Emily and I have been married for 10 years as of June 30 this year, and I have learned a lot in that period of time. Being married and having children has exposed the sin in my life of having expectations that don’t come from a place of full surrender to God’s plan. Let me share a story that highlights this point in a very big way. In November of 2005, Emily and I were blessed to have our first daughter, Ella. In our minds, everything about Ella met our expectations. She was an objectively beautiful baby girl. She met milestones ahead of her peer group. She was walking in just over 10 months. She was very verbal. She had a fun personality. She was what we thought a baby girl should be. She was our Ella.
So, we thought we should go for a second child. After all, WE could put out high quality offspring. Well, this is where our expectations began to be checked and pride began to be broken. God was going to put our expectations to death and replace them with something so much better. It took longer for Emily to get pregnant with Seth. After a blood-test and subsequent ultrasounds, we found that our little Seth had about a 1 in 8 chance of having Down syndrome. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Down syndrome, or Trisomy 21 in this case, it is a genetic condition in which a person has 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. Trisomy 21 occurs when there is an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. Most of the time Down syndrome is not inherited, but is rather a “random event”.
So, to continue with the story, we chose not to have additional testing, which would allow us to have 99% certainty regarding our son’s genetic condition because there was a small chance of terminating the pregnancy by doing this test. As you can imagine, there was plenty of stress and uncertainty over the next four months after the ultrasound and plenty of faith building opportunities. Finally, on May 1st, Seth was born, and he did indeed have Down syndrome. We weren’t prepared totally for this reality. We had talked to plenty of folks who had “false positives” during their pregnancies. This is where I had to deal with my own lack of faith. I had built up a set of expectations in my mind that weren’t unusual for dad with his first son, but they weren’t fully rooted in God’s purposes. You see God’s ultimate purpose is to bring Himself glory. If His ultimate purpose was anything else, He wouldn’t be God. Here’s where I hadn’t truly conformed my expectations to God’s as it related to Seth. I had prayed that God would use Seth’s life for His glory, but in the back of my head I had an expectation that Seth would succeed in sports, be a persuasive leader of people, or make it big in the business world. Honestly, I felt like I deserved to have the ideal.
The reality is that Seth might excel in sports, but in a different context. Seth still might be a persuasive leader of people but in a unique and different way and certainly not the way I was thinking. The point is that Seth will have physical and cognitive challenges that my expected child did not. We have seen God’s purpose in giving us Seth. God has used him powerfully as a testimony of His grace and mercy. And, He has done it through Seth in a glorious way that would have never happened through any other child. You see God’s plan and expectations for Seth were SO much better and SO much more God glorifying than our expectations for a boy that never existed. I am so thankful for Seth and so thankful that God is teaching me to trust in His plan.