“What would happen if there were a beautiful and highly intelligent child up in heaven waiting to be born and his or her parents decided that the two children they already had were enough?”
— Linus Van Pelt [from a Peanuts comic strip originally published in July 1970; Schultz, Charles M. The Complete Peanuts 1969 to 1970, July 2008, p. 244.]
Recently my aunt and I were discussing the issue of, as my aunt calls it, “how does it come to be that you get the feeling that you are you?” You’re probably thinking: Huh!? But, it’s not that difficult to understand, really. At least the concept isn’t difficult. The actual answer is a mystery, however. What she means is why is it that she was born the 8th child in her family. Why wasn’t her sister Helen the 8th? Or her sister Frances? Or, even her brother John? When (and how) was it decided that Helen would be child number seven, Frances child number six, and John child number five. And, I’m not talking about why their parents picked those names when they did; I’m talking about why the person as a whole was born when he or she was born and into the family he or she was born into.
In our discussion yesterday, this brought to mind a recent Sunday reading from church:
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the same benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.”
— 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11, The New American Bible
St. Paul goes on to say that each of us is a part of a whole, and each of our gifts are meant to be used for the benefit of the community. And, each of us, no matter our gifts, are integral to the functioning of the whole. (See: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-30.)
Well, this got me thinking. Maybe the reason each of us is born, into the family we are born, at the time we are born, is because God knows what that family and in a larger sense, the world as a whole, needs. The child being born is given those necessary gifts. And, that child as he or she grows is responsible for using those gifts for the betterment of the family and the world at large.
Now, this of course, brings us back to the quote cited at the start of this post. And, this is something I
think about quite often. What if God wants a certain child to be born, knowing that that person is what the world needs. And, the parents decide that they are done having children or in the extreme case, what if the child is conceived and then aborted. I often wonder what if one or more of those 49 million aborted babies
was supposed to grow up to cure cancer or some other disease. Maybe each of them wasn’t supposed to do something so heroic, but whatever gifts were given to that baby, in some small way, was supposed to make our world a better place to live. But, now by the fact that this child was not born, the fate of the world (or maybe just the fate of those that this child may have come in contact with in his or her daily life) is changed. And, what are the ultimate consequences of that choice by the parents? No one will ever know what God intended.
All of this is a mystery, of course. But something to ponder. And at the same time, we all should ponder what gifts God has given us and we should ask ourselves: “Are we using those gifts for the betterment of our family (however we define family) and the world at large?”
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