Emily’s Smile and the Face of God

IMG_0433Have you ever been confronted with so-called medical facts that seem to deny a higher spiritual reality? 

We had that experience with the birth of our daughter Emily, who was born with Down syndrome.  I will never forget the meeting with the geneticist after Emily was born.  He spent an entire hour telling us about all the things that Emily would never be able to do, including, “She will never be able to read.”

His professional training and protocols blinded him from seeing a larger reality involving God’s perspective.  To the geneticist, Emily was imperfect, but to God she was flawless, part of his grand scheme to teach the rest of us about him and what really counts.  

Emily was born with an inclination to love.  Her first reaction when meeting others is to hug them.   She has no guile.  She is not calculating.  She is not likely to offend God as we have all done.  I have learned as much about God and his ways from Emily as any sermon, teaching or spiritual writing I have ever heard or read.

On a Sunday morning a few years ago, I happened to be serving as a Eucharistic Minister in our church and it just happened that I was stationed on the isle that my wife and Emily were coming down.  When Emily saw that it was I who would be serving her communion, she broke out with that big beautiful smile of hers, started rushing toward me, cupping her hands to receive the Body of Christ, and exclaimed, “Daddy!”  My heart melted, and then I thought, isn’t that how God would like all of us to approach him – with absolute love and joy, not worrying about what others might think.   

“From the lips of children and infants, you have ordained praise.”  (Psalm 8:2)

This past week, we celebrated Emily’s 30th birthday.  The geneticist got it completely wrong.  Emily did learn to read.  She has an incredible sense of time, remembering the birthdays of all our family — siblings, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, and thirteen nephews and nieces.  She reminds me when to take out the trash.  She has a great sense of direction.  If I go a different direction on the way to church or to her work, she corrects me.  She works at a bakery and catering business from 9 to 2 every day.

Emily was not a genetic accident.   Medical science tells us that the extra chromosome that gives rise to Down syndrome is present in one out of every 700+ conceptions.  Children born with Down syndrome are not a genetic accident.  They are part of God’s plan to demonstrate his love, humility, and purity of heart.  When I see Emily’s smile, I see the face of God. 

How tragic that our culture considers abortion a solution to the extra chromosome when the extra chromosome is really an opportunity to see the face of God.


28 thoughts on “Emily’s Smile and the Face of God

  1. Susan Weilbacher

    Beautiful, Bill–You nailed it! We were told the same thing the day our daughter was born & she’s a joy & a wonder! Last night she had me rent the movie “God is not Dead” so that I could see it too. She rocked out to all the songs & had trouble keeping herself from telling me what each of the characters were going through beforehand. God works in such unique ways–I love it!!


  2. Liz Slattery

    Amen Bill! There is no way the geneticist can calculate the future of one of God’s own. I remember meeting Emily years ago when our Stephen (also born with Down syndrome) was still a baby. She was enthralled with musical movies at the time. It gave me hope for Stephen’s future. Can I just say that he knows the TV remote better than we do! And like Emily, he has unconditional love for all. How blessed we are to have these people in our lives!


  3. maria eisenberg

    Beautiful piece, Bill.
    What gifts from God our children are. Just think how many times that Emily’s smile and Elizabeth’s smile are the only smile some people get all day, and what a smile it is!


  4. The Hammeke Family

    What a truly wonderful article! Thanks Bill for sharing and thanks to Emily for being a great young lady. Is Emily still in Art-Stream?.



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