God doesn’t make mistakes.
It’s one of Christianity’s favorite clichés. We go to it when we’re struggling with our own self-esteem, when we’re discouraged because we don’t seem as smart or as attractive or as self-possessed as we’d like to be. We tell our kids that when they’re discouraged at work or home, when their friends turn their backs on them or they don’t make the soccer team. We may not be like everyone else, we’re saying. We may even fall short of the person that we’d like to be. But God made us, and that makes us worthwhile. That makes us beautiful.
But sometimes, I wonder whether we really believe it.
Several years ago, I was driving around with my teenage daughter who’d been working with little kids. One of her pupils had a cleft lip. Another had a learning disability. She said how unfair it seemed, and she didn’t understand why some children would get saddled with stuff that the rest of us never have to deal with. “Sometimes,” she said, “It makes me a little mad at God.”
If God doesn’t make mistakes, why are there disabilities? Why are some people, through no fault of their own, born with these sorts of challenges? These are not easy questions for Christians. Or for any of us, really.
Sometimes, I think we’re afraid of disability. We’re afraid of people who are different than we are. In pregnancies in the United States where there’s a diagnosis of Down syndrome, around two-thirds end in abortion. In Europe, the rate is closer to 92 percent. It’s as if society is saying that these people, these lives, are mistakes.
A&E’s Born This Way, which begins its second season Tuesday, July 26, takes a different tack. As it follows several young adults with Down syndrome and their families, it tells us that there is beauty and joy and fulfillment to be found.
Here, take a look at this sneak peak, courtesy A&E:
“We have to be, like, the person that we are, ‘cause that’s what God made us to be,” we’re told in the clip. Pretty poignant.
When I talk with moms and dads raising kids with learning disabilities, they tell me without exception how grateful they are to have these children in their lives. They teach them lessons about love and patience and pure, unvarnished happiness that they’d never have learned otherwise. Sure, life is different than these parents imagined it would be. But their children aren’t mistakes: They’re gifts.
“For you formed my inward parts,” we’re told in Psalm 139:13-14. “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I haven’t seen more than this clip of Born This Way’s second season. But from what I can see here, the show is a reminder that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made: That God doesn’t make mistakes.