I’ll never forget some of the comments we received when we announced that we were adopting a child with DS. “People with DS are always so sweet!” “They can grow up and become “normal” adults just like anyone else.”
I recognized my own nature through the words of others as the Lord worked on my heart’s motivations. What if Leo wasn’t sweet? Or didn’t grow up and become “successful,” as defined by the world’s standards? What if he is hard to love and it feels more like suffering than joy? Would these be contingencies that would prevent me from seeing Leo as worthy of love and honor?
I felt the grief pile on yesterday as I prepared for another hard conversation with Leo’s teacher. Another day Leo would be suspended because of his aggression. 3 years home yet still facing the same aggression.
Leo’s teachers are worn and honestly, I get it. I wondered if I would be able to advocate well for him. Would his teachers see him as more than his aggression? Would I remember what makes Leo worthy of love and dignity on the hard days too?What if he never grows out of this violent behavior? Would he still be worthy to be fought for and seen as precious, more than his negative behaviors?
I began worrying what his future might hold if people couldn’t see the hurting child underneath. I sat, wrestling with these uncertainties as I turned on the news. I saw a picture of George Floyd’s face on the screen. As the verdict was reached, I remembered so many of the responses to this horrific tragedy. “If he had been compliant, this would have never happened.” “He was just a criminal with a bad reputation.”
“Just a criminal.” I couldn’t get it out of my mind as I thought about his family grieving his life. The question circulated in my mind again. “What makes George Floyd, like Leo, worthy of compassion and dignity?”
Would the same people that label George Floyd as a criminal also see Leo as his aggression and his track record at school? Would these behaviors be what one day marks him too?
More grief and fatigue set in as I thought about the black community, remembering the pain and the collective trauma. Would my responses to their pain prove that people are more than what they do, that they are human beings, made in God’s image? That they are worthy, not because of their clean record but because God made them and is sustaining their beating hearts.
I had no idea how symbolic Leo’s middle name, Worth, would be on this day. Because while the world discriminates between good and bad, and sees people through reputations and labels, God’s kingdom is different. Leo’s struggles won’t get the final word. Because of Jesus’s shed blood, no criminal background, no addiction, no stronghold will be able to separate us from his scandalous love.
All who take refuge in God won’t be defined by their brokenness. They will be marked by God’s forgiveness, cleansing power and His acceptance. Adopted and treasured.
Leo’s life matters. George Floyd’s life mattered. God help us to see people the way you do. May our words and deeds reflect the gospel that we believe. That your grace is greater than all of our sins. That people are worthy of dignity.
“But God shows his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”