I was driving down the road the other day with a high school boy riding shot gun who kept trying to change the radio to pop hits. The sun was peaking out through the winter sky and streaming in through the popped open sunroof. It was a day as mundane as they come. I’m sure I was running from one errand to the next, with a possible swing through a drive through to keep my little darlings’ bellies full and hearts content while we ticked off one thing after another on the the to do list. The brown-eyed, bushy-browed boy turned down the radio and threw his arm on my shoulder as I turned a corner. He started speaking with boldness that is rare for any boy in their junior year— with a confidence that dismanteled any expectation I had for our car ride.
“Sissy, this is how Gods sees you. He wants you to know this. He needs you to know this.”
Word by word He spoke truths about who I am over my heart.
“You are an amazing Mom. He’s proud of you for that.”
“You are talented.”
“He loves that you love to sing and worship.”
“He loves your kindness and compassion.”
“You are loved.”
“You are really special to Him.”
“He wants you to have a lot of hope.”
“He wants you to know Daddy would be proud of you too.”
I had to pull over so I could look Him in the face. To make sure this wasn’t some pawn to butter me up for a frosty or french fry. But I looked into His big bold eyes and saw such raw emotion beating out with each thump of His heart. He was in tune to where heaven was breaking through and He grabbed hold of the veil between heaven and earth and pulled it back a little. He knew I needed the light of heaven to push back the darkness— the comparison, the never feeling like enough, the entrapment of perfection I had been walking in. I needed to be reminded of the truths of who I am and plant both my feet and my heart on solid ground.
That brown-eyed boy who loves pop hits is my brother Jonah. Much like this day only a few short weeks ago, He entered into our routine world 17 years ago– a world where we walked through life ticking tasks off our to do list. I was only 10 when He was born, but there was a shift inside my heart when I looked into His dark brown fragile eyes. The doctors who visited my parents in the days following His birth questioned our desire to keep him. Yet there was never a question when we laid eyes on the tiniest of babies with a broken heart and an extra 21st chromosome. It was as if when He entered the world, He grabbed hold of the veil between heaven and earth and pulled it back for us to see a bit of heaven. And our worlds have never been the same.
When people talk about Down Syndrome, they use a lot of fancy medical words and stale jargon. But when I think Down Syndrome, I see a face. I see hope. I see dance parties, and a boy who dreams of marrying the most beautiful girl in His school. I see childlike faith and genuine forgiveness. I see Pentatonix’s biggest fan and the largest appetite for Jack’s pizzas. I see a football and basketball manager. I see a Duluth East super fan. I see dance moves, hours spent writing lyrics to worship music, and risk. I see a boy who doesn’t always know social cues, but who also isn’t afraid of putting His hand out there and praying the most beautiful truths over you. I see tenderness and compassion. I see dedication and black belts. I see a joy so radiant, it will wreck you in the most beautiful way. When I see Down Syndrome, I notice that the veil between heaven and earth is so thin. I see love breaking through like the December sun does between all the grey days, quenching our thirst for hope.
Someday I’m going to do the same thing to Jonah that He did to me. I’m going to call out how God sees Him. Dearly loved. Full of kindness and compassion. Talented and bursting with hope. Full of joy. Exuding a courage that makes me braver. Wildly funny and tender hearted. And as I look into those big brown eyes, I’ll pray these truths give Him feet solid ground to plant His feet on and His heart in. Light pushing out darkness. A platform of hope to launch Him off into a world that needs more heaven and more faith like a brown-eyed boy I love with an extra chromosome. A boy who entered this world with a broken heart and has spent every day of His life since stitching ours back to their proper wholeness. A healing we never expected, that caught us by surprise smack dab in the middle of our ordinary everyday lives.