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A normal brain scan (left) vs. one with DiGeorge syn­drome (right) (photo: Wiki­media Commons)

My brother may never have to study for finals. My brother may never worry about his GPA. My brother may never feel the pressure to find a job after college.

That’s because Levi has a con­genital heart defect, cran­iosyn­os­tosis, is missing a kidney, and on top of all this, has DiGeorge Syn­drome, which includes 183 pos­sible birth defects and learning dis­abil­ities. He is 14 and in the fifth grade. When I call home, the first sen­tence out of his mouth is often: “Addie! Addie! I drank up all my hot chocolate!”

Levi weighs 80 pounds, and my mom attempts to fatten him up with chocolate protein drinks from Sam’s Club. He hated them until one day I added hot cocoa powder and microwaved it.

Now he drinks them quickly and tells me about it over the phone — seeking approval. “Good job, buddy! Keep it up.”

This is not the con­ver­sation typical sib­lings have with their teenage brother, but for my family, this is normal. Levi was crit­i­cally ill for two years after he was born. We didn’t bring him home until he was four months old; Mott Children’s Hos­pital in Ann Arbor became home for 6‑year-old me.

Seeing God mirac­u­lously save Levi’s life was the beginning of my faith as a child. It wasn’t until this past summer that I began to ask how a good God could create some­thing so broken. Levi may never be able to live on his own. He may never get married. He may never graduate high school. He may never learn to drive. I love my brother dearly, but it’s painful to watch him grow up, unable to live a normal life. For the first time, I found myself asking: How could God create some­thing so broken?

I struggled with these ques­tions, espe­cially while at college. As a typical Hills­dalian, I want to make a dif­ference. I want to do some­thing big to impact the world that my own kids will grow up in. Having a brother that may never make a sig­nif­icant impact on society was a dif­ficult reality to face. How could Levi make a dif­ference in the world? I was asking the wrong question. It wasn’t until the beginning of this semester that I realized what is truly valuable about Levi. Levi has a pure heart; one that pleases the Lord.

Levi can’t tie his shoes or button his pants. Levi can’t do algebra or con­cep­tu­alize parts of speech. He can’t play sports or follow direc­tions very well. He can’t get a job or have deep friend­ships. He can’t even realize that he’s dif­ferent than the kids that he plays hide-and-seek with. But his heart is pure.

He doesn’t get caught up in petty argu­ments with his sib­lings. He doesn’t sass my parents like other teenagers. He’s always happy and is obsessed with our cat. He walks around the house saying, “Hi! I’m Olaf, and I like warm hugs!” If all he got for Christmas were pencils, he would be the hap­piest kid alive, thank you con­stantly for the next two years, and spend hours sharp­ening them — just for fun. He doesn’t worry about his life; and in this way, he has the purest heart I’ve ever seen.

I realized that my brother’s worth is not wound up in his abil­ities or inabil­ities. Instead, his worth is the fact that he is a pre­cious human being that God created. And for that matter, my worth is iden­tical.

It’s so easy to get caught up in what we can do, our GPA, and our accom­plish­ments. We equate our worth with our per­for­mance. We look at our resume and feel that our accom­plish­ments check a box on the appli­cation for our mansion in heaven. We vol­unteer for so many hours a week. We are pres­ident of this sorority or a leader of that GOAL program. We go to church weekly and maybe even Sunday school. We go to Bible study or par­tic­ipate in other min­istries. We somehow create a point system in which God looks down, smiles at all the great things we do for him, and applauds us as we change the world, all for our own glory.

But in reality, God is uncon­cerned with our per­for­mance. He is unim­pressed with our GPA. He doesn’t want what we can do for him, he wants what he did for us. All he wants is our hearts — a pure and devoted heart.

Ade­laide Holmes is a sophomore studying pol­itics.