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Hard Things for God’s Sake Are Joy

June 21, 2012

Shame has far-reaching ripple effects.

When a society –any society –decides that some people are less human than others, and aborts the ones so-judged to prevent their birth, or abandons them to die, or locks them away in an institution, that society deprives itself of the richness and variety of creation. That society robs its members of  finding strength in dependency, power in weakness,  joy in service and in worship.

Those of us who live in the United States who look squarely at our own history, and our own present, know this is true.

Shame –whether it is our own, or it is imposed on us by collective social authority –robs us of possibilities.

Human imagination is limited to what it has experienced, to what it knows. Few people are blessed with ability to imagine and bring to pass a thing without precedent.

Adopt a baby whose only functioning part of his brain is his brain stem?

No. Twenty seven years ago, serving a mentorship under a neonatologist in an NICU, I listened to alarms for a week while a baby with this condition was allowed to die –a joint decision of the doctors and the child’s parents. Those were the days when people with extensive brain damage were argued in court to be “vegetables”– in the rare circumstances anyone actually objected to withdrawing life support.

Twenty seven years ago, while I felt in my bones that the decision to let this baby die was wrong, I could not have answered the question, “Well, what do you propose we do with this baby instead? If children like these were wanted, we would not be making decision to allow them to die.”

I was only eighteen. On the practical point, the “experts” seemed right. I didn’t even know a person who routinely used a wheelchair for mobility. There were certainly no children growing up in my (limited) world, whose parents carried them outside and propped them up on pillows in the sunshine so they could feel the warmth on their skin even though they could not see the sun, so they could breath the fresh, clean breeze to supplement the bottled oxygen going into their lungs through a nasal cannula.

What was not being practiced openly, honestly, joyfully  in my world simply did not exist.

Now I know better.

Four years ago, Joy’s first wheelchair came to us from a little boy born with very little functioning brain whose adoptive family sought him out, traveled across the country to bring him home, and cherished him until he didn’t need his wheelchair anymore because he was running around in heaven with Jesus.

Can you imagine? This family chose this child above many others–even paid fees to adopt –a child very much like the baby I watched die my senior year in high school.

Because this family adopted him and shared their story, I can imagine it. And so could the family we passed his wheelchair to when Joy outgrew it. They also sought out and adopted a son who lives with extensive brain damage.

If you have not yet been privileged to know families like these, let me introduce you to some of them via the blogs on my sidebar. Pick any of them, scroll through and you will meet parents who treasure children many consider unadoptable.

For a shortcut, click on No Greater Joy Mom and follow the story of the two children she and her husband are bringing home from institutions in Bulgaria. Read today’s post Perfectly Imperfect and if you are tempted to think that worldview is rare,  sample a roster of families finding deep joy in hard things via adoption, in her recent post More Celebrating Special Needs.

The world is impoverished for the millions of missing children we will never know because they were aborted before birth, or because after birth they were locked away institutions as unworthy of adoption.

Not all of us will be called to bring one of these children home. But I believe all of us are called to support families who are.

Many are. And we are poorer for not knowing them.

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus observed, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Seven chapters later, in Matthew 13 he elaborated, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

How many more of these treasures might find a home if prospective adoptive parents found themselves surrounded and supported by a community of people who understand their call to that field?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Laurie Hinman permalink
    June 27, 2012 12:41 am

    Thank you for your wonderful honesty.

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