My life was perfect, until it wasn’t. I had a good job, a pretty wife, youth, health, and a home in the suburbs. I led Bible studies and prayer groups, gave to charity and served as a church deacon. I was living the American Dream. Better yet, I was living the Christian American Dream. And to top it off, my wife, Erin, was pregnant with our first child, a boy, Joshua.
We were celebrating my father’s birthday the night Joshua was born. As we drank our wine and ate our steak and chocolate cake, Erin went into labor. So we drove through the night to the hospital. Several hours later, Joshua entered the world.
“Skin color looks good,” said the doctor, though to me his face looked blue. He was having trouble breathing, but it was temporary. That’s what the nurses said. They took him to the nursery. Erin and I took a nap.
When I woke up, I went to see our new baby. I looked through a window into the nursery. One side of the room was lined with baby beds all full of babies. Except one bed was missing. And tubes and cords hung from the wall in a tangle, as if one of the babies had left in a rush.
Joshua was gone. Something was wrong.
He’d been hurried to the neonatal intensive care unit. It turned out that a large part of his genetic material had been deleted, and he was born with birth defects that prevented him from breathing and eating. These would eventually be corrected through several bloody surgeries. But what couldn’t be repaired was his broken genetic code, which would hinder his physical and mental development throughout his life. So while I had been dreaming my American Dream, in some silent instant as Joshua was being knit together in his mother’s womb, something went wrong. In that moment, my dream was destroyed.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Now there’s a check you don’t want to cash. It’s like fire insurance: I’d prefer if my house just didn’t burn down. In my life, I’d made a lot of efforts to minimize my mourning. I worked hard to avoid being poor. I carefully chose my spouse so I wouldn’t be unlucky in love. I exercised so I wouldn’t be sad about how I looked or felt. I even put my faith in Jesus so I wouldn’t have to pay for my sins. I had covered my bases.
One effect of all this nest-feathering was that I had no hope. I didn’t need to have hope. I already had what I wanted—everything that I wanted.
As shocked as I was by Joshua’s birth defects, my son’s physical brokenness isn’t actually unusual. Perhaps it came a little early. But we’ll all be physically broken, sooner or later. We’ll all have our worldly goods stripped away, however great they may be, however much insurance we buy. It’s not a glorious thought, and so we avoid it like we avoid waking from a good dream, hitting snooze as many times as possible because it’s pleasant to dream of happiness here and now.
But when Joshua was born—so undeniably broken—it woke me from my day dream of having my best life now. Parents are only as happy as their unhappiest child, and seeing my son struggle to breathe, eat, or talk, seeing blood gush from his nose and mouth, worrying about whether he’ll make it through high school, work a job, get married or live independently, makes me sick to my stomach.
Yet it also makes me hope. It makes me hope that God will keep His promise. It makes me hope that He blesses the meek and chooses the lowly. It makes me hope that He will make the deaf hear and the blind see. It makes me hope that someday Joshua’s perishable body will be clothed in glorious immortality, and that he and I will talk and laugh together at the feast in the Kingdom of God.
The perfect life I had before Joshua was born was an illusion, an illusion which allowed me to avert my eyes from the reality of this world, in which we are all anxiously avoiding and awaiting the culmination of the Curse. Joshua was born broken, and it broke my heart. But it also broke the spell that had kept me from hoping in the good news, the good news that the Curse has also been broken, and though our lives are broken here and now, the Curse has been broken forevermore, for Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.