April 15th will be the day this year when we celebrate the resurrection from the dead of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! It is a day when we are reminded that “because He lives, we, too, shall live.” It is a time when we take joy in the new, eternal life that is ours because of the empty tomb.
The celebration of new life will have special significance for many in our church family this year. As we celebrate new life in Jesus outside the tomb, there have been several of our Trinity families who have had children and are celebrating God’s gift of new life outside the womb.
Jennifer and I are among those families. On Transfiguration Sunday at 3:36 a.m., God blessed us with the birth of a baby boy, Benjamin James Heitshusen. He is beautiful and we are ecstatic!
But that joy would turn to uncertainty as we would get some surprising news. Benjamin had Down syndrome.
Some of you may wonder what this condition is and what it will mean. I want to answer some of those basic questions so that you can understand more of what is happening with Ben and our family and so that you won’t feel fear or disappointment for us.
Down syndrome gives Benjamin “more” than others, literally. Whereas most people have 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent), Ben has 47. That extra chromosome gives the body “conflicting” information when the body needs instructions on how the body needs to be structured, etc. The severity is varied but there is a slowed learning and developmental abilities in almost all (most characterized from mild to moderate). Even more frequently there often may be speech, hearing, sight, heart, intestinal, and lung problems.
Although it is too early to tell how many of these issues and their severity will affect Ben, we know that we will get through it with God’s help.
We also want to share some other characteristics of Down syndrome people that are often overlooked. An unscientific look by parents with Down syndrome children indicates that they are above average in being compassionate, social, enthusiastic, friendly, caring, curious, affectionate, in their sense of humor, and in their perseverance.
In other words, God has given us a very special gift in Benjamin. We praise and thank Him for this wonderful gift of life and we look forward to spending our time with him as God uses us to touch him and him to touch us.
That is the gift God has given us in Jesus Christ, too. We tend to see the uncertainties of life as being undesirable – especially when the outcome might be in question or may be more difficult. We would rather have a controlled, manageable, known situation that is easy to work with and which fits into our own reality.
But God sometimes blesses us with the exact opposite. He allows struggles, hardships and uncertainties to touch us and our structured, detailed world, but always promises to see us through the difficulties and to bless us more than we could imagine through them. (See Romans 8:28)
That’s exactly what happened on the cross of Calvary, too. It was not a path that was desirable because it included pain, suffering, and even death. But God used it to accomplish so much more than we could imagine – our very salvation. He gave us a new life to celebrate through that wonderful gift. He gave us the surprising gift of life where there was only death expected.
May you see in your unexpected surprises – no matter what they are – God’s gift. He has promised to work good through them and will bless you beyond your imagination. The empty cross and tomb are proof of that.
Take joy in the new life God has given in Jesus and what that means for your blessed life here and now. In Jesus’ Name; Amen.
This article was in the April TrinityDowntown newsletter for Trinity Lutheran in Orlando, FL