The Doctor Asked, “Should We Let Him Go?”

Image of a man Daniel Ritchie with no arms speaking about his story
When I was born, there was a harsh silence that swallowed the delivery room. No one was cheering and there were no cries of a newborn echoing.

The birth of your child is supposed to be an unforgettable day of joy and celebration. It is the culmination of nine months of dreams, hopes and prayers. It’s anticipation that builds to one beautiful moment in the hospital delivery room.

That was the sort of moment that my parents were hoping for the day I was born. Yet, that is not what happened at all. Instead, the moment I was born, there was an abrupt silence that swallowed the delivery room. No one in the room was cheering, and there were no cries of a newborn echoing around the room. I wasn’t breathing or moving. There was no pulse.

Immediately, the doctor pivoted to my dad and holds me up so he could see that I did not have arms. He told my dad that I’m not moving or breathing. The next sentence that the doctor spoke was a question that hung over the room like a thick, choking, cloud of smoke:

“Do you want us to let him go?”

Without pause, my dad’s response was quick and clear. “Do whatever you can do to bring him back to life.” The doctor then rushed me into an adjoining room and immediately attempted to revive me. A couple of minutes later, he walked back into the delivery room with a kicking, crying, armless baby boy. My dad was willing to sacrifice his comfort, plans and dreams in order to see my life flourish. In the years that followed my birth, both my parents laid down their comfort in love to make sure I had everything I needed. They live out the words of Jesus in John 15:13:

Image of black sand and quote from doctor asking question in story of daniel ritchie

No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.

Fast forward 38 years and a lot has happened in my life since that integral moment. I learned to eat, write, cloth myself and even use a computer – all with my feet. Trusted in Jesus as my Savior and Lord at age 15. Graduated high school with honors. Graduated college with a double major. Married my wife Heather and had two amazing kids. I am now entering into my twenty-second year of ministry. Across all these years, God has been remarkably kind to me; and all of it started the moment that my dad chose life for me. In saying yes to life, my dad was willingly embracing both the good and difficulties of raising a son with a disability.  His choice in that moment was one that was reflective of Godly and sacrificial love.

Professional Photo of Daniel Richie and his family

That unyielding love set me up for success in my life by giving constant encouragement and challenge where I needed it. My parent’s love left an impact – but also an impression – on me because I realized what a gift that it is. It’s a blessing that I want to share with others. So, I surrendered to a call to ministry at the age of 16. Those ministry opportunities stretched out across the next two decades. I would go on to serve in camp ministry, spend 13 years as a student pastor and now share the love of the Father as an evangelist and author.

I have a deep passion for people to know how much God loves them. Subsequently, I try my best to share that through avenues like sermons or day-to-day conversations. That legacy of my parents’ love does not stop with proclaiming the love of the Father as it is in the gospel, but continues in advocating God’s love of the unborn and the sanctity of all human life.

Those pro-life opportunities jumped to the forefront of my work in 2019. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was aiming to eliminate abortion restrictions for preborn children with disabilities. In a radio interview built to push this legislation, Northam describes a scenario that is legal, in which a child that survives an abortion and/or a child with a disability “would be delivered, kept comfortable and then a discussion would ensue between the doctor and the mother (that discussion being whether the infant should live or die).” As this interview unfolded, Gov. Northam’s scenario sounded remarkedly similar to the discussion over my life the day I was born. It was at this moment when I knew I needed to join him in speaking out for the vulnerable to be protected, and for the love and purpose of God to be spoken over the lives of those with disabilities.

Every single person is made in God’s image to reflect His glory and dominion through all the earth. God does not make any accidental image-bearers. He deliberately take His time to “remarkably and wondrously” make us for His purpose. He prepares us to walk in that purpose well before we ever walk the Earth. God’s care in making every one of us shows both our value and purpose in this life. There’s not a disability or birth defect that can tarnish that. God has a clear purpose in the lives of all, including those with disabilities.

Image of quote with black sand and daniel richie saying bible verse quote about disabled

The world looks at people with special needs and they see a life full of hindrances; They see a life not worth living. But, what does Jesus see? He sees God’s power and purpose put on display. Jesus says as much in John 9:3. He explains that the man was born blind “so that God’s works might be displayed in him.” Those with disabilities may be seen as the least of these by the world. But in reality, they are a living, breathing testament to the power of God.

People all across this planet need to hear of the purpose and love that God has for their lives – whether they have a disability or not. As the church, we have a legacy of love that we have to share with the world. It is a legacy that began when God made us in our mother’s womb, a legacy that is made plain in the saving grace of God’s gospel and a legacy that is carried on by the mission of the church.

Until all the world knows – we will go and tell of the love of God because everyone needs to know of the life-defining love that God has for them.


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