I set out to write a series of letter to my son, Wynn, not just about the racial climate of the country that he lives in, but about the conversation surrounding this racial climate. I want to remind him that his identity is firmly planted in the person and work of Christ Jesus and that because of that he has incredible significance to the King of the universe.
I just walked out of your bedroom like the creepy stalker mom I am.
Being a mother is such an overwhelming phenomenon. I think about you all the time. Not always in the obsessive sneak-into-your-room-and-watch-you-sleep kind of way (sorry, kid), but because I feel the responsibility of being your primary caretaker and needing to make sure all of your needs are met. When you were a baby, I had to make sure that I fed you on time, packed enough diapers, carried a spare change of clothes, and wore the right kind of top to nurse you.
Now that you’re a toddler, I have to make sure your diaper bag is packed, lay out your clothes for the day, and ask how you behaved at school to see if there’s been a revival of your biting phase.
What is amazing to me is that, as much as I think of you, there is someone who thinks of you even more than I do. Since you’ll be raised in the church, I know you already know the Sunday school answer to that one—it’s Jesus.
While I agonized over having a healthy pregnancy, he already knew the sweet little boy you would become because God was in the business of forming you (Ps 139:13-16).
He’s been in that business since the beginning.
You Are Made in God’s Image
The first three chapters of the Bible are as foundational as the first three chapters of any book. Although, they are more important because this book lays out the guiding purpose of our lives.
The well-trodden battlegrounds of our day—sanctity of life, gender, sexuality, race, stewardship, and authority—all begin at the very beginning of this book. Opening up Genesis, we learn that God is the author of humanity and that we are created in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and charged with the purpose of taking dominion over the earth (Gen 1:28).
And when God looked at Adam and Eve, God didn’t just see the blond-haired, blue-eyed depictions often fantasized in Renaissance paintings, but two hosts for all of the genetic material needed to produce every tribe, tongue, nation, and people group that would populate the world. Adam and Eve held within them the promise of the nations —the promise of diversity. And it was good.
You Are Black on Purpose
It’s no accident that you are black. You were made black on purpose.
God decided that you and your brother would be born as twenty-first century black boys to two black parents. He placed you in a lineage full of glorious complexity and gave you the task of learning how to glorify God in light of the ingredients stirred into the pot of your identity. God invites you to delve into a deeper understanding of who you are as an individual so that you can see yourself in light of who you are in the grander story that is being written.
You are black. And it is good.
You Are God’s Beloved Son
I had an ultrasound the other day and brought home pictures of your little brother.
It truly is amazing. I was making a person. Or at least, I was the vessel for the person that God was making. God was crafting you each and every day, monitoring and guiding your explosion of cells, pouring into you the way God has poured into each and every person created since the dawn of time. God was speaking, and it was becoming so.
God was speaking, and it was good.
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You are still a little sinner, miraculous origins notwithstanding. It’s true that I’m much more liable to make excuses for your temper tantrums in a quest to fully understand the little person you’re becoming than your daddy. “He’s just tired,” “It’s a developmental phase,” and “He doesn’t understand” are my usual standbys whereas Daddy cocks an eyebrow knowing you’re just pushing boundaries. Still, I understand that you have a sin nature all your own, inherited from your first father, Adam.
Even though your sins often look a lot like those of your mother, Jasmine.
And that sin nature will crop up throughout your life. If you’re anything like me (and you are), it will crouch at your door when it comes to conversations about race and identity.
You will be tempted to question the wisdom of God in speaking your brown skin into existence.
You will be tempted to disobey immediately when God calls you to hard tasks resulting from the color of your skin.
You will wrestle with shame in the face of a world that does not understand the beauty of your Creator’s provision.
You will wrestle with pride in the face of a church that doesn’t always thank God the way it should for your uniqueness.
Like me, you will wonder whether God is holding out on you for making you so different from the world you live in.
But I pray that you will come to an understanding of who you are that moves beyond your earthly heritage alone. I pray that your heavenly identity will not only supersede your earthly shell, but also give it deeper and fuller meaning as purposeful evidence of God’s grace toward you and everyone around you.
My dear, sweet little boy, you were created in God’s image. Your purpose is bound up in that one precious phrase: imago Dei. I pray that you will grow to acknowledge your Creator in all aspects of who you are, bowing your knee in gratitude for every single manifestation of God’s providence toward you.
I wish I could watch you safely sleep every single night for the rest of your life, but I know that the One who watches over you loves you even more than I do. I hope you know that too. Look at my love and measure God’s as ten thousand times more powerful. Then you’ll have just barely scratched the surface.
Our Creator was so kind to make you mine for this tiny window of time. I pray that you are God’s for eternity.