By Rev. William Willimon, Christian Century magazine, March 2, 1983, page 174.
I sat with them in silence as they awaited the arrival of the pediatrician. It had been an easy delivery, but all was not well with the newborn.
The doctor spared few words. “Your child is afflicted with Down’s Syndrome. I had expected this, but things were too far along before I could say for sure.”
“Is the baby healthy?” the young mother asked.
“That’s what I wanted to discuss with you,” the doctor said. “The baby is healthy– except for that problem. However, your baby does have a slight, rather common respiratory ailment. My advice is that you let me take it off the respirator– that might solve things. At least it’s a possibility.”
“It’s not a possibility for us,” they said together.
“I know how you feel,” responded the doctor. “But you need to think about what you are doing. You already have two beautiful kids. Statistics show that people who keep these babies risk a higher incidence of marital stress and family problems. Is it fair to do this to the children you already have? Is it right to bring this suffering into your family?”
At the mention of ‘suffering’ I saw her face brighten, as if the doctor were finally making sense.
“Suffering?” she said quietly. “We appreciate your concern, but we’re Christians. God suffered for us, and we will suffer for the baby, if we must.”
“Pastor, I hope you can do something with them,” the doctor whispered to me outside their door as he continued his rounds.
Two days later, the doctor and I watched the couple leave the hospital. They walked slowly, carrying a small bundle; but it seemed a heavy burden to us, a weight on their shoulders. They went down the front steps of the hospital, moving slowly but deliberately in a cold, gray March morning.
“It will be too much for them,” the doctor said. “You ought to have talked them out of it. You should have helped them to understand.”
But as they left, I noticed a curious look on their faces; they looked as if the burden were not too heavy at all, as if it were a privilege and a sign. They seemed borne up, as if on another’s shoulders, being carried toward some high place the doctor and I would not be going, following a way we did not understand.
I Peter 2:21 — To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
Ephesians 5:1-2 — Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Galatians 6:2 — Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
II Corinthians 1:3-7 — Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
I Peter 5:7 — Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Isaiah 40:30-31 — Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
O Lord, renew our spirits and draw our hearts to yourself, that our service may not be to us a burden but a delight. Let us not serve you with the spirit of bondage like slaves, but with freedom and gladness, delighting in you and rejoicing in your work, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.