God has already taught our family much. Our daughter’s rare condition does not make her enigmatic, but precious (Genesis 41:38; Proverbs 31:10). Her missing segments don’t make her incomplete, but our family would be incomplete without her. She is and ever will be, as her middle name Dorothy suggests, a gift from God.
A few days after she was born, our daughter was transported by medical helicopter to the children’s hospital in Little Rock. Two weeks later in the NICU, she was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder caused by missing segments of her 15th chromosome. She is, medically speaking, “missing a piece.”
The combination of advancements in prenatal genetic screening and the ubiquity of abortion has led nations to celebrate the disappearance (read: eradication) of certain congenital conditions. As long as the tragedy of legalized and normalized eugenics continues, it is possible that children with genetic disorders will become more common among Christians—who view all children as made in the image of God and gifts from Him—than in the general population. Since the Roman Empire, it has been the practice of faithful Christians to rescue the “weak” and “frail” children discarded by the pagan world (Craven 2010).
Congenital conditions are not the only reason for special education. But if the prevalence of children with disabilities among Christians rises relative to the general population, special education will increasingly become the exclusive concern of the Christian community.
What kind of education do I hope my daughter can receive? And why is my hope rooted in my faith?
Bearing the Image of God
Christians should deeply care about special education because all people bear the image of God. As Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck once wrote, “But among all creatures, only man is the image of God, the highest and richest revelation of God, and therefore head and crown of the entire creation” (qtd. in Hoekema 1986, 12; cf. Genesis 1:26-31). God continues to be intimately involved in the creation of each person who is formed, knitted together, and fearfully and wonderfully made by God, as Psalm 139:13-14 makes clear.
My wife and I take comfort in the knowledge that our daughter’s condition is not the product of a random transcription error, but that she is known by God, precisely and purposefully created “that the works of God might be displayed” in her (John 9:3). We believe that her condition can only be explained as coming from God’s hand, and since it comes from His hand, it can only be for our good (Psalm 119:71; Jeremiah 29:11) and for his glory (Psalm 118:23).
Christians who affirm the Imago Dei cannot but be deeply concerned for special education, for what reason could we justify the training up of some image bearers but not others? We learn from Genesis 1 that each image bearer is endowed with authority over all creation, created in fellowship with God and each other, and commanded to be responsible for filling the earth with God’s glory. What do our special education practices teach our children and profess to an unbelieving world about our reliance on the sovereignty of God and the belief in the dignity of all people?