Life is Worth Living: The Resilience of the Human Person

One of the privileges our modern age demands is the right to declare that certain lives are not worth living. In utero testing sometimes reveals the possibility or even the certainty of birth defects. Abortion is often recommended to mothers who carry “defective”  children and  sometimes that recommendation becomes pressure.

And yet there are so many stories of people who have overcome enormous obstacles and who live full and rich lives. Some are missing limbs, others are blind, still others struggle with disease. Some have overcome poverty and injustice, others paralyzing accidents or great tragedies. And they are living witnesses to us that we ought never be the judge of what lives are worthwhile and what lives are not worth living. It is  true that none of us would wish to be born missing limbs, or blind or in poverty, or with chronic conditions. But we must reverence those who are, learn to appreciate their gifts, and summon them to courage and greatness.

We must declare with great certitude that there is no such thing as a life not worth living. We say this not as some politically correct slogan but rather with firm conviction that every human life is willed by God. We were willed before we were made for the Scriptures say, “Before I ever  formed you in the womb I knew and I appointed you…” (Jer 1:4). None of us is an accident nor are our gifts and apparent deficits mistakes. We exist as we are, the way we are for a purpose, a purpose for us and for others. We all have an irreplaceable role in God’s kingdom and show forth aspect of His glory uniquely. Every human life is intended and is worth living because God says so by the very fact that we exist.

The following videos show forth the resilience of the human person and give powerful witness to the fact that life is worth living. You may not have time to view them all now but I hope you’ll come back and see them all. That is why I post this over a weekend. Despite trials and setbacks all these individuals show forth the power and glory of God working though our human struggles. We might not choose the struggles they have for ourselves but we need to see that their lives are full and proclaim the dignity and resilience of the human person.

Here is the story of John Bramblitt who, though blind is a fine painter indeed.

Here is the story of Abby & Brittany, Conjoined twins born in 1990. The title of the video is “Joined for Life.” Abby says at the end of the video, “The best thing in the world about being conjoined twins is that there’s always someone to talk to and you’re never alone.”

Here’s the story of Nick Vujicic a man with no arms or legs who is a motivational speaker. He likes to say that he went from having a life without limbs to a life without limits.

I have posted this video of Patrick Henry Hughes before. Blind and crippled from birth he manifestes a profound musical ability.

Disability or Different Ability?

Allow me to begin with a parable. Every now and then I take a perfectly good paper clip and I untwist and reconfigure it for some purpose. Once I used untwisted paperclips to hang Christmas ornaments on the tree. Another time I untwisted and fashioned a paperclip into a hook to keep my file drawer from rolling open. Now if paperclips could see and think and talk they might be horrified and saddened to see a fellow paperclip so deformed. And perhaps I could try and explain that these “deformed” paperclips were actually not a disaster, they were quite useful to me in their “deformed” condition. But alas, the paperclips cannot understand this, they just look with sadness and horror on the deformed paperclips. After all how can you expect a paperclip to understand something other than clipping paper? They are just paperclips after all and can’t understand deeper things beyond the world they know, which is clipping paper.

I have often wondered if this isn’t something of the truth about us in our understanding of things such as disability, birth defects, and personal challenges of some of our fellow human family members. As we look upon the disabled, the handicapped, those who struggle with deformity, mental illnes, profound and/or mild mental disability we are often moved to sadness and even horror. And we easily ask, “Why does God allow this?!” We quickly conclude that such people’s lives are unhappy or that they will never reach full potential.

And yet I wonder if we really know what we are talking about. Who of us can really say what our own purpose in God’s plan is let alone anyone else’s? We are like paperclips in a drawer who know only one thing. Our minds are too small for us to ever understand the very special and significant role that even the most “impaired” in our world play. Perhaps in heaven we will realize what an indispensable and central role role they had in God’s plan and victory.   Of all the paperclips in the drawer some of the most useful to me are the ones I twist and refashion.

A knowledge too high – I pray you will accept my humble example of a paperclip. I mean no disrespect to the human person in comparing us to paperclips. We are surely more precious and complicated and God does not glibly use us like paperclips. But my example must be humble to illustrate what is for us a knowledge too high for us to grasp:  the knowledge of the dignity and essential purpose of every human being to God and his plan. Our judgments in this matter cannot be much better than a paperclip in a drawer compared to God’s omniscient wisdom. If it is absurd for us to think a paperclip could understand our ways is it really much less absurd to think we can understand all God’s ways? And if we cannot understand his ways, why do we make judgments as to another person’s role, usefulness, beatitude or status? We look down on the poor but scripture says we should look up to them and that God is especially close to the poor, the suffering, the brokenhearted and the humble. Scripture says he uses the lowly to humble the proud. And yet still we so easily look with pity on those we consider disadvantaged.

A Story – Over twenty years ago I worked for a year with the profoundly mentally disabled. They lay in beds and wheelchairs often with little muscle control. None of them could talk and only a few could engage in rudimentary communication. There was one man in his forties who had never emerged from the fetal position. He  lay in a large crib his tiny yet clearly adult body curled up like a newborn babe. And on his face the most angelic smile that almost never diminished. He had been baptized as an infant and to my knowledge could not have sinned. I looked with marvel each visit upon innocence and a beatific countenance. What an astonishing gift he was. And who knows but God why he was this way? But God DOES know and had very important reasons. There was something central and indispensable in this man’s existence. Some role only he could fill. Apparently I was not able to fill that role. He was not disabled, he was differently abled, uniquely abled for something  different than the ordinary. Looking upon him I had little doubt that he was directly in touch with God in a way that I never had been for his radiant face infallibly conveyed that. With our human eyes we can be saddened even appalled. But we’ll understand it better by an by. One day in the great by and by we may well be surprised to learn that the most central and critical people in God’s plan were the most humble and often the most broken and that we would never have made it without them.

This video depicts the paradox of disability that sometimes shines through to teach us that we do not see the whole picture. A child was born with significant defects but suddenly as he  grew remarkable gifts showed forth. Just a little reminder from God, a glimpse of what God sees,  that the disabled are to him  differently and wonderfully abled. Meet Patrick Henry Hughes.

The Ponderings and Proclamations of a Pro-Life Pilgrim

I just returned from the March for Life which takes place right in my own neighborhood and had the opportunity to ponder once again the mystery and dignity of Human life. I spent the last 20 minutes of the march interacting with the “pro-Choice” demonstrators on the steps of the Supreme Court and I gave them the “come to Jesus” talk. 🙂 More on that at the end. But for now, just a few thoughts on the mystery of our existence.

It is a true fact that from our point of view life begins at conception. That is when we can “measure” life’s existence and when we begin to interact with human life and must respect it. But, in a way I want to be more radical with you and say that life begins “before” conception. We are rather materialistic, mechanistic, and scientific at times and thus we miss the glorious fact that our lives cannot simply be assessed or measured in a test tube or “seen” with earthly eyes, or even measured by time.

Why do I say that life begins “before” conception and why do I use quotes around “before”? Well, first of all, the Scriptures attest to fact that God knew of us before he made us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”(Jer 1:4). And psalm 139 attests; “Every one of my days was written in your book before one of them ever  came to be.” (Psalm 139:16). What this means pure and simple is that no human person is an accident or a surprise to God. No one, even those born under less than ideal circumstances, is inconvenient or unwanted by God. Every human person is sacred for they are willed by God, loved by God, created intentionally by God not as a whim but as part of a plan stretching back before the foundation of the world. Every human person (even my enemy) is God’s “yes”  to the world.

When I say life begins  “before” conception why do I put “before” in quotes? I do not mean to say that we existed in heaven or someplace else before we were conceived here. But what I mean is that there really is no “before” with God. God dwells outside time and transcends it. Past and future are equally present to God who lives in the fullness of time where everything is now, every thing, every age is present. For us, time unfolds in chronological sequence. For God everything just IS. God is not waiting for your tomorrow. your tomorrow has always been present to him. This is why God can say “Before I formed you I knew you.” This is why all our days are written in his book before they come to be for us.

Ah, the mystery of human life caught up in the mystery of God! We cannot grasp our dignity fully but only seem small facets of it. Too wonderful for us this knowledge, this mystery is too deep to express. As I saw thousands upon thousands at the march today I pondered that the mystery of their life is caught up in eternity and that God knows them each through and through, not a hair of their head was un-numbered. There too were the police guarding us and preserving good order. They too, known by God through and through, before they were ever formed in their mother’s womb.

I praise you Lord because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. …For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. .. your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me  were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Ps 139, selected verses).

And then I came to our opponents on the steps of the Supreme Court. They were small in number but with that distinctive blue and white sign: “Keep Abortion legal.” These too, I thouhgt are known and loved by God from before the foundation of the world. Sadly misled but loved.

And then it occurred to me that at  the heart of their dignity was to hear the truth, the truth that would set them free. “Why not?” I thought. “Am I not here to influence, to change hearts? At least plant seeds?”  One by one I went to each of them I could get to. I look them in the eye and appealed to their conscience. They were chanting “Ho, Ho! Hey, Hey! Roe v. Wade is Here to Stay!” I stood before each an looked in their eyes and said in a clear but low voice that they could hear: “But you know it’s wrong. Deep in your heart you know it is wrong. You know.”  It was interesting. In years past I tried to debate the issue with them and all we did was argue. But this year the Lord said, “Speak only to their conscience.”

Some of the looks I got back were powerful. Some were troubled looks, some neutral, one gave me a knowing look as if I  (no not I, the Lord) had connected. It was brief with each but powerful. I didn’t have to win. All I had to do was to respect their dignity to hear the truth and let God speak to their conscience.  He made them to know the truth and  I pray that even one of them really heard the Lord. It was a moment in time that was written in God’s book before it ever came to be. Your prayers will make it fruitful.

Fasting for the Unborn and the Planet

footOne of the main themes in the documentary No Impact Man (which I referred to in an earlier post) is the family’s daily struggle to give up the things they are used to, do away with the luxuries, and do without the conveniences.

That got me thinking about what I could fast from during 40 Days for Life (forty days of peaceful prayer and fasting to end abortion). At the time I saw the film, I hadn’t yet decided what to fast from, but this movie gave me so many great ideas. Buying new clothes? Beef? Individually packaged treats? My car?

One thing that impressed me was that the man and his wife decided to conserve electricity by no longer using elevators. Picture walking up nine flights of stairs with three bags of groceries and a toddler, and you get the idea. So I decided that I too would refrain from using elevators for the next forty days, if not beyond.

My trip to the tenth floor is certainly strenuous, but with each step I can pray for a mother who is considering ending her child’s life by abortion and I can also feel good knowing that I’m not draining electricity from the grid. If you’d like to fast or do something that is both spiritually powerful and eco-friendly, follow the link for more ideas from the No Impact Man blog.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chron 7:14

Joy is from God

There is something deeply mysterious about joy. It is deeper than mere laughter, it is more than an emotion. Joy seems to combine both serenity and excitement along with a touch of humor or laughter. It seems to come as pure gift, emerging sometimes in an instant, sometimes as a gentle tide welling up. Perhaps its context is good news, or a humorous moment, Perhaps it exists with the satisfaction of a completed task or a reunion after an absence. It does not seem to be a learned response at all. It just is, it’s just there! Even the youngest infants show joy. It comes with the soul and is there from the start.

What is joy? It is the gift of God. We can only receive it, not cause it. It is gift.

I know that, in places, the Scriptures seem to command joy as though we could cause it. But notice those same Scriptures put that command in a context. For example, we are to not to “joy” but  to “rejoice.” That is, we are to recall and revisit the joy the Lord has given us. Elsewhere the Scriptures say “Be joyful” but then add “in the Lord.” For joy is of God and comes from him.

Joy is an unmistakable foretaste of heaven. It leaps down from heaven and draws us up there for a time. For the Christian, joy should grow as we journey ever closer to that place where “joys will never end.”

Joy to you as you watch this remarkable video and glimpse the joy of God on infant faces:

  • Ex ore infantium, Deus, perfecisti laudem
  • (From the mouths of infants you have perfected praise O God)
  • Psalm 8:3


The Dignity of Every Human Life

The following video details the life of Eliot Hartman Mooney. Eliot was diagnosed with a rare disease that made it unlikely he would even make it to birth. Against all odds he made his appearance and taught his family and friends many important lessons without ever uttering one word.

I have no doubt that it is difficult to raise a disabled child. But every human life is important and every human person has something to say, some glory of God to manifest.

The less I say about this video the better, I’d just get in the way of its powerful and important message: