My heart is heavy today, and this post has been rolling around in my head and sitting in my draft folder. It's long. Feel free to skip it...but I hope you won't. My words are all jumbled up. They get that way when something is tender. I prayed for God to give me the words to say. Read the words...but hear my heart.
Maybe you've read the article...maybe you haven't.
Maybe you should read it...maybe you shouldn't.
I didn't want to read it. I mean, I could tell from the title that I would completely disagree with it.
But I did...I read it, and I felt sick.
Sick for this mom and sick for this dad and sick for our society that decides who is and who isn't...valuable.
Worthy of life.
This is not that rare...apparently 90% of parents who receive the pre-natal diagnosis of Down Syndrome choose to abort their babies.
We're all gonna have to answer for this one day.
Back nearly 29 years ago when I had Joshua, I wrote here about how the doctor told me he was "mongoloid."
And how, the pediatrician called us with the DNA results a few weeks after Joshua's birth. He let us know, in a very monotone and matter-of-fact way, that our son's Down Syndrome was not a result of our DNA. It seemed he wanted us to know that it wasn't our "fault." It was a random, "freak occurance." He told us that Joshua had "garden-variety" Down Syndrome.
People say there is more awareness in our society today, and tolerance for those who are different.
I hate the word "tolerance." HATE.IT.
Allow me to define the word tolerate: "accept or endure (someone of something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance (self-control); to put up with, bear, stomach, deal with."
Tolerate and tolerance are not good words when used for people.
Tolerance...tolerating people...in my opinion, should not be something we try to practice in the body of Christ.
Years and years ago, I was contacted by a young woman from the small town where I lived. She asked to meet privately with me, and I agreed. She nervously told me that she and her husband were expecting a baby, and that one of their pre-natal tests had showed a high indication for Down Syndrome. Even before she scheduled more invasive tests, she was considering abortion. On the outside, I calmly answered her questions as honestly as I could. I tried to ease her fears. I told her that God will equip her and her husband for whatever they were going to face. That's what was going on on the outside.
On the inside, I was FREAKING OUT. I was thinking, "HOW could you even think about ending this life?" Because, this person wasn't a friend...but she wasn't a stranger. She was someone I saw regularly in the schools, in my church, in my town. She KNEW Joshua. How could she consider abortion after seeing how amazing he is?
In the end...she kept the pregnancy, and gave birth to a completely healthy child a few months later.
Everyone wants to talk about "choice," but beyond terminating a pregnancy because the baby has Down Syndrome (or some other challenge), which I totally do not agree with...what choice are we giving the mothers? Because the lady who wrote this letter...what her friend said about people being all judge-y? She was right.
And there's nowhere on earth that people are more judge-y than in the church.
Not every person. Not every church. I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that God has standards that He has set for Christian living. We all fall short of these every.single.day, and yet...we determine in our minds that some sins are worse than others. Are they? It seems like they should be. I mean, it sure makes those of us who have told a lie or smart-mouthed our parents feel a lot better about ourselves..."at least I haven't done (.......)" You fill in the blank.
We (and by "we" I'm talking to MYSELF) teach our children to remain sexually pure until they are married, but what if they mess up, and, you know...sin? Churches are full of people who "messed up" in this way. Jesus was all about reconciliation and forgiveness.
We teach our children the value of life, and then shame them in the church if they show up pregnant and unmarried. I actually had friends from church who told another friend's daughter that they didn't want to be friends with her anymore because she was pregnant. They ostracized her at school and at church, so that she was not only a pregnant, unmarried teenager...she was also lonely and afraid, and shut out from the one place she thought she would find some support: the church.
What do we expect is going to happen in this situation?
I'm not saying there shouldn't be consequences...there should. And I'm not talking about not protecting our children from people who consistently make bad choices...we should.
I'm just saying that, along with teaching right and wrong, and about Jesus and God, and about love and forgiveness, we should teach...and model...GRACE.
Because we are horrified by women who have children and keep them in unsafe, unclean or unsuitable situations. We say or think things like, "Don't they know any better? Why do they keep on having children?" Instead of asking, "How can we help them?"
We are heartbroken when women choose to end a child's life by abortion. But then what? After the life is taken, what then? What about the mom...dad...the family? Do we invest in their lives and try to make a difference for their eternity, or do we just write them off?
And we are exasperated when women admit they can't handle motherhood, for whatever reason, and give their child up for adoption.
The woman from the letter...my heart breaks for her, and for all that she will never know. She will never know the unconditional love that that child would've given her and her husband. She will never feel the happiness of seeing each small milestone that child could have reached. She will never know the joy that simple things would have brought to that child. She will never know the relief or the deep concern that would come with that child's doctor's appointments...every one of them. She will never feel the heartbreak of watching that child struggle, or feel the giddiness that comes from watching that child's successes. She will never know the extra time and effort she and others would give to benefit the life of that child. She will never know the pain of hearing someone tease that child, or the overwhelming gratitude for the ones who "get it." She will never know how much her heart could have stretched with love for...that child.
I look at my sweet man-child with the dark, almond-shaped eyes and the big grin, and I can hardly stand it that the woman from the letter will never know this life...this love.
My sweet child...fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator...has taught me more about God than a thousand books ever could, and has shown me more about love than I could ever have imagined.
And I can hardly stand it that there are people out there who think he's not worth it.
I told you about the time I had a resident physician removed from Joshua's case right before his open-(chest) heart surgery, right? She didn't think he was worth it.
I don't want to be ugly to anyone. We live in America where people are free to do many different things...but I have to be Joshua's voice. And you have to be your child's voice...and the voice of your family members and friends. This path we are heading down is dangerous. If we accept the world's view of what is perfect, and if we give ourselves the authority to say who is and who is not worthy of life...be careful. One day...it might affect you. Or me. Or our "healthy" and "normal" children. Because like I've written before, we are all a heart attack, brain aneurysm, car accident, high fever, random virus...away from being "special needs" ourselves.
Here are two moms who are being a voice for their children...here and here. I'm sure there are others.
In our local news this week, one station did a report on a swimmer from central Arkansas. The swimmer is completely blind. The title of the story? "Blind Swimmer Sees No Obstacles."
Hmmm...see what they did there?
The swimmer has a new coach, former paralympic swimmer, Grover Evans. The swimmer's mom said it was a perfect match, the athlete and the coach, because "they are two people with one goal: being the best that they can be...with what they have."
The swimmer told his mom, "I see what you don't see."
He told the reporter after his race, "I don't think I did well, but there are no excuses....no excuses."
The swimmer's name? Worthy Springer.
How appropriate. He "sees what you don't see."
Just then, from upstairs, I heard the sound of my precious Joshua singing...if you have a child with Down Syndrome, or know one, you know they typically have a very distinct sound when they talk and sing. Joshua was singing LOUDLY: "there's power in the blood of Jesus."
"Are not two small birds sold for a very small piece of money? And yet not one of the birds falls to the earth without your Father knowing it...so don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than many small birds." Matthew 10:29, 31