Gifts, Burdens … and Stories

“Why wasn’t I born in your tummy, Mommy? If God wanted me to be in your family, why didn’t He make me grow like other babies, in your tummy?”

Like most adoptive mothers who hear this question, my heart broke a little. I couldn’t help but agree with my daughter. Lord, why DID you not see fit to send my children to me directly? Why did they have to bear so much neglect and suffering before we found each other?

There are no easy answers for this, certainly not within the boundaries of my own personalized sense of justice.  So I improvised. “Sweetheart, when God sends each baby into the world, He sends three things along: a special gift to share, a special burden to carry, and a special job to do before she goes back to God.  It’s all a part of a story that belongs to no one else in the world.”

Surely the scars that were inflicted on my children in those early months have no redeeming value, in and of themselves, no lasting sense of good. Yet those months, too, are a part of my children’s story.  Part of the job they have to do, the burden they need to carry, the gift they will share.

I was reminded of this conversation again the other day when I came across this story of Lin Yu Chun, the portly Taiwanese crooner who at 23 took the world (via YouTube) by storm.

Like last year’s British sensation, Susan Boyle, Lin’s appearance belies the gift inside.  His bowl-on-the-head haircut, rotund physique, and slightly pigeon-toed stance don’t exactly shriek “Super Star.” And yet Lin reminds us that sometimes God puts miracles in the unlikeliest of places.

For Lin, that gift must have seemed burdensome at times.  Imagine 15 or 16-year-old Lin getting picked on in the schoolyard because his pure, clear soprano had not yet “hit the basement” like his peers. “Hollywood Gossip” reports:

“Lin … suffered from a lack of self-esteem growing up because ‘being fat draws a lot of mockery in our society.’ However, those difficult times helped the aspiring singer hone his talent. To cope with the taunts from peers, Chun locked himself in his room and sang along to hits by Celine Dion and Mariah Carey.”

The gift, the burden, and the task: these three combine to accomplish a perfection God first designed in us, a quality uniquely our own.  No cookie-cutter saints and sinners, we are called to be a distinct expression of the creative, providential, life-giving love of God at every stage of our lives.

“Why wasn’t I born in your tummy, Mommy?”  Why did Susan Boyle spend the first forty years in an obscure church choir, tending to her elderly mother alone? Why did Lin Yu Chun spend his teenage years fending off the taunts of his schoolmates?  It’s all part of a story still to unfold.

What’s your story?

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