The inside-out ones
What’s a life worth? Does its value fluctuate according to age, occupation, or influence? Most newborns are highly valued by their parents, though they are totally helpless and needy. Many aged men and women are looked upon as much less valuable, specifically because they are likewise helpless and needy.
What about those in-between who are disabled, deformed, or mentally-deficient? Helpless and needy, many if not most of them as well. Does that make them value-deficient?
Recently I went with a group of friends to see The Drop Box film. It tells the story of a South Korean pastor who set up his own “baby box” where mothers can safely and anonymously hand over their newborns when they feel like they can’t care for them themselves. It’s not a new idea…as far back as the Middle Ages “foundling wheels” were used for the very same purpose. It’s also not unique to this pastor or to his country.
But what struck me most about this film was not so much the inherent value Pastor Lee and his family and volunteers obviously saw in these abandoned yet perfectly formed little ones, but the genuinely displayed esteem they had for the malformed ones, in particular the pastor’s own 26-year-old son who is severely disabled and cannot stand, speak, or even eat normally. His body is unattractive, his physical needs are unusual and extreme, his eyes are vacuous and dull and give no indication of thought, feeling, or personality. But they lovingly care for him, talk to him, touch him with genuine affection. And sometimes they are rewarded with a smile.
Other than an occasional response, this young man gives nothing back to his family and caregivers. He is completely and totally dependent on them for everything. Does that make his life less valuable then their own?
According to Pastor Lee his son is an educator. Since the boy was born, with a baseball-sized growth on his cheek, his father, mother and adopted siblings have been learning great lessons about life and faith because of him. So he is making a contribution of sorts, but is that what gives his life value?
The lesson I got from this film is that every life has value for its own sake, not for how it can benefit anyone. Not for how pleasant to look at is the body housing the life, not for any physical or mental activity the life may engage in, not even for what lessons we may learn from the existence of this life. A life has value simply because it is.
And because of that, when we consider preborn babies dispensable, the elderly burdensome, and the physically and mentally handicapped bargain basement beings, we are committing a great sin. I don’t believe most of us, myself included, fully grasp the enormous value of every single human life.
Many people question God’s existence or his goodness in light of the multiple cases of physical and mental deformities. But I believe God intends for these “imperfect” people to demonstrate the great truth that who we are is not what our bodies look like or what our brains can produce. We are immortal souls inhabiting mortal bodies, and though the bodies have great value also, they are outweighed by the soul within.
The director of The Drop Box is a young man who became a Christian through the making of the film and the interaction with Pastor Lee and his family. He made a comment relating the physical deformities of many with the spiritual deformities in himself and all of us because of sin. We make look pretty good on the outside but inside are spiritual monstrosities. Conversely, those with severe mental and physical handicaps are most likely pure and beautiful on the inside…in their souls where it counts most. Our insides are depicted in their outsides, and vice-versa.
They are the inside-out ones, and their lives have value. As does mine…and yours.