When a book does not have pictures, the author is forced, instead, to paint a picture with her words. She must take time to notice every little detail and articulate it - this is exactly what Amy Julia Becker does in A Good and Perfect Gift, in which she recounts the first years of her daughter, Penny's life in light of God's faithfulness. So often throughout this book I felt myself nodding in agreement with Amy Julia's words and thoughts while at the same time, challenged and encouraged by her spiritual journey. In my own dark and desperate times, there were instances when I knew that her words were from God, for me, prompting me to turn to same scripture passages that spoke truth into her life.
Perhaps the truth that resonated most and seems to be a prominent theme in the Down Syndrome community is the truth about perfection. Closing off chapter 10 Amy Julia tells of how she interrupted Penny's massage time to find the passage in the Bible, where Jesus says, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect." Her candid thoughts follow,
"Jesus must have known that we would never be perfect, if by 'perfect' He meant without flaw, without needs, without hurts or wants. It was counterintuitive, even, to try to be just like God."
So like any good Princeton Seminary student she turns straight to her Greek dictionary only to discover that the word used is telos. She explains that while it could be translated as "perfect", it could also be translated as "wholeness, completion, the end for which you were created."
Perhaps I can't relate to Amy Julia's 4.0 GPA or sense of balance but I do know, just like her, that worldly perfection is nothing without the love of God. And that God's idea of perfection is much different than our own.
In the chapters that follow Amy Julia shares about the healing she experienced alongside and through Penny's progress. And while it was hard for me to read and (subconsciously…or not so subconsciously) compare Ella's abilities with Penny's, I acknowledged and appreciated the joy she felt in being Penny's mom - seeing that Penny was more the same than different and recognizing God's goodness in her life.
Each story is different just as each parent responds differently to their child's different challenges and abilities. This is just one. But what sets Amy Julia's story apart is that she does not make it solely about her, or even about Penny, but rather God's redemptive work through them each and together.
"Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good an perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."