Book Review: A Good and Perfect Gift, by Amy Julia Becker

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book review

A Good and Perfect GiftIt’s a story as old as ministry itself.

You begin a ministry to someone, to a group of people, to a certain place and population—fully expecting that YOU are going to serve THEM.

Bless their little pea-pickin’ hearts. Won’t they be lucky.

And then, before you even know what hit you, you end up realizing that it’s YOU that has been blessed, and served, and ministered to. Whenever that happens I’m always caught off guard.

And then I can’t believe that I’ve been caught off-guard AGAIN.

I think Jesus knew this about ministry. I think it may have been why, when on the night before he died he told his disciples to wash each others feet. It wasn’t just so the washER would be able to serve the washEE – but that both would be blessed by the experience.

I recently downloaded A Good and Perfect Gift to my Kindle, and, even between all the busy-ness of the holidays and traveling with the family over-the-river-and-through-the-woods, I could barely put it down. I found myself talking about it with most every one who I sidled up to. I kept reading passages aloud to my wife.

More than once I had to covertly wipe my eyes, because I could no longer read the words in front of me.

My eyes were too full.

In this beautiful book Amy Julia Becker invites the reader to join her in the delivery room when she and her husband not only welcome their first daughter into the world, but then quickly learn that she has Down’s Syndrome. Becker invites us past the hospital room, and into her mind, her heart, and her prayers as they struggled with this, what it means, and what it will mean for their daughter and them as a family.

She invites us to join her on the journey that leads to tender moments, horrific encounters with the presumptions of others (who could have very well been me, over and over again), internal debates and struggles, and encounters with the Holy amidst the ordinary and in community.

She has many questions; for doctors, specialists, and most especially for God. A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (and Princeton University), she wrestles with spiritual aridity.

And through their emotional and spiritual journey, Becker arrives at the point where she realizes that her daughter isn’t a problem to solve, but a child of God who has so much to offer others just as she is:

It hadn’t crossed my mind that Penny would have a “ministry,” a means of giving to other people. And that simple sentence, with it’s hopeful words, made me realize that as much as I insisted that our experience was different from other parents’, and that our child was different from other children, different didn’t mean less than. Penny would give to us. She would not only be blessed. She would be a blessing. – Page 78

At St. Mark’s we recently partnered with a well-organized group of parents (The Bernards’ Parent’s for Exceptional Children, or PEC) who have children with disabilities. Just about every other week at 12:30 on a Sunday afternoon we gather in our intimate chapel and worship. Right now we’re calling it, “Exceptional Worship.” It’s an “anything goes” kind of worship where parents don’t have to feel like they need to contain that which can’t be contained. No need to shush anyone, or tell anyone to sit down.

All God’s Children get to come and worship just as they are. Just as God made us. Each and every one.

As referenced above, this was one of those projects conceived to “minister to THEM,” which quickly became a conduit whereby I’ve been blessed beyond compare.

Reading A Good and Perfect Gift, I kept reading passages aloud to my wife, but what I really wanted to do was read them aloud to the parents who come and worship. With each page I felt like I was gifted with a glimpse into a life that I wouldn’t know otherwise, and where Becker helped me feel just as ministered to by her daughter—as if she had come on our family holiday with me.

It had taken us nearly a year, but we finally figured it out. She wasn’t a mistake. She wasn’t a Down syndrome baby. To us, she was no longer even our-daughter-with-Down-syndrome. She was just Penny.  – Page 167

God’s ways don’t always look like our ways. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect, or dream, or desire.

But, come what may, God is always there with us. And there is always enough blessing to go around.

Especially when we receive all God’s Children. Just as God made us.

The Author

follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella