On the occasion of learning that someone you know is about to have a baby, there is a default conversation that typically goes something like this: “You’re pregnant, congratulations! So, do you want to have a boy or a girl?” Some people are bold enough to say a preference, but most people feel some guilt if they answer that question. So, we typically revert to the platitude, “It doesn’t matter. … Just as long as they’re healthy.”
Now, one of the greatest relationships the world can ever hope to behold is the love that a parent has for a child. After all, no mentally or emotionally healthy parent wishes any ill-will for their child, they only want what is in that child’s best interests. Jesus even spoke of the love that imperfect people have for their children in relating to the Father’s love for us when he said, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).
Of course, we all desire for our children to be healthy, but what if they’re not? What if it doesn’t turn out like we planned?
The statement “as long as they’re healthy” is either purposely or inadvertently leading us to believe that as long as our child is perfectly “healthy,” then everything with be “OK.” It’s ultimately what we all want and hope for. It’s normal to desire our babies to have perfect health. In fact, your parental abilities would be in major question if you did not hope for that.
However, and we almost shudder to think it, much less say it, but, what if they’re not healthy? What if they don’t even “make it”? It brings tears to our eyes to even think like that because we can’t help but picture our own children.
Our family currently includes two biological daughters who are, for now, both physically healthy. We also have an adopted son, who most people would not consider healthy because he is confined to a wheelchair and has epilepsy. We love all of our children dearly, and only want the best for them. However, what happens when our definition of what’s best, what’s normal and what’s healthy is different that what we’ve come to experience? What if our picture of the perfect is not what is painted for us?
When our family began the process of adopting, we never envisioned having a son on four wheels and regularly suffering from seizures. However, the Lord had something different for us. Don’t get us wrong, we absolutely hate seeing our son suffer, and we pray for his healing every day. But that’s just it, he is still our son, and he is valuable, he is precious, and obviously the Lord still has something for him because he is still alive! Thank God that “unhealthy” is not a mark of “less than” on our child.
But I would like to suggest something different to you, and it’s that our babies can’t be defined by “healthy” or “unhealthy.” And we as parents can’t be defined by the health of our children. Our greatest need, our child’s greatest need is not ultimately their health, but the presence of an Almighty God.
In our own personal family experience, and in pastoring people for over a decade, we’ve seen too many instances where “as long as they’re healthy” simply didn’t happen in their story. Sadly, we’ve also experienced too many stories where the child didn’t even “make it.”