We’re not talking bad hair day. Dude, I’m used to those by now.
1) That I was a boy 'cause they seem much less roller-coastery. (Always wears off, though, as soon as I remember boys don’t get to wear knee-high boots and leggings.)
2) That jobs automatically provided mental health days.
3) That by the time I get pregnant someday, someone will have invented an instant emotional stability formula. It’s not the labor and delivery I’m scared of. It’s the hormones, baby!
Actually, I like to think I’m generally pretty even-keeled. But on that day earlier this week, I could’ve played a convincing Grumpy of The Seven Dwarves acclaim…except for my height…and lack of beard.
Finally, though, I cheered up by watching videos of my precious nephew Ollie. I’ve written about Oliver oodles of times, but for the newbies, Ollie was born in June 2010 with Down Syndrome and two heart defects. He has undergone three open heart surgeries, and he’s doing awesome these days! Also…he just happens to be the most adorable kid in the whole world. I’m serious, the Gerber baby wishes he had Ollie’s dimpled smile.
Ollie brings so much joy into so many lives. Which is why I cringed when I read some of the information in this article on the Time magazine site earlier this week.
The article presents information about growing technology in the area of pre-natal testing, specifically as related to children with Down Syndrome. And though the article itself doesn’t advocate for one particular outlook, it notes statistics that made me sick to my stomach:
- Births of babies with Down Syndrome have decreased 15% between 1989 and 2005 due to more sophisticated prenatal screening even though increasing maternal age should statistically mean a 34% increase. In other words, because more women are learning of Down Syndrome diagnoses early, more of these women are terminating their pregnancies.
- Up to 90% of women who know in advance of a Down Syndrome diagnosis choose to abort their baby.
- As one mother of a child with Down Syndrome said in the article, “There was encouragement to get screened with the understanding that I would terminate because that’s what most people do.”
My nerves pull taut just retyping those sentences. And while I realize that as a Christian, I’m supposed to be full of grace and compassion – toward those who disagree with me, those who make decisions I don’t understand, those who find themselves facing a life-altering challenge – I can’t deny the teeter-totter of anger and sadness those statistics whip at me.*
And while this discussion could branch into politics, science and religion, from purely a heart perspective, it makes me so sad to think of the joy people miss out on by denying a life due to a chromosomal "imperfection." And it scares me to think of where we're inching, or maybe running, as a society.
But there's a sweet side to this. A day after reading that first article, I stumbled upon a second article called "My Perfect Child" at Christianity Today's website, and it was written by one of the parents quoted in the first article. Talk about a heart boost. In this article, the parent of a child named Penny with Down Syndrome talks about what it really means to be "perfect." And she references that verse in Matthew 5 which always makes me gulp: "Be perfect, therefore, as I am perfect." She says:
The Greek word that was translated perfect is teleioi, which comes from the word telos, meaning "complete," "whole," "full-grown," or "mature." In other words, this perfection has to do with becoming a certain type of person. It has to do with becoming the complete, whole, mature, full version of ourselves.
And part of becoming that version of ourselves, says the writer, is recognizing our humanity, our limitations and especially our need for God.
We move closer to perfection as we move closer to becoming the children, men, women God created us to be. It has nothing to do with our physical or mental abilities...or the number of chromosomes in our DNA.
Penny is both created in God's image and fallen from grace—like everyone else. By giving me a new understanding of God's view of perfection, Penny has offered us a way to participate more fully in the body of Christ as we become more and more human and more whole.
Like Penny, like all of us, Ollie is created by God, covered by God's grace...and in that, he is perfection.
And on a bad day, when I am bemoaning my weaknesses and doubting my strengths, I can still taste perfection...if I'll allow myself to chew on the fact that those very limitations prove my humanity, my need, my creation-status in the face of a Creator-God. Perhaps that's what Paul meant when He talked about boasting in his weakness.
Penny's and Ollie's and my "imperfections?" They're where God's power shines, His grace takes a stand...and His perfection covers all.
How about you: I got a bit info-heavy and perhaps even preachy today. But I wonder, do you ever feel perfection is too far away? Does the second article challenge your view of perfection like it did mine? What does it mean to you that "God's power is made perfect" in your weakness?
*I realize that I need to be very careful not to be judgmental here. My personal bias, in the form of overwhelming love for Ollie, means I have quite strong feelings on the subject. I know there are many, many more factors that go into women's decisions...and whether I agree or not, I'm still called to be respectful, kind and compassionate. Also, I know the area of pre-natal testing for various disorders is quite controversial, and I don't intend for this post to present an opinion on that.