One of my favorite blogs to read is The Blessing of Verity. In reading her post this morning, I was convicted that I may have unintentionally created a misconception in what I was trying to say in my post about institutionalization. I'm concerned that I may have communicated one of a couple of things... that because it seems that H.'s diagnosis of mental delay is incorrect, life is good and we can move on knowing that we dodged a bullet, or... that we don't accept into our family children who have mental delays and will work, work, work to make them as "normal" as possible.
If this is what came across then I have done a disservice because this was certainly not my intent and I want to speak very carefully in case I have. It really doesn't matter to us whether H.'s mental delay diagnosis is correct or not. She is our daughter and the way God created her. Everyone has value and God loves all His children and in the end, this is what really matters. We sometimes make an idol of high academic achievement and that idol blinds us to what is really important.
What makes me angry is when a child is not allowed to live up to his or her potential, either through outright neglect or because the adults in a child's life have decided they are not worth bothering with and are ignored. This is unacceptable and is essentially saying that it is only the brightest children who are worthy of time, effort, and affection. We confuse the worth of what a child can do with who the child is.
This confusion plays out in different ways. The most obvious is that children who have the words, "mental delay" or "mentally retarded" in their file often wait... and wait and wait and wait for a family. The world sees and rewards outward achievement. It can be very difficult to stop seeing the way the world sees and begin to see the way God sees. It is counter-cultural in a way that makes a person stand out, and not always in a good way. Adopting a child whom the world sees as less can cause odd reactions in others. Because it is such a radical choice, the people who do it are either treated as saints or as someone to be avoided because their presence makes others too uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable because these families are questioning the status quo and what is really important. So many people work so hard and are so busy with the externals, that to be confronted with someone who has chosen a different path and still seems content (or more content) with life is disconcerting. It can be disturbing to realize that what you thought was so important isn't really important after all.
While we have experienced some of the saint or pariah phenomena ourselves, I don't consider us as having made terribly radical choices. (NOT compliment fishing here. We are certainly not saints and still feel quite normal.) Maybe it's because I continue to live in my happy bubble where I assume everyone is like me, or it's because the women I admire and want to be like when I grow up have chosen even more radical paths and my path seems pretty tame in comparison. It's all about who you hang with, huh?
Dare to see people through God's eyes. Dare to ask what is really important. Dare to make radical choices. Dare to be different. Dare to not blindly follow the herd. Dare to make a real difference in another person's life.