“Did you play with other kids at the park today?” I ask my kids over lunch. “Yeah, we made a friend,” my son says, while my daughter chirps, “with a baby!” She is barely bigger than a baby herself. “But,” my son explains, “this baby wasn’t like David. He wasn’t like our baby. This baby had all of his parts. He did not have a little eye and a cleft.”
My heart broke again over David, for the hundredth time, and I felt very sad. “Yes–David doesn’t have all his parts. Sometimes, babies can be born like that. Missing pieces.” My son nods. He gets that part of it. “Mom,” he says, “who did that to them?” Deep breath. “Well, David was made like this. Something happened before he was born,” I explain, “and that is sad, isn’t it?” “Yeah,” he says softly. Satisfied, he flits from metaphysics back to his sandwich.
This is not the first time we’ve discussed David’s disabilities with our older kids, and it surely won’t be the last. Not so different from me, kids need time to think on something. They are thinking about David and his missing parts, yet again. I am thinking about David’s missing parts yet again. It is a familiar groove–a stream notched in my thoughts now. This is the path God has laid for me, that I will ponder the deepest and hardest questions life has, sitting here eating lunch with my kids, holding my baby struggling to take a good breath, feeling otherwise pretty ordinary, small and useless.
For better or for worse, we will be talking about David for the rest of our lives.
My son, who is close to five, knows his brother David is not an ordinary baby. Those are the facts, Jack, as we say. David is not like other babies on the playground. He never will be.
My older son feels that something is not right. He does not miss a beat—and while he cheerfully plays with David and holds David tenderly, he knows something is not right. He wonders who or what is responsible for David’s missing pieces. I do not know if the answer is to say–God did this—or if the answer is to say—sin did this. Maybe it is both. Scripture points to a paradox. God kills, but he also makes life. He makes eyes blind and tongues mute; he restores sight and speech. He strikes some with plagues; he heals lepers. He gives and he takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. I don’t really know why David has missing pieces, and that’s okay. It is not my job to know why. I am released from that burden.
And the sadness. It is not enough to mention that David is different–that something went wrong, and that it seems purposeful, without mentioning the pain. The sadness surrounds us with David. It doesn’t mean we aren’t happy, or pleased at his accomplishments or thrilled by his very life. But the sadness of it sits under all of those other things. I don’t know how David can be a source of joy and pain. And I am released from that burden too–I don’t have to know how or why.
David Samuel was baptized recently, and as Anglicans we place babies naked in a baptismal font. We chose the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday, a feast day where we remember John the Baptist baptizing our Lord. Our priest says Jesus didn’t get baptized so much as he baptized the water. Jesus didn’t need to be cleansed in the waters of baptism; Jesus cleansed the baptismal waters for us. The water got “Jesused” and is effective in our baptisms to make us new creations, echoing the teachings of Saint Ignatius and Justin Martyr. Tertullian teaches us that the baptism of Christ echoes the primordial waters of the creation narrative; Christ enters the baptismal waters and resets creation, and life springs from washing in the water.
David, through his baptism, is in union with Christ. David is reset in his spirit and his body to a new song–a renewed song. David is a glorified baby in a very regular and especially broken little body, but the glory is there. The glory is Christ and his nearness. And he is very near to David now. I don’t know exactly how this works, and that’s okay. It’s not my job to know why. I am released yet again, from this burden too.
Our priest preached the other day on Jesus healing the man born blind found in John 9. This account of Christ healing the blind man is basically written in neon for me now. Like a billboard all flashing, or a guy on the street corner waving a sign all crazy. Something says, Pay Attention! Look Here! So, I do.
In a weird turn of events, Christ anointed the eyes of the blind man with mud made from his spit. He then tells him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam, which means “sent.” The blind man’s family didn’t even recognize him once he was healed, and, honestly, I think it’s meant to get a laugh out of us. His friends and family stand around arguing–surely–this isn’t the blind guy we know! It’s me, the man cries–really, it’s me guys! But they are still suspicious.
The blind man became a new man in the Pool of Siloam. He was sent to the pool by Christ and sent from the pool by Christ. The blind man went one way and came back another way–surely Christ had ordained both the coming and the going.
Under questioning from the teachers of the law, the blind man says “one thing I do know, is that though I was blind, now I see…Do you also want to become his disciples?”
The blind man gets the last laugh. The man who was laughed at, and left alone, with no one to help him in and out of the pool for healing–seems like his family or those incredulous friends might have been too busy for that–gets the last laugh in the story God writes. The story God writes is so delightful that surely those who see it must become his disciples.
Does God make low so that he can lift high? Does he make some eyes see nothing–David’s– so other eyes–us, those who witness God’s delightful story—can see everything through the power of God, and become his disciples? I don’t know exactly how this works, and that’s okay. It’s not my job to know why. I am released from this burden too.
My hope for David is not that he is invited to many birthday parties, or included on the playground someday. That would be nice, but those are small potatoes. My hope for David, like for the blind man, does not hang on the recognition of his family or his friends. It does not hang on the believability of his story when held up to the scientific method. My hope for David is in the resurrection of the Man of Sorrows. My hope for David is in his baptism. My hope for David is that this heaven and this earth are passing away, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and the voice of God will boom out over all of us little people with our little pains, and he will laugh a big, booming laugh, and declare over us that his dwelling place is with us. The dwelling place of God with man. The dwelling place of God is with David Samuel. And he gets the last, delightful laugh.