Sitting on my couch the words flew. There’s a lot to cover when you haven’t seen each other in two years. She was back in China to help with a summer camp and pack up her stuff.
Our conversation circled to Bring Me Hope, a camp for orphans, where she’d spent a month. Since these kids are old enough to attend camp, they’re not cute, healthy babies. Many had come from foster homes and this was one of the few bright spots in their year. Over the summer she’d met so many with needs that seemed unending. Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed one hundred people, just feed one.”
She took this to heart and Lydia fed four. Two she got in contact with medical experts and the third she was making connections for a new foster home. And the fourth was me.
I want to be careful in the telling. I know that I hold a precious life story in my hands and as any good story, it is complex. If I mishandle it and mistell it, or focus on the wrong details you might walk away thinking “those awful Chinese.” And really, this story could be told anywhere.
More than ten years ago a baby boy was born. A boy! To carry on the family name, care for his parents as they aged, and help the family in general. All was well until it wasn’t. As he grew, it didn’t seem that all of him grew. Lydia described his limbs as the thinnest ones she’d ever seen. Like a person who was starving, only that wasn’t the problem. Something else was. His head was normal sized, but that’s about all you could say was. And because the rest of him was so terribly thin, he is known as the boy with the big head.
It became apparent that he would need help beyond what that family could provide, so when he was around five they abandoned him. He told Lydia he was found and taken to the police station where after several days a distant relative recognized him. He was taken back to his parents.
What more could they do? They had abandoned him once only to have him return. They couldn’t do it again. And so they told him they wanted to drown him.
I’ve been haunted by that conversation.
This was not a conversation between parents about drowning an infant. Nor a conversation between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law about a new-born. This was a conversation that involved talking to the person who was to be drowned.
I picture what must have brought these parents to this point. How helpless and sad they may have felt. Chinese society is not one that looks kindly on those who are different and getting proper medical care was simply not within their reality. We want to drown you.
And the boy. The boy with the big head, he said, “No.”
No matter how hard life would be, he at the tender age of five chose life over death. He asked to go to an orphanage and relinquish his place as their son, while claiming his place on this earth.
Life has not been easy. No, far from it. His current foster mom hits his big head often –I wrote “beats” and then crossed it out, trying not to embellish. But beats is probably closer to the truth. Thus, Lydia is trying to connect him with a truly life-giving foster home she knows of outside of Beijing.
Boy with the big head, I have never seen you, but I can’t forget you. You chose life, you continue to choose it by being open to move to a new city and give life yet another fresh start.
I have tried to picture the conversation you had with your parents from the perspective of each one present. What must it be like to be a mother, and this, this awful suggestion of drowning your own child being the only option you feel you have left? Or your dad. The one who is to be the protector, unable to fulfill that role and now doubly shamed because you came back (where else could you go?! You were five!).
But I return most frequently to you, the child being asked to sacrifice his life for the family good at such a tender age. I have a niece around your age and I place her in your shoes, as much as I can (which I admit isn’t much). To see her face, to make this real. It’s hard. I can barely look. Few have faced Deuteronomy 30 in the ways you have.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.
Now choose life. You did. Do I? Every day I have set before me the choice to choose life or death, why do I choose death so often? Yes, yes, I know that the Big Choice has been made. That Christ died for me that I may have life and I believe that to the bottom of my being. But the little choices, they are still before me. To be lived out choice by choice.
Sweet child of God, you may be known for your head in some circles, but I know you as the Boy with the Big Heart. You chose life, and challenge me to go and do likewise.
How are you going to choose life today?