...How I am supposed to feel about this statement? I am a swirl of emotions. It's about the very existence, the very life vs. death of my brother, one of the people I love most in the world. It reminds me that his very existence is something of a miracle, that defies the statistics.
I'll be honest and say the immediate emotion is shock and anger.
But... let me pull back a bit. The reality is that while most people would never say that to my face, obviously a great many people think it, given the statistic that over 80% of babies diagnosed with Downs Syndrome are aborted (this makes my heart hurt). It is an honest statement. And ... a good number of you, dear readers, may have thought the same thing. It makes me wonder.... how many people find out a diagnosis with Downs Syndrome and have an abortion and tell people they've miscarried?
And... I do at least understand the reasoning there. This past year while I was pregnant with Judah, I weighed my options on the levels of testing I could do. I know that raising and parenting a child with Downs Syndrome (or any other disability that makes someone "abnormal" in the eyes of society) is often difficult and takes great self-sacrifice. I remember my own parents struggling and processing after Matt was born. I thought that if my baby was disabled, I at least wanted to know before he or she was born so that I could begin to grapple with it and adjust my expectations. Turns out, though, that most of the tests that have any decent rate of accuracy all put the baby in some degree of danger... and that was not worth it to me. So... Isaac and I decided that since knowing ahead of time would only be a psychological help and wouldn't change our decision to carry through with the pregnancy, we would skip the tests.
So yeah... I understand the fears. I understand that it's hard. I understand why you wouldn't choose that life for yourself. Who chooses anything difficult when there is an easier, prettier option?
That's what it comes down to, actually. In our society, in fact I'll go ahead and say in the prevailing faith and world-view of our society (because THAT is what we're really talking about here)... comfort and personal happiness is our god. It is to be obtained at any cost, be it your marriage, the life of a child, your family, personal integrity, etc. Raising a child with Downs Syndrome could potentially be hard and it could mean that you would have to give up some elements of your plan for your life. Thus... most people are willing to abort the child. They don't WANT to. They aren't outwardly cruel and heartless people, they are actually quite normal (because you know, I believe that the depravity of man is the norm when it comes to humanity). When the scale is weighted between the sacrifice it would take to commit to raising a child or the freedom to continue as you are.... personal happiness and freedom is more valuable, and thus the 80+ percentage. It isn't seen as: kill a baby vs. have a child. It's seen as spend the rest of my life caring for a disabled kid vs. carrying on with a normal life.
And that, dear friends, is where my worldview is diametrically opposed to that of the world I live in.
My happiness is valuable to me. I still pursue it, and I do believe that happiness is good.
But, when faced with the same scale of personal happiness versus great personal sacrifice, the Christian, if they are obedient, sees this:
A child, a child who will make your life difficult and complicated, cost you money and forfeit a lot of your plans..... but a CHILD nonetheless, a beautiful child, made in the image of God. And thus, because he is made in the image of God, we have no choice at all but to love him.
Let me insert here that sometimes perhaps loving him means giving him up for adoption if you know that you really won't be able to care for him well. And let me also insert that by no means are all Christians actually acting on and obeying these beliefs. And sometimes loving is hard, and it's okay that it's hard because we're not perfect people for whom self-sacrifice is easy.
This is one reason why I struggle to have any amount of respect for the ideals of an atheist. Their world-view is unable to come up with any value for anyone that isn't progressive and intelligent. The ideal is human success, and if that is your ideal, then there is no value to the disabled. An atheist may be very personally compassionate and they may care for the disabled, but this compassion is really in conflict with their world view.
But really, this is just one thing, one thing that is extremely personal for me. It is much bigger than this. If we truly believe that all souls are sacred because they are made in the image of God.... and if we are committed to obeying Him..... then counter-cultural self-sacrifice will have to define our lives. Things that are acceptable in our culture are not even up for debate. Things like... giving up paternity rights because a child was fathered accidentally and you just don't have time or money to take responsibility. Walking away from your spouse because they're infringing on your personal happiness and you just don't feel love anymore. Aborting a child because they are an inconvenience or because the child they will be is not the child you wanted. Walking away from a parent or a spouse who, for whatever reason, is suddenly disabled and requires your care. In all of these the core issue is self-sacrificial obedience vs. immediate personal happiness.
We are a flawed and broken world, and even the Christians living in it are flawed and broken people. We make bad decisions. We chose self. And... the greater miracle is that we, as people that are as spiritually flawed and broken as a Downs Syndrome person may be mentally flawed.... God still loves us, even in our sin. And He has extended grace... even in our sin.
And... it is glory when some , because of His great love, obey, die to self, and choose to love and serve.
Make no mistake, it isn't easy.
But it turns out it's so beautiful....