Splitting the Baby

Posted in Blog, Front Page, Prayer, Relationships | 6 comments

Splitting the Baby

We know the story well, where scripture exhibits Solomon’s remarkable wisdom, despite his youth and inexperience.

At first, we have no idea how the young king is going to settle this dispute between two mothers:

16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”

22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”

But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”

Then out of nowhere, he comes up with this unreasonable, teetering-on-insane solution.

24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

Can you imagine the reaction of the court? The gasps from the crowd of onlookers?

“This mere child is our king?” they surely murmured. “We suspected that he was too immature to follow in David’s footsteps, but we didn’t realize until now what a fool he is. We didn’t want him to begin with.

“If only Absalom hadn’t been killed. He could have assumed the throne, and we would have all been better off. Absalom was our choice.”

Yet there was a method to Solomon’s madness.

26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

– I Kings 3:16 – 28 (NIV)

Solomon used this confounding order as a means to discovering the underlying truth – the rightful mother of this innocent child. Who knows how well the mother cared for her son after this? Who knows what life he led as he grew? Scripture doesn’t reveal it. But for the time-being, we can rest assured that justice prevailed. It worked. We can all exhale in a collective sigh.

Not so today. Not always, at least.

Enter the family of Justina Pelletier, a 15-year-old girl at the center of a custody battle and diagnostic dispute between two of Boston’s top hospitals.

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families took emergency custody of Justina on February 14, 2013, after doctors at these two hospitals clashed over the cause of her medical condition, which included difficulty eating and walking.

At Tufts Medical Center, Justina had undergone treatment for mitochondrial disease, a group of rare genetic disorders affecting cellular energy production. When she began experiencing some gastrointestinal problems, her Tufts doctor referred her to a gastroenterologist at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The events turned from independent consult to tragic nightmare almost immediately, according to spokesperson accounts as reported by Fox News.

Since the wheelchair-bound girl arrived via an ambulance, she was taken directly into the hospital’s emergency room. An ER resident refused to send her to the gastroenterologist, claiming the case for himself, according to the family’s attorney Phil Moran. A hospital psychologist then diagnosed Justina with somatoform disorder, a mental condition in which a patient experiences symptoms that are real but have no physical or biological explanation. Justina was diagnosed with the disorder “within 25 minutes,” Moran claimed.

The Pelletiers rejected the new psychiatric diagnosis, Moran said, moving instead to bring Justina back to Tufts. He claimed that the hospital tried to force the girl’s parents to sign papers, preventing them from seeking another opinion.

As tempers flared between the Pelletiers and hospital staff, Boston Children’s notified the state that it suspected the parents of medical child abuse.

The psychiatric ward became Justina’s home for nearly a year before she was transferred to another facility, away from her family. The Pelletiers have only been allowed hourly visits each week during all this time.

Massachusetts Judge Joseph Johnston recently handed down a stunning decision, giving permanent custody of the girl to the state’s Department of Children and Families. In his four-page ruling, Johnston blasted Pelletier’s parents for being verbally abusive and complicating efforts to bring the family together.

The fight continues through the appeal process. Meanwhile, Justina’s condition continues to deteriorate, according to family members.

How could things have gone so horribly wrong for this girl and her family?

What’s to stop something like this happening in our own families, with our own children?

What is so different now from when Solomon made such legal decisions hundreds of years ago?

  • Prayer – I don’t know this Judge Johnston from a hole in the ground. I have no idea where he is with God or how he practices his faith. But I do know that Solomon asked YHWH for wisdom when He appeared to him in a dream. He could have asked for anything. Untold riches. Health and a long life. Looks and virility. The death of his enemies. But he asked for wisdom, “to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”
  • Humility – Again, I don’t know this Johnston guy. But I do know Solomon. Many sources put him at the age of 12 when he assumed his father’s throne. Given the people’s love and admiration for Absalom, now dead, many saw Solomon as the young, inexperienced, and gravely-inferior second choice. There was no ego in Solomon’s decision. Just a pure discernment that could only have come from God.
  • Publicity – No one advised Solomon one way or another before the women pleaded their case. There was no news coverage, no expert analysis, no behind-the-scenes interviews. Today, whether you like it or not, there is such media influence and review that we usually decide our own verdict before the judge ever takes the bench.

So, what can we do? Will it help the case or our own sense of peace to wring our hands over Justina’s fate? Not at all. Yet, we hold more power than we know.

  • Prayer – Since we don’t know the heart of Judge Johnston, why not stand in the gap for him? Why not approach the throne of God in his stead, petitioning wisdom and discernment on his behalf? The judge is expected to revisit the decision in a follow-up court hearing on May 25. Surely, we can make prayers a priority between now and then.
  • Humility – We can demonstrate our own humility by not judging the judge.  We waste time and energy pointing fingers at a man we know virtually nothing about, time better spent in prayer and supplication.
  • Publicity – Though we have our word of mouth, just as the people in Old Testament Israel had, we also have the influence of social media to spread the word of this landmark case. Tell those in your sphere of influence about it. Ask them to pray along with you, that God would be glorified and that His justice would ring resoundingly on May 25.

So, what’d I miss? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

P.S.: Remember. God’s plan and His purpose will not be deterred by the actions of men. Don’t be part of the problem. Be part of the solution.

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/redbettyblack/148854668/”>abby chicken photography</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

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  1. Interesting set of circumstances. The way I see it: The parents had this child in their custody for 15 years, and there were problems. Obviously, legitimate concerns by the medical team led to the appointment of a third party in deciding the best course of action. That actually released the parents from ridicule, and gave them, and the child, a break from each other. After all, the child was not improving while with the parents. Therefore, the medical team and Children’s Services were given the task. It’ll be interesting to see if they can do better. A paper trail will follow them, too. If the parents have done everything possible, to no avail, they should rest assured. Drama will only add to their dilemma and make them appear guilty of something. Prayers will be going out from this house regarding the situation, especially for this child. It will take a wise judge to decipher the facts and make a reasonable decision.
    Lord bless your home.
    Kittye Sharron, Author (soon to be published)
    The Longest Letter: Incredible Hope

    • Thanks for your prayers, Kittye: I agree, we definitely need a wise judge in this situation.

  2. Very interesting, Anna. Well written. Prayer, Humility and publicity. Each has incredible power. Thank you for writing this!

  3. I have been seeing this story appear in social media and news outlets, but yours is the first article I have read. One of my friends had a daughter with the same type of disorder (rare and mitochondrial) and she was horrified at this particular story. What a great perspective to compare it with the story of Solomon.

    • Thanks so much, Karen: I agree, this is a tragic course of events. I can’t even imagine the pain this family must be enduring. There are always two sides to every story. But I don’t know what I’d do if an entity took my child from me and made me watch her decline, week by week. We must be vigilant in lifting up this family and the courts in prayer.

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