by Rev. David Brinkmeyer
The doctor leaned back in his chair, having completed my wife’s ultrasound. “The ultrasound shows that your baby has a heart defect often associated with Down syndrome,” he said bluntly.
We had been directed to the fetal-imaging clinic by our obstetrician, but the possibility that there could be something wrong with our unborn child was far from our minds. As we sat in the dimly lit examining room, my wife, Jenny, and I wept.
Over the next several weeks we learned that our child did indeed have Down syndrome, and a serious heart defect known as an atrioventricular septal defect. The two valves that normally separate the heart’s upper and lower chambers had formed as one large valve, and the part of the heart that separates the left and right sides did not form correctly. Our first reaction as parents was to ask ourselves, “How did this happen?”
We asked our doctor if there was anything we did that might have contributed to our son’s Down syndrome. Perhaps it was some prescription medication we had taken or an undiagnosed genetic problem in one or both of us that had caused his disabilities? The doctor repeatedly assured us there was nothing we had done to cause this; yet, we could not stop believing that it was somehow our fault.
My wife and I had heavy hearts during the three months leading up to the birth. The uncertainty of the future at times was overwhelming. At those times I often turned to God’s Word. One morning while working in my office, I read John 9:1–3, “As [Jesus] passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (ESV).
I suddenly realized that what the disciples concluded about the blind man was what my wife and I had assumed also. The disciples believed that this man’s handicap was a curse, but Jesus showed them that this one man’s curse could be a blessing to many. The Son of God displayed His miraculous work through healing the man born blind. If He could do it for the blind man, He could do it for our child also, and that is exactly what God did!
He showed His miraculous work through the healing of our son. The list of miracles that God performed in our son’s life is remarkable. It certainly was a miracle that we found out about our son’s heart defect so early in the pregnancy. Joshua was born without complications, and his heart worked well enough for him to come home for a few weeks. When Joshua was three weeks old, God worked through our surgeon and the staff at the children’s hospital to repair his heart. This is perhaps the most impressive miracle that God performed, but there are many others. God blessed me with a caring and supportive congregation who strengthened us during the time when my duties as a father and husband took precedence over all other responsibilities.
Tragic as that diagnosis was, God revealed His glory to us through abundant miracles. The greatest miracle in Joshua’s life occurred just two weeks after his birth, when the Holy Spirit called Joshua to be His child through the waters of Holy Baptism. A year later Joshua is a healthy one-year-old who at present does not need any further surgery. Instead of blaming ourselves for our son’s unique condition, we celebrate God’s gift of healing, for He has displayed His mighty works through our son, Joshua.