dear jackson, about your mother

Read other letters to Jackson, here.

Dear Jackson,

I want to tell you about your mother. You already know a lot about her: you know her voice, you know the way she moves, you know how much she loves you. There are things you can't quite understand yet, complicated things that in some ways maybe you won't ever understand until you're a parent, too. But I want a kind of record, so that someday you can return to this like the other letters and know her a bit as she was before she first held you.

Jack, your mother is brave. She will deny this and supply ready evidence to the contrary, but don't be fooled. What your mother doesn't remember about bravery or, more specifically, her own, is that Jesus doesn't ask the already brave to do brave things. Jesus asks the becoming brave to keep becoming. Jesus walks out on water and says, "Do not fear, it is I. Come walk out here with me." And Jack, I've watched your mother get out of that boat so many times.

A few weeks ago, Jesus came walking on the water and told your mom she needed to take another class this semester in addition to the one she was already planning on. She had lightened her load in anticipation of you, of what may be surgeries and time in the NICU if God does not heal you. Jesus said, "No, take the additional class." Your mom told me this on a long drive and I nodded, because your mom doesn't flippantly talk about hearing God. She registered for the class, and that was that.

And you know what happened? It didn't take long for someone who doesn't know your mom that well and, in some ways, I think, doesn't know Jesus very well, to say, "How are you going to be able to do that? How could you even consider it? Aren't you worried you'll fail?"

Here's something else to know about your mother, Jack—she is aggressively luminous. She can't help it. The light of God that radiates from her sometimes freaks people out. She's too kind, too generous, too welcoming. She believes big things for other people and eschews any attempt to recognize the same in her. But between you and me, there are people in this world who are afraid of that kind of light because there's some darkness in them that doesn't want to be found out. And not just the darkness we'd normally think of, but simple darkness like doubt that God could really do more than we can imagine. So they push back against the light. They push back with the same line that's been recycled for millennia: "Did God really say?"

I won't tell you your mom doesn't feel hurt by this. I won't tell you she doesn't have a moment of pause. But what I will tell you is how her heart breaks for people who won't imagine beyond what seems reasonable to their experience, who perhaps are resistant to the possibility of more because they fear what God might ask them to do if such things were indeed possible. These are some of the same people who talk about "pregnancy brain"—a highly questionable study that suggests women lose a portion of their brain capacity during pregnancy—and who want us to give them specifics about how your life is going to go, step-by-step, doctor by doctor.

It's foolishness, Jackson. It's the bread of idleness and the vice of curiosity.

And Jack, your mom is out there on the water with Jesus, staring back at all these people who would say you can't walk on water, and she doesn't quite know what to say. So she shrugs it off, sometimes cries it off, but each time she turns back to Jesus and says, "If this is you, tell me to walk on the water. If this is you, show me the way."

She has the sort of imagination I think God loves, Jack. She has the sort of imagination that isn't so ready to disbelieve what Jesus may in fact ask us to do.

Your mom is plenty wavering on the water, but she's unwavering on who she should ask if the water is where she's supposed to be. Your mom talks to Jesus like they're best friends and talks to others about Jesus like they could know him that way too. She shares more than a little with Mama Mary, having often said, "Be it unto me according to thy word." (Even though she won't admit it.) She's a poor recounter of her own faithfulness, but I've watched her time and again face questions of doubt and fear and expectations with the audacity to hope that, one day, when she is in the position of the questioner, her words would be of life and encouragement.

When your mom greets new people in her PhD program, she tells them they are going to survive and thrive. She doesn't make people feel like they can't do it, or politely distance them because academic jobs are scarce and the belief that God will provide within the field even more anemic. Your mom wants everyone to feel like they are seen by God, that they are beloved by God, that their desks can be altarpieces, and that they can do remarkable things.

I want you to know, Jack, that you're going to grow a lot of things in your mom and I, but that there were things already in us before you were even a thought. Something that was in your mother was her radiance, her want of good things for everyone. She is frustratingly unselfish and too often lets foolishness slide because the comeback doesn't seem worth it. (Maybe that's my own bias showing.) So whatever happens in you, Jack, if God miraculous heals you in birth or through the work of surgeons—you need to know you couldn't have a better mom when it comes to wanting good and beautiful things for each and every person, but especially you. Your circumstances did not call that out in her; your circumstances made it amplified.

She's a lighthouse on those waters, Jack. She's reminding us all it's okay to imagine getting out of the boat.

And then to actually do it.



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