Not Your Average Joe

Imagine that years from now, you’re a parent. More specifically – you’re a mother. You’ve carried your baby, and loved it since the day you saw that pink strip on the pregnancy test. You might have almost accidentally dropped the test in the toilet at the sight of it. That inexplicable joy at finally being able to conceive life within your womb – it overwhelms you. The future holds so much potential! Your baby could be a soldier, a teacher, a missionary, a restaurateur; anything, really. A few months into your pregnancy you go to the doctor’s for a routine check-up and after running a few tests, the doctor comes back with some unwelcome results: your baby isn’t going to live past a couple years outside the womb. This news shocks you into silence. You don’t know what to do, what to say, or how to act – you only know what to feel. And in that moment, you can only feel heartbreak; painful anguish at the thought of birthing life into the world, only to have that life be cut short decades before it can ever be fulfilled. The doctor tells you that you have two options: carry the baby to full term, or abort the baby and spare it the pain it could ultimately suffer at the hands of a rare disease.

 

Days of wearing out your bedroom floor with worry finally bring you to a conclusion: you’re going to keep the baby. Friends and family members ask, “Why? Why keep the baby if it’s just going to die anyway? And besides, the pain that the baby would go through – why would you put your child through that?” But you don’t pay them any attention; You’re keeping this baby. And every day after that decision, you fall in love with your baby even more. You dance around your living room, in an attempt to give your baby at least one dance. You read books to your baby by the lampshade, trying to read him just one more page; one more story that he may not be able to hear later. You breathe in the sunlight on a quiet day, trying to drink in what he may not ever be able to feel on his own. You create special moments with him, moments that assure you that you’re giving him something. And every day you have with him breaks your heart even more, because one day more with him is one day closer to an empty crib.

 

I don’t know this type of feeling. I can only imagine. And if the mere imagination of this all hurts my own heart, I’m sure that this hurt is hundred-fold in the hearts people who actually experience this. We’re all going to die one day. That’s a given. It’s the matter of when that one day is that we are not privy to. Sometimes however, life is too hard and we take matters into our own hands. This is a terrible loss.

 

In high school, I had a friend named Joe. Now, Joe might have been a commonplace name, but he was everything but normal. He was extraordinarily unique in every way. His intellect was sharp, his creativity was endless, and his compassion was overflowing. He had little quirks that made him uniquely him – like the way he had to wear something red everyday, the way he scoffed and yet laughed at the same time, or the satisfied look on his face whenever someone was shocked to hear Joe, a seemingly Caucasian male, claim Japanese heritage as his own. He drew doodles and sketches, liked taking hikes and being in nature, and made short movies with friends. I struck up a friendship with him in my third year of high school and I always looked forward to our conversations. He was the type of person that once you were conversing with, he gave his full attention and was actively engaged not just in the words that were being exchanged – but in you. I’ll never forget a certain conversation I had with him that to this day, is still imprinted into my memory. This particular conversation took place in our high school computer lab, typing up an assignment. The sun was streaming in and we could see that the trees were windblown; it was a perfect summer day. We talked of unimportant things, like how we hated our teacher and of course, our assignment. Then, our seemingly ordinary conversation turned toward the ethereal. I had just recently experienced a huge conversion and was intrigued to hear his thoughts on the subject. In my three years at the school, I found that it wasn’t exactly looked favorably upon to talk about the existence of God, or a belief in Him. Hence, I was excited that I was having a conversation with someone that actually wanted to talk about religion!

 

“So…do you believe in God?” I asked hesitantly.

He scoffed, “Well, yeah! Don’t you see me sitting here, talking to you?”

“….Yes. But what does that have to do with anything?”

“Look around why don’t you? There are trees, and rivers, and billions of people, and me and you sitting in this computer lab talking to each other. And everything works and lives in sync with each other, complements each other even! Our world is perfect! How could all of this simply be two atoms colliding into one another to coincidentally create all of this perfection? This world is too perfect to be coincidence. No…this is God.”

 

And I just sat there, astonished that this unassuming, seemingly average fifteen year old boy could sum it up so perfectly. He was right. The world was perfectly perfect. I began looking at nature differently. I saw the trees outside my house and would think of the birds that take rest on its branches, the insects that crawled up its trunk, the water that its roots drank up that enabled it to grow. And I began to look at myself as blessed, that I was given the honor of being able to live on this earth, to make my home under those same branches, to walk the same ground as those insects, to drink the same water that ensured my survival.

 

“…you have made him little less than a god, you have crowned him with the glory and beauty, made him lord of the works of your hands, put all things under his feet, sheep and cattle, all of them, even the wild beasts, birds in the sky, fish in the sea, when he makes his way across the ocean.” Psalms 8:5-8

 

A year and a half after our conversation, Joe committed suicide. He had been struggling with something that none of us could have ever fathomed. This loss shocked the community and school, and many showed up to his funeral to remember the boy with the ordinary name and extraordinary character. That day, through the shock and sorrow that I felt, I also found myself disappointed. Disappointment in myself, that I didn’t know what he had been going through. Disappointed that he felt he had been pushed so far up the ledge that the only way down was death. Disappointed that this boy with the ordinary name, extraordinary character, and an uncanny ability to see perfection in the world around him failed to see the perfection in himself.

 

Recently I had the opportunity to talk to Joe’s mother. And we talked about her son. And though her son’s life was short – she was grateful for the time that she did have with him. Trading memories with her, I knew she wouldn’t have traded those moments with him for anything in the world. Yes, he died – as we all will do. But that does not make him any less than he was. The impact that his life had on his family and the people around him is precious, and purposeful. His life was for a reason, just like that baby with very little time to live. Every life is precious and purposeful – no matter the length or quality. And if you were to ask that mother with the dying child if she would trade those moments she had – she wouldn’t. She’d do it all over again, just to hear her baby’s breath, feel him on her chest, and kiss his face and neck. Maybe that baby’s purpose was to bring joy into someone’s life, or perhaps it’s to give someone companionship – who knows? Only God does. But that baby’s life is not wasted with death; it’s fulfilled with life.

 

If you’re dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts, or feelings of unworthiness or purposelessness – please know that you are loved. You are loved by a merciful Father, you are loved by your family, your friends – you are loved. And sometimes it may seem as if the entire world is against you, but there’s so much of the world to see and the potential of perfection lays at your feet. You have a purpose. All of us do, but only you can find out what God has in plan for your future. I can only pray that you let Him help you be molded into the person He meant for you to be. I pray that you live your life to its fullest potential and reach everything your heart desires. God will help make your desires come true, in one way or another. But you have to be open to it. So I’m begging you, please, please be open to it.

 

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Jane Doe

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