Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Loss of the Innocents
    Ours is a profoundly broken world. Evil stalks small children as they sit in kindergarten 'morning circle' and we are helpless. Many will understandably ask how a good God can endure the murder of children. Douthat points out, there is "no direct theological rebuttal," no answer that satisfies. Yet God is not silently aloof to our suffering; he has answered it.

    As Douthat writes, "... the Christmas story isn’t just the manger and the shepherds and the baby Jesus, meek and mild. The rage of Herod is there as well, and the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, and the myrrh that prepares bodies for the grave. The cross looms behind the stable — the shadow of violence, agony and death." Christmas is a time to remember that God stepped into this broken world and clothed himself in suffering.

    If there is an answer to the suffering in Newtown, it is in babe who was hunted in Bethlehem but escaped in order that he could grow to be the man who suffered and died on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem. Our hope is in God's promise that by the death and resurrection of his only son, death will be swallowed up by his victory and he will wipe away all tears forever.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Two Paths Through Tragedy

"When one’s ship is moving through the dark night of suffering, it’s answers, or it’s death." - Josh McPherson
Unlike families of past generations, now ultrasound and prenatal testing often bring the heart wrenching news of defects and disability months before birth.  Fifty years ago parents learned of birth defects like Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Cleft Palate only at birth and if the child lived then their decision was whether to take the child home or leave it in the care of an institution. Now we live in a time when aborting those with birth defects is both a legal and a culturally accepted option.

In the last couple weeks I came across the stories of two different couples separated by an ocean but facing the same tragedy: a diagnosis of Spina Bifida in their pre-born child.  By bringing the two articles together and interweaving their narratives I thought to show how they share the same initial heart breaking sorrow and they ask some of the same hard questions but, one couple sees only darkness while the other sees the smiling face of God

This decision of whether to continue the pregnancy to birth or abort is what these two couples faced.  As the father of a child with a severe autism, I sympathize with both families.  Now, after 15 years with my son Noah, I have learned a lot more about the hope that Christ gives, but I also know my weaknesses and so I am grateful we did not learn of our son’s autism while he was in utero and so we did not face this kind of crisis.  

The two first-person source articles are:

  1. Sara Carpenter: I saw my son's bleak future and knew I had to abort him (view article)

  1. Josh McPherson: The Smiling Face of God  (view article)

I have edited the content for length but have done my best to retain the essence of each account.

Sara: Feeling my unborn son move inside me should have been a joyous moment midway through my pregnancy — a milestone that took me closer to welcoming my third child into the world. Instead, every tiny movement made me feel sick with guilt at what I knew I had to do.

Sitting, head in hands, at our kitchen table, I wept at the turn our lives had taken and the terrible dilemma my husband Andrew and I were suddenly facing. It was a choice no parent should ever have to make.

This should have been a straightforward pregnancy. After all, this baby was every bit as planned and wanted as our other two children, and welcoming our first son into the family would be a special joy.

But things were different from the start. In contrast with my previous two pregnancies, I had felt sick and weak every minute of every arduous day. It was almost as if my body had been trying to tell me something. I’d grown to love this baby, but something felt terribly wrong.

My fears were confirmed, when a routine scan changed everything. I’d held my breath as the consultant spent far longer than I knew was standard studying and measuring sections of my baby’s spine and brain.

Scan images are notoriously hard for lay-people to make sense of, but the protrusion on my son’s back was impossible to miss. As the doctor switched off the monitor and turned her chair to face me, I clenched my fists and jaw, willing her to say there was nothing to worry about.  Instead, my stomach lurched as she said: ‘I’m sorry, but your baby has spina bifida.’

Josh: For those who haven’t heard, the little boy growing in Sharon’s tummy has been diagnosed with myelomeningocele, more commonly known as Spina Bifida, and all of the assorted complications that go with it. He’s the 6th child the Lord’s given to us, the 4th to make it past 24 weeks old, and the 2nd to be born with this neural tube defect.

When news like this hits, it hits like a thunderbolt. Immediately you begin processing on every level of life. Often the practical level hits me first...what will this mean, what do we know for sure, how can we best prepare, how will I need to adjust my current schedule, who should we tell first, how will we tell our kids, how should we tell everyone else, … what course of action is needed for me to take immediately, if any...it’s triage, scope, and sequence, etc etc.

Then there’s the emotional level...this is where you experience the deep pain and empathy of a parent who doesn’t want their child to suffer, who doesn’t want their son to experience this kind of pain. It’s where you feel trapped, because you would take his place in a heartbeat if you could but you can’t. It makes you feel vulnerable, weak, helpless, angry. It’s where you experience the death of dreams and plans you didn’t even realize you’d made for your son, the death of hunting trips in the high country, and hiking trips exploring mountain lakes, catch in the back yard and the building of tree houses...all things I had done with my dad that I dreamed of doing with my son. Watching him sweep up his bride and carry her out of the church and into the get-away car, and a 1000 other things you’d already planned / envisioned in your minds eye that all of a sudden vanish cruelly into thin air.

But there’s a third layer you start processing on, and this is actually the most important. It’s actually going on simultaneously with all the others, to be exact. It’s what everything else you think, feel, believe, and do in that moment is rooted in and standing on...and this level is the theological level. Everyone processes here, pastor or not, Christian or not. What do we believe about what’s just happened and why? Or, more specifically, how do birth defects and disabilities relate to a God who is (supposedly) loving and kind and overseeing all things.

Or, to be even more pointed...where in the world was God when the faulty information got planted in the DNA of my unborn son, causing the failure of his spinal column to close, leaving his spinal chord exposed and causing a host of medical complications that will affect him for the rest of his life? (That’s not an unfair question to ask, right?)

These and a 1000 other questions can relentlessly and mercilessly hammer your little ship until it capsizes violently, then slips quietly beneath the waves to sink into the abyss.

Sara: She explained that this is a condition in which the spine doesn’t form properly, leaving tissue and spinal cord exposed. The anxious expression on the consultant’s face — she suddenly looked tired and old — left no doubt that this was serious. The location of the lesion, she said, meant that our son would never walk.

I had to push myself up the narrow bed where I lay, pregnant bump exposed, to catch my breath. Dizzy with shock, I held onto the sides to stop myself rolling off... my mind raced, conjuring up mental images of how my future as the mother of a severely disabled child might look.

I pictured him watching from the sofa, frustrated and immobile, as his sisters turned cartwheels and somersaults in the living room. I envisaged trips to the park, where he would sit on the sidelines as other children clambered over climbing frames and kicked footballs.

Consumed by a sense that this was not the way our lives had been mapped out, I wanted to shout at the doctor: ‘Stop! You’ve got this wrong!’ I thought if she looked again at the scan, she might realise she had made a simple mistake.

Instead, she turned on the monitor to show us the inescapable truth: there was something very wrong with our baby.

Later, sitting with Frances on my lap in a tiny windowless room, the obstetrician explained that one option was to terminate the pregnancy. If, however, we decided to continue, I would be closely monitored: as the baby grew, the severity of his condition would become clearer.

I said at that stage, a termination was out of the question. I felt such strong love for this baby already and I wanted to nurture and protect him.

I had been raised in a staunchly Roman Catholic family, and my father, who died when I was 20, was fiercely anti-abortion. One of my earliest memories is of marching with him and my siblings on a pro-life rally. Dad led us to believe that abortion was evil and that an unborn child’s right to life was paramount.

As an adult, I felt a woman should have the right to terminate a pregnancy — but that was a view forged from rational thought, not personal experience. I never once imagined it was anything I would do.  I believed that choosing to keep a baby, whatever its disability, was the mark of a good mother. How fate mocks our lofty ideals.

Josh: But thankfully, … sitting in the darkness of the ultra-sound room, with the tech growing increasingly quiet as she stared intently at our little man’s brain, heart, spine and feet, our minds were not cluttered with these practical or emotional or theological questions. There was no panicking or fist-shaking or questioning of “why us.” There was no doubt or fear or anxiousness. There was, mercifully, only peace.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I did not say there was no pain. The pain, the heartache, the disappointment, the disbelief, the shock...that was all very, very real. As the radiologists and ultra sound tech fought back tears and said, “We are so sorry, but it’s conclusive...he will be born with Spina Bifida”, make no mistake, the storm hit hard.

But even then, there was peace. Not the stormless kind of peace. No, this was that deeper, richer peace that somehow comes precisely and paradoxically in the middle of the storm. There was ballast in the bottom of our little boat, and even as the tidal-wave of emotion crashed against our ship in the form of words like “Chiari II Malformation” and “enlarged ventricles” and “spinal lesion” and “Trisomy 18 markers” and “Echogenic Innercardial Foci” and “Rocker-bottom feet” and “chromosomal abnormalities”...the ship...amazingly....held it’s course.

I heard my wife offer comfort to the tech as she stifled a cry. I heard myself saying, “Oh, please don’t be sorry, we know this is not the fun part of your job, but please know we are so grateful you caught it. Thank you so much. This will really help us prepare much better for this little man’s arrival. Thank you for doing your job well.” Where was that coming from?

… But, I’ve dumped you into the story too far in to appreciate that this has not always the case. In a situation much like this one, with much of the same waves hitting our little ship, the bow had not held, we had been swamped, and were almost lost forever. And lest you think I’m being over-dramatic, I want to explain why.

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, one of the waves that swamps your boat in moments like these come in the form of questions....... “Where Is God?! How can he be loving and kind and compassionate and sovereign and let this happen to us??!! What is He thinking?” And the waves pound against the ship, The tensions are real. And the tensions demand answers. …

2/9/05 (7 years ago, almost to the day)... [journal entry before the birth of their first child]
… Today we learned at Sharon’s ultrasound that our little one-to-be has Spina Bifida. Even spelling it, saying it, sounds surreal. Our baby will be handicapped.
    It’s like everything in the past 6 hours has been in slow motion. Surreal is a great way to explain it. I keep on thinking I’ll wake up and it will all have been a dream. This can’t be happening to us.
    It washes over us in waves. We talk, we process and reality sets in. We sit in silence. Then another wave of reality crashes over us, and we’re set adrift again.
     Waves like future plans and dreams I had for my little one. Expectations, really. Will she ever walk? Ever run? Ever be able to understand me when I tell her I love her? Ever be able to play sports, or play an instrument? Will she be able to go to college? Will she ever marry? Will she ever be able to be independent, or will she need to live with us the rest of our lives?...Will our little daughter even live past a few days?
   All of our dreams, the things you wish and hope for your children, lying smashed on the rocks like fine china dropped from an upstairs window. Thrown out. No more.
     And we must have seen 600 little girls running or jumping or riding their bikes on the way home from the clinic. Holy smokes, why couldn’t their parents have kept them inside today? It was like each one mocked us as we passed. Sharon’s quiet sobs as we rode in silence cut me open and left me feeling gutted and helpless. Are you kidding me? We did everything right, and we get this? We waited until marriage, we did all the stuff, and this is how you say thanks? You give 1000‘s of healthy babies to prostitutes who abort them or give them away, and we get this? Sorry Lord, I’m sure that sounds ugly, but it’s what’s in my heart, so might as well say it. This feels like a cheap-shot, like a raw deal, like a sucker-punch in the stomach.
   And we just keep thinking of more things. The insurance the doctor bills, Sharon’s health, future kids (what if the financial/emotional/responsibility is too much with just this little one?) Too much. Too fast. Darkness enfolding. Enveloping. Swallowing. Silence.

When one’s ship is moving through the dark night of suffering, it’s answers, or it’s death.

Father God,
    My dreams are erratic, disturbing. People drowning, tragedy, disasters I can only watch unfold but not prevent.
   My mind & heart are tired. Only 4 days into this and already I have logged thousands of miles on the theology treadmill.  I question. No answer. I call. No reply.
    To recap the week...Tuesday we found out the news, Wednesday we spent mostly at home. Stunned. Then met with Mom & Dad Wednesday night. Met also with Eric & Helen. Helen was just what Sharon needed, being the perfect balance of everything. Her friendship is treasured & I’m very thankful for her.  Eric was great as well. Always just what I need him to be. I love that guy. He’s a rock. He’s in our corner & that’s what I need. … We laughed and basically talked about baby names all night.
   Friday I met with Kent & Adam. This too was a good time. They listened, I processed and then they prayed with me. Tears were shed. Their prayers were full of hope, faith, courage, questions, petitions. I love these men. They are dear to my heart, and will journey closely with me I’m sure.
    ... we had called Carey & Tarah on Thursday night. Carey prayed for us...powerful prayer, full of the gospel, full of hope, sounded just like dad.
    Sunday. We’re here at Dad & Mom’s still. Processing more. Relaxing. Sitting by the fire. We had 5 messages on our cell phone...Adam, Eric, Helen, Kent, Adam. We are feeling very loved.
   The hardest part for me yet, even more so than my own pain has been watching Sharon grieve. Yesterday she said she wasn’t sure she was even still excited about being pregnant. To see the joy leave her eyes. To watch her sit by the fire and just stare. I want to take the pain away, but I can’t. She carries the precious, little one, broken though she may be, inside her. The little kicks of her feet constantly reminding her that when she comes out she may never kick her feet again. It’s torture. I want to take the pain away, but I can’t. Be with her Lord. Do what you will to bring you the most glory.

Sara: The scan confirmed that our baby would never walk. He would be doubly incontinent and paralysed from the waist down. Water was collecting around his brain, and only time would tell if that would impair him mentally.

I tried to shake away the image I conjured in my head of a little boy, lonely and friendless, robbed of the most basic human functions. The prospect of watching a child I’d love just as much as his sisters suffer in this way made me howl. I hugged my stomach, as if I could in some way shield him from the misery that lay ahead.

It was the thought of our son’s incurable impotence that triggered my husband’s tears. ‘Oh God, what sort of life will he have?’ he asked the doctors. It was, of course, a rhetorical question, and no one attempted to answer it.

My brother James has a son, Anthony, who has cerebral palsy. When we shared our dilemma with James, he told me how painful it is to watch your disabled child struggle and suffer.
Anthony, now 12, spent months in the neo-natal intensive care following his birth, and has endured several operations on his back and legs. He is still unable to walk far and needs his parents’ help to get dressed.

He is highly intelligent and, while none of us could bear the thought of life without him, his frustration at his condition is evident. Seeing his younger brother, Scott, turning somersaults on a trampoline at a family barbecue, he grew angry and used  his favourite weapon — his vicious tongue — telling Scott that everyone thought he was stupid. Tears followed, from both boys.
James said that the degree of handicap our child faced could prove unbearable for all concerned, not least our son.

When my older sister, Marie, a nurse who has cared for sick children, told me I should spare us all the suffering and have a termination, I was still shocked. And angry. I felt nobody but me loved this baby.

Yet when I look back now, I am grateful for my sister’s words. They gave me permission, somehow, to consider termination.

And so it was that a week after that first scan, and against my initial instincts, I realised I couldn’t bring this child into the world, knowing the extent to which he would suffer.

Andrew and I talked long into the night, and finally agreed that ending the pregnancy was the kindest thing we could do for our son.

Josh:  And thus began our theological journey into discovering the beautiful sustaining grace found in the sovereignty and goodness of God, not in spite of suffering, but over it and in it.

It started with Psalm 27:13, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. So my heart will take courage and waits upon the Lord.”

“Yes,” I thought, “I will wait on the Lord. He knows what’s coming, He knows what’s best. We will see His goodness in this, therefore we don’t have to despair. He didn’t cause it, but he’ll somehow use it for his glory....Well, at least that’s somewhat comforting, I think. Although, if I’m honest, quite frankly I’m not sure how excited I am about Him getting His glory at my expense right now.”

And then I had to back up. “Wait a minute. I just said he knows what’s coming. I know that’s true because that’s what the Bible clearly teaches. He knows everything, is surprised by nothing. So did he know that my daughter’s back was not going to fuse properly? Of course He did. Well if He knew, then why didn’t he choose to intervene and do something about it?”

Now I had a problem. Before, my theological answers, dealing more in theory and human logic than Bible, were always trying to get God off the hook for bad things. So, in my thinking, I needed to limit the sovereignty of God so as to release him of culpability or responsibility.

But now I was running out of rope. If God KNEW her back would not form properly, could he have done something about it? Of course He could have. In a second. In a heartbeat. Without any effort at all He could have healed my little girl. He’s God.

And He didn’t.

Now I was stuck. Now I had a problem. And the problem was God’s responsibility in relationship to my little girl’s disability. I could feel anger welling up inside me. “You mean to tell me He just stood by and did nothing?!”

You see, what was driving this problem was me trying to figure out what I was going to say when she got old enough to ask me the question, “Daddy, why do I have Spina Bifida?” I knew that question was coming, and it haunted me at night. I was her daddy. I was her man, charged with teaching her about God. What in the world was I going to say.

I didn’t know what I would say, because, honestly, I didn’t know what I believed.

So I was stuck. I was stuck because now I had a God who I believe knew this was going to happen, had the power to stop it, and didn’t. For me, he was now no less responsible than had he done it himself.

So now I was on my theological treadmill, and the speed was winding up, the sweat dripping off my nose, and I was running hard. No philosophical waxings, no ivory-tower theory, I needed answers, and I needed them now. A little girls view of God was at stake, and I was the man for the job. I ran on that treadmill like a man on fire.

Sara: Yet if making that choice was hard, the physical ordeal was only just beginning. At 18 weeks pregnant, I was too far gone for a surgical termination and would have to go through a labour and delivery, under the care of midwives at our local hospital.

The first step was to take the drug Mifepristone to block progesterone, a hormone vital to pregnancy. I swallowed the pill in a side room on the labour ward — the same room where I’d given birth to our younger daughter two years previously.

Over the two days that followed, I fought the urge to put my hands on my stomach when I felt the baby move. Knowing that he was slowly dying inside me was the very definition of hell.

After two days, I returned to the same room to take a second drug to induce labour.
What followed were the worst 16 hours of my life. They passed in a morphine-induced haze, but there was no dulling what was happening.

My baby was being forced into the world long before he could survive in it, and it felt unnatural — completely at odds with my instincts as a mother. My body seemed to be doing all it could to hold onto him, and the labour went on and on.

At one point, in the grips of what felt like a panic attack, I became hysterical. Gasping for breath and screaming, I demanded that Andrew tell me why we were doing this and why it was the right thing for our son.

He calmly described the kind of life we were trying to spare him from, and that we were loving parents, doing what we felt was best.

I demanded to know: ‘If this baby was inside you, not me, would you be on this bed right now, ending his life?’

‘Yes,’ he assured me. ‘I know how hard it must be, and I wish I could take your place.’

I wanted the labour to be over, but I dreaded the end. Having experienced the joy of delivering two full-term babies, I was frightened of how my son would look at 18 weeks’ gestation. At the same time, I knew I had to take the only opportunity I would ever get to hold him.

Andrew, who was by my side throughout the labour, eventually decided to give me some privacy and went for a coffee. The midwife disappeared, too, so I was entirely alone when our son was finally born, asleep, just after 9am...

Not daring to look at him, I screamed for help — and was alarmed to see the midwife recoil before reaching out to pick him up from the bed.

When Andrew came back he was distressed, and not sure he could bear to look at our son, whom we had long before decided to name George.  However, when George was returned to us, clean and dressed in crocheted clothes no bigger than those worn by our daughters’ dolls, Andrew held out his arms and cradled our tiny son just as lovingly as he had held our two daughters when they were born.

I said George had my husband’s nose, and, as we passed our son between us, tears ran down our cheeks for the child we would never see grow.

Josh: And then, slowly, graciously, mercifully, the pieces started falling into place.

The first penny to drop was when God redefined the word tragedy for me. I had been calling this event a tragedy. Then one day the Lord spoke to me very clearly. It was as if He said, “Josh, you’re looking at it all wrong. Tragedy is not your daughter growing up with two legs that don’t work. Tragedy is your daughter growing up with two legs that work, and walking away from me in her heart. Tragedy is her growing up with two legs that work, and her finding identity in how fast those legs carry her around a track, rather than finding her identity in my Son who carried her sins on His shoulders.”

The second penny to drop was unpacking the glorious and biblical truth that God is most glorified in me, when I am most satisfied in Him. This truth compelled me and freed me to, at any cost, pursue my joy in Christ so hard that no pain could shake it, and no earthly pleasure could compete with it. More than that, it worked the other way around too. Not only was God most glorified in me when I was most satisfied in Him...as He was more glorified, my heart was more satisfied! What an amazing truth! No longer did I have to fear God gaining glory out of my life in whatever way He saw fit as if He was taking His pound of flesh...rather, I now realized that the more glory He gained in my life the more ultimate and deeper and greater my experience of MY JOY! God’s desire to be glorified and my desire to be satisfied WERE NOT AT ODDS. They came together in the glory of Jesus.

And thirdly, I simply could not get away from the relentless and consistent testimony of Scripture that God is over all things. These “all things” included the sanctification of saints (Phil. 3:12-13), spiritual growth (Heb. 6:3), the loss and gain of money (I Sam. 2:7), the decisions of heads of state (Prov. 21:1), the casting of lots (Prov. 16:33), the killing of God’s people (Ps. 44:11), the falling of sparrows (Matt. 10:29), blindness (Ex. 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Sam. 12:15), the persecution and murder of Christians (Heb. 12:4-7), repentance (2 Tim. 2:25), travel (James 4:15), the gift of faith (Phil. 1:29), life and death (I Sam. 2:6, Acts 3:15, Acts 2:24), disabilities (Acts 3:6), angry mobs and corrupt governments (Acts 2:23, 3:18,), calamity and natural disasters (Amos 3:6), and the killing Jesus that we've already seen in our study of Acts (Acts 4:27).

So I begin to see from all over the Scriptures, from the smallest detail of life, to the most epic event in the history of mankind, God was governing them all for his good purposes. And we've been seeing how true that is in our study of Acts. Good, evil, happy, sad, glory, despaire, gladness, pain, suffering, brokeness, pleasure, Christian, pagan, the Lord over sees it all. Nothing happens that does not happen in His world, where He reigns supreme.

I heard the words, for the second time in my life, “Spina Bifida”, and nothing about what I wrote changed. Will it be hard in the days to come? Most definitely. Has it changed our family forever? Completely. Is there pain? Absolutely. Is there heartache? Certainly. But oh how much more quickly the sun broke through the clouds this time, for we new that there was design in this suffering, and that brings tremendous hope.

Sara: It was a struggle to get through the weeks that followed. Our family and friends helped with the children, and before long I was taking my younger daughter to playgroups and ferrying my elder to and from school.

With friends, I was honest about what had happened, but acquaintances shied away from asking what had gone wrong with the pregnancy. When I heard other mothers chatting about shopping or potty training, I wanted to scream: ‘Have you any idea what I’ve been through?’

Everywhere I went, there were pregnant women and babies. I felt irrational anger and resentment that these mothers hadn’t faced the choice of whether or not to abort a disabled child.  I even envied women who had miscarried — something I’d experienced myself, with great sadness, three years previously. But at least those babies hadn’t died at their mother’s hands, and their experiences evoked straightforward sympathy, never vitriol.

With hindsight, I realise I was depressed, though I never asked for medication, focusing instead on getting pregnant again.

According to Department of Health figures for England and Wales, almost 2,000 terminations are carried out each year on the grounds that the child would be handicapped. Others, of course, opt to keep their babies.

My sanity was saved by an organisation called Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC), which advises women on worrying antenatal results during pregnancy, and supports them in whatever choice they make.  The most important lifeline ARC provided for me was the internet forum where women who have terminated a pregnancy after discovering their baby has a disability post their experiences and thoughts, and offer each other support. These women were the only people who truly understood.

Three months later, Andrew and I spent a rainy January afternoon standing at a graveside in a corner of a children’s cemetery as George’s tiny coffin was lowered into the ground.
Like so many women who terminate a pregnancy because of a disability, I felt that having another baby — though the prospect of further loss was terrifying — was the only way to heal my pain.

The early months of my fifth pregnancy felt never-ending. Gripped by anxiety, I logged onto the ARC forum to communicate with mums who had gone on to have successful pregnancies after terminations.  Finally, 16 weeks into the pregnancy, a scan confirmed that our baby was healthy and I began to relax.

In March, a few days before the first anniversary of George’s due date, I gave birth to a healthy son, James, whom we named after my brother.  James’s arrival brought great joy into all our lives, but we will never forget the son we let go. A small plaque made from a cast taken of George’s hand and footprints sits on the chest of drawers at the top of our staircase, alongside family photographs.

There are parents with severely disabled children who, I’m certain, would say we made a mistake — that George’s life would have been fulfilling, and ours all the richer for having him.
Part of me believes them, but I know, faced with that decision again, I would make the same painful choice.

Only parents who have walked in our shoes can know for sure which difficult path they would take.

Josh: A Word To My Son in The Womb
So son, we believe you are a part of God’s plan for our life, and more importantly, a part of God’s plan for his glory. (And that’s good news for us...more joy!)

You are not a mistake. You are not a statistic. You are not a tragedy or an accident. You are not an inconvenience. You will not be defined by a birth defect. You are God’s craftsmanship, you have been hand-knitted in your mother’s womb to his perfect and exact specifications, and you are our son.

We’re already proud of you, and have big expectations for how the Lord will use you in our lives and those of others. God is giving you a unique opportunity to display His glory, and we count it a great gift that He would choose to give that opportunity to us. Yours will be a life that God will use like a megaphone to wake up a deaf world. Knowing Jesus is better than life.

You haven’t even arrived yet, and you’re already teaching us more about God’s grace, just like your older sister did. You are already a gift. It will be one of my greatest privileges to be your father, and to teach you in whatever capacity your mind can grasp, what it means to be a man, to love the Lord, to follow Jesus, and to run with all your might the race of faith He’s marked out for you. Your mother, and your siblings are very anxious to get you here, so hurry it up.

Oh, and son, I know some things will be hard when you get here. That’s ok. We’ll work through them together. And when you ask me, I’ll be ready with the answer... “God sits enthroned in the Heavens, and He does all that He pleases.” And it pleased Him to make you, exactly how He did. Because He wanted you to experience the joy of Him using your life to glorify Himself. What a privilege son. Counted worthy to glorify Jesus. What an honor.

And there’s even better news. It may get a little tough while you’re here, but check this out...it’s our family’s favorite verse. It’s found in the last book of the Bible, talking about the end of the story as God writes it, and trust me, you are going to LOVE what it says:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Rev. 21:5

That includes me, and your sister, and you. So take hope, be a man, and remember son,

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

I can't wait to see yours,


The worldwide incidence of Spina Bifida is, on average, one in 1,000 births.  This rate is dropping each year, not because the genetic defect is less frequent but because more and more children with SB, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and even Cleft Palate are aborted because their parents have no hope.