wants to share through this story is that there is, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death, Romans 8:1-2. There is no one, no sin, no diagnosis, no conviction, no label, NOTHING that can separate you from the perfect love of God. If you know Him and have accept Him as your Lord and Savior there is NO CONDEMNATION. He died for it all, for our sins, for your sin, He sees you new and white as snow. No matter how the world sees you, or in my case how I thought the world might see me you are loved, accepted, and royalty in His eyes and out of the outpouring of His love is that we can love others like my husband did that night, with no condemnation.
I looked up the statistics and the chances of having a false positive diagnosis were 1 in 250,000. Going through this I knew there was a purpose and reason for all of it. I prayed and prayed for God to show me once I came out on the other side of the diagnosis, no matter what that looked like. I can say I am blessed and know that I was chosen by God to go through all of this. How many people can say that God broke their hearts for what breaks His in such a real and raw way? My heart breaks for the woman sitting across from her doctor being diagnosed today, for the woman whose test isn’t a false positive, whose baby and kids are also living with this disease. It’s not like any other diagnosis because it comes attached with a stigma of sin and that somehow they did something to bring it among themselves. It’s not the type of thing you immediately go to your prayer warriors, family, or friends with. So, I share this with you not for me, but for Him. I don’t know exactly what God wants to do with my story but I do know He wants me to share it with you, today.
If you would like to read how God is moving me to serve women living with HIV please click here.