Yesterday, I posted something that turned out to be very controversial. Within the first hour my site was flooded with spam trying to shut me down for voicing my opinion. That is a discussion for another day. It would seem that we have traded tolerance for witch hunts. We have decided that if someone disagrees with us, they are automatically wrong and deserve to be silenced. We have lost the fine art of civil discourse. So, in my right to exercise my freedom of speech I have edited the post I pulled last night and I am putting myself out there again. This is my opinion born out of pain and suffering. I do not demand that you or anyone else believe the same way I do. Ultimately, I cannot stand before God for you. Nor, can you answer for me. Our choices belong solely to us; each one of us. In order to keep my site from being spammed and shut down, I will not be accepting comments on this post for now. Please realize that I do not mean to insult anyone. You are free to have a differing opinion and I welcome you to write about it in your own blog. We need more give and take in a civil fashion with respect and tolerance of a person’s right to hold a personal opinion even if we agree with it. So, here it is.
Today, a medical colleague of mine was discussing the abortion bill defeated on the floor of the Texas legislature that would have moved the latest date for elective abortion up to 20 weeks (some states allow out to 24). He then related to me that a colleague of his asked his advice regarding a mother who wanted to terminate her 19 week pregnancy because the child was of the wrong gender. She wanted the child to be of the opposite sex than what it was. No health problems, just the opposite sex from what she desired. She was granted her request.
The day before I read an account in a national newspaper written by a mother who had to make difficult choices regarding one of her unborn twins. One of the fetuses had a congenital defect that could be repaired with surgery in the womb. But, the risk of death was great. The child, if born without the surgery would suffer for the rest of its life. She painfully decided to terminate the pregnancy.
I think about my own health problems. I inherited high blood pressure from my mother and my father. I have been on medication since I was 17 and my health has suffered through the years because of this. I have a congenital abnormality of my lower back that is now, at the age of 58, making my life a living hell. My father developed diabetes at the age of 93 (he died at 98) and now I discover I am borderline diabetic thanks to my obesity which is genetic in origin. And, my father had prostate cancer as did his father. I have a half of a dozen potentially deadly blows against me.
I wonder if genetic testing had been available when my mother discovered at the age of 38 that she was pregnant if she would have terminated the pregnancy? Thank God technology was not that advanced and she did not have these options. I would not be here. Technology has made our lives much easier but it has given us our choices for which we are ill prepared.
I bring all of this up because I am watching my daughter suffer daily from crippling complex migraines. Not the kind that give you headaches. But, the kind that without warning make you totally paralyzed on one side, or fall over from sudden loss of balance. My daughter lives in constant fear. She takes medication but we are at a standstill because of reluctance to have further tests. Her condition is not deadly. It will not kill her. But, it does rob her of joy and happiness and a job and a car and a life and friends. She confines herself to the safest place she knows, her room and her only friends are found on the typed letters of her texting on her iPhone or the occasional choppy video on a skype feed. If someone had painted that scenario for my wife and I while she was still in the womb, what would we have done? What would you do?
We suffer from the impression that life should be painless. With our world of incredible technology, we should never have to hurt or be anything less than perfect. If the possibility exists that a child may be born less than perfect or less than what we desire, we can rest assured that this poor child will never suffer. And, we can try for something better, a more improved model. Our new god, technology, has afforded us a new power of choice that we never had. But, has our technology grown faster than our wisdom? Has our technology placed a tool in the hands of the ill prepared? An ultrasound reveals the sex of our unborn child and we are disappointed. Let’s start over. Try again. Or, better yet, let’s engineer the child we want! Order an iBaby! We do not want a child to suffer, right? Or, is the truth closer to home. We don’t want to have to suffer.
I am a firm believer in God. The Bible is an endless stream of accounts of men and women who suffered. They endured loss and pain and betrayal. They did not have the technology we have today to make sure their lives were perfect. And, these men and women changed the world! I think of others whose disabilities made our world a better place. Helen Keller. Stevie Wonder. Joni. Just to name a few.
There is one thing I have learned. The only way we will ever be in a perfect state of non suffering and painlessness is if we are dead. To live is to feel pain. Pain is essential for our daily survival. To do away with pain is to stop living. I know that the two mothers I mentioned above had very difficult decisions to make. I am glad that when my children were conceived, the technology did not exist to afford me those options myself. I chose to look my wife in the eye and say, “No matter what our children are like we will love them for our entire lives and we will do whatever it takes to ensure their existence.” We take our chances and we hope that out of our love for each other, this child that is born will be the best it can be. And if not, then we will be the best we can be and help that child to live.
I love my daughter. She knows this and her life is not unending drudgery. She only has moments of pain and suffering. Most of the time, she is normal. We go to movies. We go out to eat. Last month, we went to Disney World for Star Wars Weekend and I had the joy of watching my daughter laugh at the Hoop De Doo Revue at Disney World particularly when I was chosen to be Davy Crockett’s “angel” and danced out on the stage in a tutu and halo. The look on her face was worth every second of humiliation I endured.
You see, we cannot ever expect our lives to be perfect and pain free. We cannot ever hope that our children will have the perfect bodies and minds that our technology promises us. It is because no matter how advanced we become we will always live in a fallen world that is far from perfect. As long as a human breathes, there will be the possibility of selfish acts of evil that will make our lives and our children’s lives painful. To terminate a potential child’s life in order to spare their suffering is, in my humble opinion, a dodge from reality. What happens when the next child is not perfect? What happens when the child is born and a terrible accident causes them to be handicapped at an early age? Do we put the child out of its misery then? What if, after the child is born, we change our mind and wish our son had been a daughter? Take them out of the picture and make another one?
What if that child, in its broken state has an epiphany; what it that child is motivated by their problems to find a cure for cancer? What if that child could change the world? I know that our guarantee of a person’s right to choose is protected by the law. It is the law of the land. And, it will not be reversed. But, what my prayer and my plea for everyone is that we temper our choices with wisdom. As long as the choice remains painful and difficult, then we are safe. When the choice becomes cavalier and easy to make, then we should stop and wonder about our collective wisdom as a society.
I have stood by for years now and watched as our society has increasingly devalued the importance of a person’s life. We now value the lives of humpback whales over an unborn child with a disappointing gender. We now care more about the number of sharks “left in the wild” than we do the number of children born to promise us a better future. We would rather make that next level in World of Warcraft than to feed our two year old to keep it from starving to death. Will it be any wonder then, that our children in their adult years may look upon us as unnecessary burdens and choose to terminate our lives at say, 65? They wouldn’t want us to suffer!
Right now, there are dozens, possibly hundreds of people who are alive and dealing their depression because they read “Conquering Depression”. Mark Sutton and I wrote that book not because we wanted to be famous; not because we wanted to make lots of money. No, we wrote that book because we SUFFERED. We endured depression and fought for years to drive that dark shadow of a beast back into its cave. And here it is. My suffering has benefitted someone else. Because I suffered, I was able to encourage someone who had given up all hope and had chosen suicide. My pain; my suffering; my failures were redeemed! Someone is alive today because I suffered! In a way, I applaud the mother that had the courage to write the article even if I differ with her decision. After all, I can never know the details of her circumstances. Never. But, her willingness to bear her soul; to reveal her own personal suffering will benefit someone who read her painful account.
And here it is: I believe without a shadow of a doubt that the God I mentioned above; the God who allowed his children to suffer so that they would grow and learn and mature and teach their children powerful lessons only learned in the crucible of pain; the God who we consistently deny and try to kill; the God that the Dawkin’s and Hawking’s of the world spend so much time and effort denying; the very God who could with a mere thought take away my daughter’s “affliction”; the God who has come to us over and over in spite of our denial and our pushing Him away; yes, this God became our flesh — our skin — our weakness and suffered as most of us will never suffer and died. He did it for one reason and one reason only. He loves us. His suffering has bought us our freedom. His triumph over death has bought us HOPE.
God looked down upon the womb of this world and he saw a flawed being; a mere human who would never amount to much; a man who would suffer from health problems and who would suffer from depression; a man who would strain against this mortal coil of tears and wounds. God could have aborted the whole of creation; rubbed out this awesome universe with a mere thought; erased it from all of eternity and tried again. But, instead God looked down upon me in the womb of this life and said,
My son, I will give you a chance to live. It will not be pain free and you will not be perfect. For in your living and in your striving and in your triumphs over adversity I will give you strength and hope and in so doing, you will touch the lives of others. You will be a part of my Story and you will be a part of my Work. Striving against adversity is human. Persevere. Overcome. Push through the darkness and the doubt. Live in spite of the pain. Redeem the suffering. And one day, I will say “Well done my good and faithful servant. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
There is a reason God calls me son!