Growing up is so common and predictable it’s taken for granted. Until May 1975, when our first child was born, my wife, Mary, and I thought we could just stand back and watch it happen. We had been eagerly planning and anticipating the miracle as only first-time parents can. We had prepared the room, taken prenatal classes, and saved for the down payment. The work was done, and we were ready!
Our anticipation heightened when Mary went into labor. Driving to the hospital, we looked forward to getting through the birthing event so we could begin the exciting process of rearing a family. We had spent hours talking about what it would be like to have a baby that grew to be a toddler, then a child, then a young adult, then a father or mother. We reminisced about our own childhoods – what parts were difficult and what parts were enjoyable. And we critiqued the parenting practices of our folks, eventually deciding what to use and what to discard.
Many hours after arriving at the hospital that morning, Bryan came into our world and opened this long-awaited new chapter of discovery and growth. However, we had barely laid eyes on him when nurses swaddled our baby boy and whisked him to another room for observation. Mary used the time apart to enjoy a well-deserved rest, and I fell into bed at home, exhausted from Lamaze breathing cycles.
When the phone rang, I thought that I must have been asleep for a day and had missed going back to the hospital to visit the family. First, I picked up the alarm clock. Before setting it down and grabbing the phone, I noticed with relief that only an hour had passed since I had returned home and hit the pillow.
Mary spoke on the other end of the line, but soon she faltered in sharing the grave news and began to cry. That’s when the pediatrician gently took the receiver from her hand to explain. “Bryan is having some difficulty breathing,” the doctor began. “We have checked his heart and lungs, and they are okay. We think it’s his brain.”
Bryan is now twenty-five years old. Although he has logged about 300 months-9,125 days-on Earth, he has never walked, never seen the sun, and never said “Dad” or “Mom<’ he has never played basketball, run through a sprinkler, or given us a hug. Immediately after his birth, Bryan became a prisoner in his own body when severe brain damage created multiple handicaps that permanently jammed his maturation process. Consequently, he has had twenty-five years of living, but only nine months of normal, healthy development.
As his parents, we love him deeply-as much as we love our other three children, but there is a sadness.
God must feel a similar sadness and pain when His children get “stuck” at spiritual infancy, childhood, or adolescence-when they never reach spiritual adulthood with all the privileges and responsibilities it entails. Of course, God’s love remains constant and immeasurable regardless. But like a human parent, God can also feel disappointment, pain and loss.”