Monday, December 31, 2007

Be Careful When God Kisses Your Hand

Public life can be very interesting when one of your children is missing body parts that people don't think can possibly be missing. Quickly we learned with our oldest daughter that questions and comments would arise, and, thankfully, we had 6 months or so to fumble through our answers as she was still learning English.

There were, of course, rude and insensitive questions. Those, thankfully, have died out, and I can only assume that as she grew older and more out spoken people became ashamed to ask such questions. However, there's one assumption that continues to drive me nuts, and that is the assumption that because I am a Christian I believe that "God made" my girls "that way."

First of all, I might ask, what exactly is "that way"? Of course, people debate over how much of our bodies are currently personalized design and how much is part of the greater design pattern that God set in motion when he created life. But even if you subscribe to the idea that God is personally designing each and every individual at the point of conception, then doesn't "that way" seem somewhat derogatory?

In addition to that, if I believe that life begins at conception, then how is a disability that forms after conception different than something that happens to a person's body after birth? And if I believe, in my far-out radical thinking, that my children existed in the eternal before their genetic material came into being then wouldn't any genetic disabilities, once again, be something that happened after creation?

There was a woman whom I "met" on an e-list who had a daughter with cleft hands -- hands that are missing three fingers with the remaining two forming a "v" shape. She loved to talk about how she would tell her daughter how special she was because God made her hands so special. That in itself bothers me because I don't like defining my girls life and purpose by their disabilities. But, she went even further. Those clefts were where God kissed her hands.

Okay, so did He nibble the fingers off when he kissed? Eek. I don't want him kissing me if that's the case! Or perhaps on the grand reunion day I should ask if he's eaten lunch before allowing myself a hug and kiss.

Another one that drives me nuts is when well meaning people tell my daughter that "God needed her arm in heaven." Was there something He couldn't reach on a really high shelf? Did He lose His? And, if so, wouldn't it have been better if He kept the arm of a really tall guy with long arms rather than a little girl? Considering the vast number of people missing various limbs, if you follow that thinking, then He's got himself quite a collection up there.

It amazes people, but we tell our daughters they have different bodies because, well, sometimes that happens.

Sometimes people are born with 1 arm
Sometimes people are born with two different length legs.
Sometimes people are born with 4 fingers and missing radial bones.
Sometimes people are born with arthrogryposis.
Sometimes people are born bald (but not my kids).
Sometimes people are born with blue eyes.
Sometimes people are born ornery (not naming any names).

It just happens. What you're born with or without is neither good nor bad, it's just simply the way it is. God allowed them to be born with the disabilities they have, yes, but he didn't create those disabilities. He's far too good to purposefully strike any innocent child with something that is such a great loss. But He didn't just stop with allowing the disabilities, He allowed them so He could use them to make something beautiful and good. So, now where people saw a thorn bush, a sweet myrtle tree will grow.

God did knit together our daughters in their birth mothers' wombs. He knit their delicate minds, their inquisitive thoughts, their insights, their humor, their gifts and talents. He created beautiful beings that were designed to glorify Him, then he placed them into a creation that was long ago corrupted by sin. That sin began to effect their lives before they were ever born. And, the pain from the corruption didn't stop with birth, it was compounded when they were abandoned and placed in state-run orphanages.

But then God redeemed what the corrupted creation had done to them and made it beautiful. He sent loving caregivers who prayed for them, and saw the eternal value He had created in them. Then He called us to be their parents and to nurture and love that eternal value until that, not the disability, began to show. In what was a beautiful act of creation, He turned those disabilities into monuments of His Glory, differences that they can be proud to display.

I just don't want to short-change my girls on the truth, because the truth is just so good, so much better than answering them with some kind of Hallmark sentiment that doesn't even begin to address the deeper questions.

In the book "Disabling America", author Greg Perry, born, inexplicably, with "a total of 3 fingers and 1 leg", describes his conversion to Christianity and his view of his handicap:

"Growing up, I was churched but never saved which is somewhat like going to public school but never getting an education. One night I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. What a waste my life would've been without Him: full of success on earth, overcoming perceived odds, all to be counted as loss in the end. When the children of fellow Christians ask me why my hands are the way they are, their parents tell them, "That's the way God made him." I gently correct those adults and say, "Actually, it's due to man's sin that these kinds of problems exist, but someday I'll have a new body." (That's a promise hat no governmental regulation can provide, especially those that offer people false salvation like the ADA)."

Now that's hope, and hope is much better, in my ever-humble (not!) opinion, than sentimentality.

Isaiah 61:3

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Deb -
I saw your blog link on an I-CAN post and clicked - I rarely have time to read blogs, but just had to let you know how many times I have almost peed my pants reading yours! Your mind is fabulous and I love reading what my over-tired mommy brain would be thinking if I wasn't too tired to think after a long day with my "virtual twin" 2 yr olds ;), whether it's about Vision Forum, Testamints, or our kids' lives before coming into our families. This post was particularly interesting to me as my 2 daughters were both adopted from India (1 has hand differences, the other a clubbed foot), and I appreciate your thoughts on God/sin/and the "differences" of our children. Truly I have never seen it put so well. May God continue to bless you abundantly!
Kathy (homeschooling pastor's wife to 4 great kids, including 2 adopted from India)