You were not what I expected when I imagined my second child. I imagined a bundle of delicate newness placed in my arms while the room spun with smiling nurses and relatives with congratulatory balloons. Instead, we met in a concrete Ukrainian orphanage, both of us trembling as you climbed your scrawny three year old self up into my lap for the first time.
Important looking people in starched coats kept asking if we would like a different child - one without health concerns, one without special needs, one without Down syndrome. Did we really want you? For a moment, the world went quiet, hushed as the question hung in the air and the reality washed over me that you - this tiny, abandoned, needful one - were wanted, loved, and valued by the One who made you. And with Russian flying over my head and your big brown eyes looking into mine, I stopped listening to their questions, for all I could see was my wildly unexpected and wonderfully made Ukrainian son.
And this is the beauty of the unexpected entering our lives. It whispers into our hearts that we are really the same. The orphan boy with an extra chromosome and a medical file stacked against him. The mother obsessed with doing everything right even when her kids' needs exceed her know-how. We are the same - both wholly needy and holy-made in His image.
For our value is not found in correct chromosome counts or proved parenting perfection. No. It's found in His image - where each and every one of us are created like Him. For in that stable long ago, the Great Unexpected entered a world in desperate need of a savior. So He could walk with us on this mysteriously messy and miraculous road, no matter where it leads. And meet us in our worst weaknesses, our biggest needs, our deepest wounds to remind us we are wanted, loved, valued. All of us. And by doing so, by dignifying our depravity, He expands the narrowest corners of our lives and awakens the deepest reaches of our hearts. Mine included.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION/ REFLECTION:
- How does the knowledge that we are all made in the image of God change the way we think about and talk about the special needs, developmental delays, or cosmetic blemishes of our children?
- The coming of Christ highlights our dignity (as we explored on Day 1) but it also is only necessary because of our depravity... our utter helplessness without him. When you look in the mirror, are you more likely to see your dignity or depravity? How does the Christmas story give you courage to admit your shortcomings or celebrate who you are independent of your "know how?"
- When you look at your children, do you find yourself more prone to celebration or criticism? How does our identification with them as dignified and made in His image, but also depraved and in need of a Savior change the way that we respond to their shortcomings? How can we practically hold these two in tension and help them see their need for Jesus but protect them from self loathing?
Corbett Burick is a Chicago girl whose life was changed for the better when her first son Syrus was born with Down syndrome and her second son Vlad (also blessed with that extra chromosome) was adopted from Ukraine. She loves a good taco and a well-crafted story, somehow finding time to write, photograph, and direct musical theatre in between raising four little ones who love Jesus and include all people. Find her on instagram @corbettburick for more of her writing and her family's story of extra chromosomes, adoption, and gutsy and grateful living.