Today I want to talk about Jonathan. He is the son of friends from our church in TX. They moved to town when Jonny was only a few months old. He had an older brother named J.B., who is headed to college this Fall.
Jonathan just turned 16
Jonny had his birthday Sunday. He turned 16. He is probably fully grown now at 4 ft. 9 in. tall. His mental age is about 18 months. It is unlikely he will ever talk. He is the second of 4 boys.
What does it mean to be pro-life?
When you think about the limitations of someone like Jonny, you probably think the way I once did. Why is he even here? Of course you would never say it out loud because you probably are pro-life like I am. That just doesn’t line up with what we believe…which is that all life is valuable beacause we are made in GOD’s image. But when I used to hear about people with these kinds of limitations, I used to wonder if it was worth all the work that goes into caring for them.
Then I met Jonny. For a number of years, I was the wife of his pastor. I’m also a nurse so I have a curiosity about these kinds of things too. I watch and I wonder. When Jonny and his family came to our church as an infant, it was obvious he had some problems. Just what they were, the doctors were unsure. It didn’t seem that he could see much. He was also developmentally behind his markers. Because of his age, the diagnostic testing was unreliable. It just took time, a lot of observing and waiting until he was a little older.
His mom, Jami was good at observing. Her field was microbiology. Observing came naturally to her. But it was also difficult for her to be objective. He wasn’t a speciman on a slide under a microscope. He was her son! She wanted to have hope that he was improving and making some progress. Instead, he seemed to fall further and further behind.
After a few years, his diagnosis was falling into place. The news wasn’t good. In fact, it was downright discouraging. Jonny’s brain did not develop correctly. By the time he was five, he was finally able to sit up in a chair well enough to get a wheelchair. Then he learned to walk at school. Eventually, he was able to dependably walk and get around well. Now, with the judgement of an 18 month old, you can imagine what he does around the house sometimes! It takes lots of eyes to watch out for him.
What was happening in other parts of his life? He attends a local school designed for children with special needs where he can have physical and occupational therapy…and medication too if needed. He is involved in church. He LOVES the singing. His favorite song is “Jesus Loves Me.” He smiles and laughs as the music is played and sung around him.
The challenge of ministering to Jonny as a church family
We were challenged regarding what our responsibilities were to this covenant child in fulfillment of our vows taken when he was baptized. How could we as a church minister to him as well as his family? Just as with all growth, we did some things well and some things poorly. But in the process, we all grew.
As time went on, he was able to stay for the whole worship service. Occasionally, he has an outburst in the back, but most of the time, he does pretty well. I don’t know what our church would be like without him there.
When he was very young, everyone knew him and came up to him. He seemed to enjoy it and would smile back. One of the VBS years, he was there and all the kids knew Jonathan. The new kids all knew him and hugged him. They seemed to sense that here was someone who was no threat to them. He was happy and content. All his needs are met. What does he have to be unhappy about?
The effect of Jonny’s presence on his parents
Over the years, I have watched his extremely gifted and accomplished parents become tender and softened in areas I don’t think they would have were it not for Jonathan’s presence in their lives. No, I would have never have chosen this gift for them. But GOD, who knows all and has His purposes for all of us did choose this for them. He knows much better than I what is best for each of us. What will bring ultimate glory to Him? Only GOD knows.
As I put a positive spin to this story, that isn’t to say that there aren’t many times when Jonathan’s life and seeing him is very sad. On a day like his 16th birthday…a big milestone in the life of many children, there is a great sadness. The realization that he will never get the coveted driver’s license…never be able to live independently…never be able to talk? Yes, there are many sadnesses associated with Jonathan’s condition.
A picture of life in a broken world
He is a picture to all of us of life in a broken world. When I think of Jonathan arriving in heaven, I think of the first words that will come out of his mouth. They will be to Jesus. Imagine? He will be able to dance. He will never have another seizure…ever again. He will be whole. For anyone who lived their whole life broken, by the world’s standards, that will be awesome!
The brokenness of Jonathan’s body pictures for me the brokenness of my soul. I tend to forget how broken I am. How little I have to offer GOD. I realize that I truly am lame and mute, my mind is terribly broken. I have nothing to offer Him. On some level, Jonny forced me to look at that in a new way.
Jonathan forced me to look beyond the common ways of doing church and think about ways that meet the needs of the different, the unusual, those who don’t fit the regular criteria.
Jonathan was put in the family he was and into the church community he was for a reason. We have all been blessed by his presence with us. One thing Jonathan has forced all of us to do is realize we have nothing to boast about in the presence of GOD!
What better purpose could one person serve?
He is a gift of grace to all of us!
I think he proves the truth of what Paul said here:
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not,
to bring to nothing things that are,
so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
I Corinthians 1:27-29
the photo was taken a couple of summers ago in the family pool where Jonathan loves to play.