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Blessed or Cursed?

July 21, 2017

 

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CURSED is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone, and sets God aside as dead weight.  He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth.  He lives rootless and aimless, in a land where nothing grows.”

BLESSED is the man who trusts in me, and blessed is the woman who sticks with me.  They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers.  Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a single leaf.  Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.”

(Jeremiah 17:5-8)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We may never know.

Let me rephrase that.

Chances are, we will never know.

What exactly was it that drove a young couple from Hubei, China, to wrap up their baby daughter (our daughter) in a towel, place her on the ground outside of a hospital room, and walk away from her…forever?

Was it China’s stringent one-child policy?  Was it the financial burden that adding another child to their family would place upon them?  Was it because she was a female (making her a second-class citizen, according to many Chinese minds)?  Was it because she may have been born out of wedlock?  Was it because she was missing three fingers?  Was it because they felt pressured by their relatives and/or elders to relinquish her, and try for a son instead?  Was it a combination of all of those factors?  Was it none of the above?

We will probably never have concrete answers to our many questions.

But, we often find ourselves wondering what the answers might be.  How could we not?

Why?

Why did they do it?

We have always, and will always, give our daughter’s birth parents the benefit of the doubt.   We are indebted to them.  We think of them often.  We hold them in high esteem.  We are grateful every day that they chose life for Grace, instead of death, in a country where abortion and infanticide are shockingly commonplace.

They will always be a part of our daughter.  So, they will always be a part of our family.

But, over time, I must admit that my wonderings about Grace’s abandonment have evolved.  They’ve evolved as my knowledge of Chinese culture has grown.  The more I begin to understand about Chinese belief systems and superstitions, the more I begin to understand that those belief systems and superstitions could have played a major role in the fateful decision that Grace’s birth parents made, years ago.

In Chinese culture (especially within the people groups that reside in the primitive countrysides), it is a widely-held belief that if you give birth to a child with a deformity or disability of any kind, you have failed.  You have failed not only your family, but also your country and your people. A disability or a deformity is a serious loss of face, damaging the social power of the family.

“Honor one, honor all – disgrace one, disgrace all”.  

Confucianism, which is regaining prominence in China, promotes the belief that social order and harmony overpower everything else, even at the expense of one’s own opinions, beliefs, or values.  It’s a social idea that directly opposes Western individualism.  It’s a social idea that directly opposes Christianity, which promotes the dignity, value, and worth of every individual that God has created…regardless of age, gender, race, health, appearance, etc.

In some areas of China, especially in rural villages, families who produce “defective” offspring are labeled as “cursed”.  Some villages have unthinkable punishments in place for those families and/or their “defective” child.  The punishment can be death…or it can be a life spent in hiding, lest he/she encounter the daily onslaught of slurs and discrimination.  It isn’t uncommon for villages to have a shazi (a village “idiot”).  I will let your mind wander as to what conditions or disorders might earn someone that notorious title.  I can only imagine what the quality of life must be like for someone labeled as a shazi.  I can only imagine.

The roots of stigma and discrimination surrounding disabilities and deformities run deeply in some pockets of China.  Why?  Some researchers attribute this to the saturation of Buddhist teachings within Chinese culture, and the pervading concept of karma – one of Buddhism’s fundamental doctrines.

Karma.  The law of moral causation.

A pillar in the minds and hearts of many Chinese people.

A pillar that leads many to believe that giving birth to a “defective” child must be a punishment for the past sins of the child’s parents or ancestors.  Thus, the child is viewed as a sign of bad fortune.  The child is a disgrace.  The child is a curse.

A curse.

Harsh?

Yes.

Incredibly harsh.

Buddhist teachings, ancient superstitions, and Confucian prejudices against the canji ren (translation: “the deformed”) can crush down on Chinese families who give birth to “imperfect” offspring.

So, is it any surprise that over 90% of China’s orphans have a disability or deformity of some sort?

No.  Not surprising at all.

Chances are, we will never know exactly why the birth parents of our beautiful girl decided to say goodbye to her.  But, I do know this.  If we are ever able to miraculously find them, sit down with them, and listen to every heart-wrenching detail that factored into their decision to abandon Grace, we would not be angered if the word “cursed” were to pop up during the discussion.  We would not be angry at them if they had, indeed, felt as though they were cursed when they saw Grace’s (beautifully unique) hand, and felt as though they needed to remove her from their lives.  We would not be angered, and we would not be surprised.

But, we would feel compelled to respond.

We would thank them, first and foremost, for giving Grace the gift of life.  For wishing her luck in life, by choosing to wrap her up in a “lucky” red towel (possibly to help counteract the supposed bad luck that accompanied her hand).  For taking the time to write her birth date and time on a small sheet of paper.  And for placing her inside of a safe, cool hospital building where she would be found on a sweltering hot summer day.  For all of those things, we are so grateful.

We would explain that we might be naive, but not naive enough to ignore the fact that they could have chosen a much different path for her.  They could have done what many villagers in rural China have done for centuries upon the discovery of a newborn with a deformity.  Things that have been done behind closed doors, for the most part.  Things that are barbaric, and unimaginable.  With that in mind, we can’t help but be grateful to them for loving her and caring for her during her first month of life, and choosing to say goodbye to her in the best and safest way that they knew how.

Then, we would try to gently explain to them that what they once considered a curse, we considered a blessing.

If that hand is what led them to let her go, then that hand is what led her to us.

The supposed “curse” was actually a blessing.  An amazing blessing.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

And, from our perspective, if that unique hand of hers is what led her to us, then it is one of the greatest blessings we have ever known.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What does it truly mean to be cursed?  What does it mean to be blessed?  When can we truly label someone as being cursed?  The bible gives us some insight into that question, in the seventeenth chapter of Jeremiah:

CURSED is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone, and sets God aside as dead weight.  He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth.  He lives rootless and aimless, in a land where nothing grows.”

BLESSED is the man who trusts in me, and blessed is the woman who sticks with me.  They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers.  Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a single leaf.  Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.”

(Jeremiah 17:5-8)

I love that.

We are not categorized as being cursed based on physical criteria.  Not even close.  The only curses that come to us are the ones that we bring upon ourselves when we choose to go through life disregarding our loving Creator, and purposefully setting Him aside as dead weight.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Someday, most likely during those tumultuous (and sometimes cruel) teenage years, Grace may find herself shaking her fist at God for allowing her to go through this life with a hand that happens to look slightly different than her peers.  Maybe she already has.  Just thinking about that makes my heart ache.

I can only hope that she will realize that while she may occasionally want to shake her fist at God for the hand that she has been dealt, Bryan and I are standing with our hands raised in the air, praising God for the hand we have been dealt.  Praising God because we know that, if it weren’t for that “cursed” hand of hers, the blessing of Grace might not be ours.

Bottom line?  There is a chance that Grace is ours today because of her hand.

If it weren’t for those three missing fingers, there is a chance that we would be missing out on the blessing that is our Gracie Girl.

The girl with those “Lucky 7” fingers has made us feel like the luckiest parents around.

What some may have once (wrongfully) thought was a curse, we know to be a blessing.

We know.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Take inventory of your life right now, friends.  What are the supposed “curses” that exist?

Step back for a moment.  Take a good, hard look at them.  Adjust your perspective a bit.  Rub your eyes.  Re-focus.

In some cases, clarity may come.

Maybe you will discover that some of the “curses” in your life are actually some of your greatest blessings in disguise.

Maybe you, like our Gracie Girl, will begin to see that the hand you’ve been dealt in this life isn’t so bad, after all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 22, 2017 12:35 am

    Beautiful words…just beautiful. 💚

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