Voices > Soul Food

Words and actions

Consistency of the two gives integrity to our witness

Issue: "Down Syndrome = Death Sentence?," Jan. 18, 1997

Jamie was single, lonely, and pregnant. She couldn't count on her family for help--they had troubles of their own. Trouble wasn't a stranger to Jamie, either. She had abused alcohol in the past and run through a series of bad relationships. But now she wanted something different.

Amy was my fiancee, and a volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center when she met Jamie. She became Jamie's advocate. Her job was to be a supportive friend throughout Jamie's pregnancy, meeting her everyday needs as she was able.

Amy and I took Jamie to church singles events. We often ate meals together. When the conversation turned to spiritual things, Jamie seemed intrigued but distant. &quotMost churches are just fashion shows," she would say. &quotI could never go to a church like that."

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We met together many times throughout the harsh Minnesota winter. Spring finally arrived, and with it, Jamie's delivery date. Although Jamie's ultrasound predicted a boy, she delivered a beautiful baby girl. Jamie had rarely wavered in her decision to place her baby for adoption, but now she was devastated. She had never known her own mother, who had died when she was a little girl; now she was thinking of giving up her own daughter--and the decision hurt. Nonetheless, she went ahead and placed the baby for adoption.

The following months were bitter ones. Jamie sought refuge in alcohol and cigarettes, both habits she had given up for her baby's sake. She became angry and spiteful over circumstances. She even bought a sleek red sports car, which she couldn't afford, as another way to escape the pain.

Months later, a late evening knock at the door jolted us from sleep. There was Jamie, bloody from a severely cut hand, drunk and scared. As she sobered up she recounted her desperate but failed attempt to break into the adoption agency and find her baby. Mercifully, she agreed to go into alcohol rehabilitation to avoid prosecution. Jamie had finally begun the long road to healing.

Some months later, Jamie had gotten a steady job. She talked of becoming a park ranger or a teacher. She had changed, and we joyfully sat at a table reminiscing with Jamie about the several years we had known her.

We felt happy for Jamie, pleased that our time and labor with her over the years seemed to be showing some fruit. I was tempted briefly with spiritual pride to take some credit for her change--that is, until she shared a long-held secret.

Then Jamie explained how God had actually used us to affect her thinking. It wasn't what we said. It wasn't what we did with her. Jamie said, &quotWhen I first met you guys I didn't believe people really waited until marriage to sleep together. So I used to sit outside your place and watch you. I would wait outside Amy's apartment in the dark after our evenings together. I wanted to see if Kevin would really leave after I did."

Jamie had secretly waited outside in the bitter cold, testing our talk of sexual purity. Unknown to us, our effectiveness rested not on what we said and did with her in mind, but on her amazement when she saw that I did not sleep over. &quotKevin always left," she said, &quotand I knew then that I could trust you."

Every day we live Coram Deo, before the face of God. Every day we also live before the eyes of a watching world. Works of faith give glory to God. Works of obedience give pause to those who have never learned to obey anything but their own impulses. What we do when we think no one is watching always has an effect.

Dr. McMullen is a physician now living in Killeen, Texas.

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