I originally started writing "Is there a place for Jaycee at church?" The idea for this came from a negative experience I had with a Christian recently. This sweet lady told me about praying for Jaycee, which I was glad to hear given her health problems. But then she went on to clarify that she's praying for Jaycee's Down syndrome to be healed and encouraged me to believe.
That statement hit me like a punch to the stomach. Let me explain the best I can. I believe in healing, but I guess I'm long past thinking Jaycee needs healed of her Down syndrome. When a Christian says that to me, I hear: "Your child needs to be healed in order to be ok in church."
Maybe you think I'm off base, but I have had experiences within the Christian faith that you haven't. I have had people suggest (or accuse) me of sinning to cause my daughter to have problems in her life. I have been encouraged to get the demon out of Jaycee's life so she could be healed of Down syndrome. These experiences leave me feeling like a second-class citizen in church at times.
I left that encounter with that lady with my head down, my mind racing back through previous comments I took offense to, and feeling bad about my family.
"Will Jaycee ever be completely accepted in church?" I asked my husband.
I teeter totter back in forth with this question as a person of faith who believes in prayer but also believes that people with chronic health issues and disabilities need to be accepted in some respects just as they are.
I just want Jaycee to be viewed as someone worthy of being in church even if she has Down syndrome and health issues. I don't want random people to walk up and start praying for her chromosomes making her feel bad about herself, especially as she gets older. I look past her Down syndrome. I love her the way she is. I don't want her to struggle but I don't want her to think she is less than because of 1 extra chromosome.
Getting back to my mistake....I was going to write a blog about all of this and how Jaycee doesn't fit well into the church. I struggled to write this blog. I typed, erased, retyped, cut, deleted, and finally stopped. Then God put on my heart the idea for the letter to Pastor regarding Jaycee's baptism.
It was as if God was answering the very question I was asking. Is there a place for Jaycee at church? The answer is yes. Jaycee was accepted enough by our pastor to get baptized while surrounded my many family and friends in support of her. More importantly, God accepts Jaycee. I believe God is pleased when Jaycee dances in church and wants to sit in the front row. I think God looks way beyond the Down syndrome too into her heart.
Maybe not every Christian will say and do the right things with Jaycee, but their intentions are good. Their heart is in the right place. They want the best for Jaycee, and I should not let their word choice bother me and get me down. I too have said many dumb things over the years that hurt people unintentionally. Therefore, I will extend that same grace to those as I wish to have for myself.
I'm thankful I didn't write that blog full of frustration and hopelessness, and I'm glad to be reminded that Jaycee does have a place with God and in the church.
Jaycee praying with a group of children at church.