Thursday, November 10, 2005

Craniofacial Birth Defect Research

I just read an article posted on the USC Newsroom website. Though the article is a few years old, there are some very interesting statistics included regarding cleft palate births.

  • One in 700 American children is born with cleft lip or cleft palate, although the incidence is one in 300 for native Americans and one in 500 for Hispanic and Asian populations.
  • Every child born with this condition needs four major surgeries,” said Shuler, director of USC’s Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology. “In California, these multiple surgeries cost the state’s children’s services agency an average of $1.5 million per child

Incidentally, the article concludes by saying:

“Some of these birth defects are genetic, some are environmental and some are both,” Shuler said, “but they all result from mistakes during fundamental reactions that occur as the craniofacial complex forms.”

On one level, I can read that paragraph and understand and agree completely with every word. From a medical, physiological, and development perspective, we can determine what is "normal" and "abnormal" by the frequency and rarity of which something occurs.

However, viewing the sentence through a spiritual lens creates some tension. When referring to babies supernaturally birthed by a Creator, we must ponder what words like "mistake" do to misrepresent the sovereign and intentional nature of God.

To believe that God knits us together in our mother's womb and to also believe that sometimes mistakes occur in the womb, is to conclude that God has made a mistake. But Scripture says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. (That verse isn't just for the pretty people)!

Is living with a deformed face difficult? Yes.
Is it painful? Yes
Do I wish it would go away? Yes.
Do I believe it was a huge mistake and God dropped the ball? No.

I know there are occasions when we have to use words like "normal" and "mistake" -- I point this out only because I want to make it abundantly clear that, biblically, God doesn't make mistakes when he knits us together. Our lives (and faces) are not the result of freak accidents or uncontrollable circumstances, or fate, of bad luck, or the sin of our parents, or whatever other lie we have conjured up and come to believe. And that doesn't just go for those of us with deformed faces - it goes for everybody.

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