The Family with a Handicapped Child and the Congregation

Translated by MRS. G. RAVENSBERGEN

Taken from the Clarion (1980) Vol.29, No 10,

When speaking about a family we usually refer to a couple of parents with one or several children. Two young people love each other, are brought together by God, and decide to unite themselves for life. They request the blessing of the Lord upon this marriage. Sooner or later the Lord often gives a special blessing to this union resulting in a time of joyful expectation. The Lord commences His creative work and starts to form this life from the beginning, the fertilized egg, as His handicraft. See Psalm 139. Slowly, but surely, the unformed mass is shaped into a child, and on a certain day-He has completed His work, and causes the child to be born. Now there is joy in the family which has increased in number, and there is also happiness in the Church since it is built up by this means.

God uses human help to assist mother and child for the process of birth during these often difficult hours. At that moment it can happen that with one glance the doctor makes the terrifying discovery: this is a Mongoloid child, or: this child is lacking a hand or a foot or something like that. Perhaps a nurse has to fight against death in the case of a baby that has turned blue and threatens to suffocate due to lack of oxygen, or the alarmingly white baby that appears to be lifeless. The battle is won and the child remains alive. However, later it becomes evident that the child has sustained brain injury and its development proceeds more slowly than that of other children. This will result in a struggle by the parents of that now increased family to practise their confession and to accept everything, also this, out of God's Fatherly hand (Lord's Day 10). It is a great blessing when they are able to experience that peace and surrender.

The consistory, including the minister, as well as the congregation, have to fight that battle. For they also have received from the Lord a handicapped brother or sister no matter how small, and they also have to accept it as it is.

We often hear: 'Why, oh, why does God let such children be born. If God is love, why then did He not give a well-formed child?" The reply to that is usually that we are to let the whys and wherefores be. God has His own wise intentions with it. This is indeed true. However, have you ever stopped to think that God actually created these children to be like that? Some people say: "God does not really want this," and the devil gets the blame. The result of this would be that handicapped children are no creatures of God but of Satan. Let us hold on to Psalm 139. He wove every human babe in its mother's womb from the very start. Would God then forget a small piece if He made the eyes, but no sight? Or ears, but no hearing? Did He forget something when a hole was left in the little heart or a hand was missing? Was His work sloppy when He made the chromosome pattern different from the usual one? Or did He forget a few brain cells? We would not dare to give an affirmative answer. But what then? Why is it that to the one He gave so great a brain and to the other such a limited one? Why is the one physically in perfect shape and the other never able to walk and look after himself?

We believe that the members of the Church are living stones of the Kingdom of God. The Church is built by them. If we keep this image of the stones in mind and think of the beautiful buildings that churches often are, then we know that the walls are erected on the foundations with straight, perfect bricks. Exceptions are cornerstones and, for example, the bricks at the windows where often half or at least a piece has to be removed. Also the slanted roof involves fitting and measuring, chipping and breaking off pieces to get them all to fit. A normal, straight stone does not fit in there, so they have to be damaged or the church cannot be finished. It is the same with living stones, a little bit off this one, a little different form for that one, etc., or they will not fit. The building of the Church of Jesus Christ must be finished, for otherwise He cannot return on the clouds.

The conclusion drawn from this imagery is: we need our handicapped people and they need us. Not merely accept, but need. The hand cannot say to the foot: "I do not need you," for everyone needs everyone. This can be a great comfort both to the parents and to the Church. All of them count, also the handicapped ones. They did not choose God, but God chose them, also them. A simple stone with a piece chipped off, but without that stone there would be a gap; now there is a perfect entity. If we sincerely begin to understand this, then our acceptance of the handicapped will be totally different. Then our fellow brothers and sisters will bring up their children in such a way that they also know that these handicapped children are, not a senseless, but worthwhile part of the communion of saints. Then the parents will realize that they have received a child from the Lord accompanied by a difficult mandate. But then it can even be an honour to be allowed to bring up such a child for God. In spite of all the remaining sorrow, their joy will prevail, knowing that they also may assist in building up the Realm of God, despite sin, of which the handicapped are also a result. For these sins, however, Christ gave His life, whereby He bought us all with His blood.

Translated by: MRS. G. RAVENSBERGEN

(with permission from the Society, "Het Koningskind.")