Dalene bio picA letter: Of congenital defects and world change

Dear Cameron and Scott

I’m writing this letter because Brett asked me for a post on one thing I want to teach you boys that might change the world. And because I had a conversation this week about being fearfully and wonderfully made. And I think the two might be related.

So this friend and I, we said sure, God says we’re fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). But what if we’re not? What if it’s very fearful and not at all wonderful to be born with Down syndrome or no limbs or epilepsy or cataracts?

Here’s the thing

‘When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.’ (Romans 5:12) Creation fell (Genesis 3, Romans 8) and took with it every kind of intended normal and perfect. Which means that everyone has congenital defects. Everyone is born physically flawed. Sometimes the imperfections just take a while to show up – like cellulite or rheumatoid arthritis or wrinkles or infertility or cancer or untameable hair or tennis elbow or forgetting your wife’s birthday. To varying degrees, at some point, every human being’s physical faculties will let them down. Even if the first time that happens is at death. Babies born with obvious or sensational deformities or deficiencies just highlight this reality. Our humanness – our brokenness – becomes a palpable given rather than an unspoken, unconsciously accepted and largely ignored element of c’est la vie.

And yet still, God – perfect in love, wisdom and power – calls each of us fearfully and wonderfully made.

Cam, God saw the cataracts form on the lenses of your eyes in the obscurity of my womb during a normal happily nauseous pregnancy. (Whether he formed them – or allowed them to form – for me that’s one and the same, but that’s also for another blog post – or book.) They didn’t take him by surprise. It’s true of you as it’s true of every throbbing life he ignites in the darkness, ‘You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous – how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.’ (Psalm 139:13-16)

My boys, the miracle of conception, of matchless fingerprints, of genetic traces in your temperaments, of wholly unique personal journeys – all these and so many more marvels of your creation are the yes-yes-yes to how wonderfully you’ve been made. For sure, all creation suffers under – and perpetuates – the wave of sin that rolls on unstoppable from generation to generation. But even so we are image-bearers of the Creator and still the creation is shot through with his glory. We thirst for redemption, for holiness, and trapped in wrecked bodies we long for eternity and all things made new.

And this is where the world change bit comes in.

It took giving birth to two little boys – unthinkably adored and wholly in need of a Saviour – to get me to wear the bifocals of eternal perspective and earthly urgency. Because all this – the physical and the temporal – will pass away and I need to focus the lens of my heart on what is to come so that I can be more effective in what is. People gripe about Christians being ‘so heavenly minded they’re of no earthly good.’ That’s junk. If your mind is really set on eternity you’ll be a force for seismic change in the here and now. Your priorities will shift and you’ll be free of negligible concerns that might otherwise have consumed you. You’ll also be moved to speak hope in a world of broken bodies and shattered souls.

And because you are fearfully and wonderfully made, God will use each of you in distinctive, remarkable ways, according to your gifts and passions and opportunities, to plough Kingdom ground, and to change the world.

The fearfully-and-wonderfully-made psalm ends with this:

‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.’  (Psalm 139:23-24)

So, to be a world changer? Embrace how God has inimitably moulded you – your gifts, your physical, emotional and intellectual quirks, and your obvious shortcomings. Bow low before him. Surrender your spiritual deficiencies to the scrutiny of the Spirit and as he convicts and forgives and restores, your lives will be different. And so will the world.

All my love to you always,



Twitter: @deereyburn

Blogs: http://growyounginside.com/  and  http://reyburnboys.blogspot.com/

[For another inspiring story on raising your child as a World Changer, meet Ro, Ad and Aaléyah]