Amy

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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.

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Another opportunity to choose life is the Not Marked project spearheaded by Mary DeMuth

How are you going to choose life today?

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  1. Mike September 18, 2013 at 6:27 am - Reply

    Once again, Amy, you made me cry. Cry for all the times when I’ve just walked past people who desperately needed to hear about life…from me, the one who has it so abundantly! And I walked past. May my heart – His heart – never allow me to do that ever again!

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      Amy September 18, 2013 at 9:28 am - Reply

      Mike, the enormity of the need can be so huge, I have felt myself hardened at times, like you, the prayer of my heart is to keep me soft so that I may see and respond.

  2. Katherine September 18, 2013 at 7:02 am - Reply

    Shaken and speechless. You honored the boy, and The King with your words.

    • Mark Allman September 18, 2013 at 9:07 am - Reply

      I echo Katherine’s words here.

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        Amy September 18, 2013 at 9:28 am - Reply

        I’m still shaken too … in the way that the Holy Spirit shakes. Does that make sense?

  3. Rhonda September 18, 2013 at 7:52 am - Reply

    In class today I had told my grade 12 class that they have to make a choice on how they present themselves, speak and so on. And to always try to make the right choices, choices that will make a difference(for the positive) and not to give into their fears. Get home from parent/teacher meeting where I had also mention choices to the parents and read your blog about choice. Definitely the message for my day! Thanks! :)

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      Amy September 18, 2013 at 9:41 am - Reply

      :) … I love it when a theme comes together

  4. Jenny September 18, 2013 at 8:59 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this story and for the delicate way you handled its context.

    • Holly September 18, 2013 at 9:40 am - Reply

      I completely agree with Jenny, the content of this story is so heavy, but I’m so glad you told it anyway.

  5. Liesl September 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    I use to judge people who beat their kids, left their kids, shook their kids until I had kids…..then I get stressed and money is tight and I’m fighting with my husband and MY LIFE IS REALLY NOT BAD AT ALL. Then I think of those whose life is on the edge of sanity and I get it. I don’t but I do. If I, in my cushy little life, can get so overwhelmed….I understand that life is hard!

    I love your story. I want that boy.

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      Amy September 20, 2013 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      Amen sister! Life is hard … and that’s why we need each other to cheer us on and at time keep us from ourselves! I miss you Liesl!

      xoxo Amy

  6. Jessa September 20, 2013 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Sometimes choosing life (in this world) isn’t an option, really. Sometimes all you can choose is the manner of death. That was the only choice I had for my infant son 17 years ago. Allow him to suffer an agonizing death that will lengthen his short life by maybe one torturous hour, or choose to give him a quick, relatively painless death. I chose the latter. I don’t think I can bear the retelling of the details right now, and I’m not sure I should ask you to bear them with me, so I’m not going to, except to say that I think I have a fairly clear understanding of what the boys parents may have been thinking. My son was perfectly healthy. He did not deserve to die.

    My friends tell me I made the right choice. I chose to spare my child unimaginable pain. I’m not so sure. I don’t think there was a “right” choice in that situation. Not for my son, and not for me. I’m not even certain of my own mind–did I choose the quicker, less painful way to spare my son, or to spare myself? I don’t know.

    My therapist would tell me blame lies with the people who took away my free choice. He’d remind me that if I’d really had a choice, I’d have chosen for my son to live, free from the people who controlled me, even if that meant I’d never see him again. But how do I live, knowing I killed my child?

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      Amy September 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm - Reply

      Dear Jessa, and I mean that in the fullest sense, you are dear to the One who knows your story — thank you for trusting bits and pieces of your story with us over the weeks and months. Feel no pressure to share more than you are (also know that I am willing to hear want you want to share). Jessa, it seems that you have come through an experience than many of might not have been able to bear. The bits I know, show a person of fortitude and resilience and sensitivity. I cannot imagine a pain worse than having to make decisions about a child that will result in altering their life in some way. Grace and peace to you. Know that I will continue to pray for you. May this weekend have moments of peace for your soul.

      Amy

      • Jessa September 21, 2013 at 10:25 pm - Reply

        Thank you, Amy. Really.

  7. Susan September 21, 2013 at 12:16 am - Reply

    Amy, I don’t know you and don’t regularly read your blog although I did subscribe. I can’t even recall how I came across it in the first place. All I know is that it’s worth reading. Thank you.

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      Amy September 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm - Reply

      Susan … this comment was an offering of life to me. Thank you!

  8. Carolyn September 25, 2013 at 2:16 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this boy’s story. My instinct is to shy away, to recoil from such painful stories, but I know that God wants me to hear them and to ponder them and to seek His face for help in processing them.

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      Amy September 25, 2013 at 8:41 am - Reply

      Mine too, Carolyn. I appreciate hearing from you!

  9. Amy September 25, 2013 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Touching, poignant, honoring post, Amy.

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      Amy September 26, 2013 at 7:12 am - Reply

      Thanks fellow Amy.

  10. Lori Harris September 25, 2013 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    I’m visiting from (in)ked and I’m so thankful I chose to visit you tonight. First of all- I love the story behind your header pic! And secondly, you have touched a deep place in my heart- love your words, new friend!

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      Amy September 26, 2013 at 7:12 am - Reply

      Welcome Lori! And thanks for visiting! Amy

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