Dear Johnathan (or Jasper or Jackson or … )
One semester, I tutored a pregnant 17-year-old young woman who, on a regular basis, frustrated me beyond articulation. It wasn’t uncommon for her to say things like, “I don’t like to think,” when an answer required more than filling in blanks in answer books. Or when she would speak truths about the young man with whom she created the life in her belly, she’d say things like, “I don’t even like him. We weren’t dating or nothing when I got pregnant.”
A person like this, as you might expect, isn’t the most introspective. And that, under ordinary circumstances, would just be disappointing. But since, at the time, the young woman was a couple weeks from mothering and rearing a child, her lack of introspection was disheartening. I started to ask about her future, preparation and plans for the baby. Not surprisingly, she didn’t have many.
I offered one afternoon, “Let’s do something kind of crazy. What do you think about writing a letter to your baby?”
“He can’t read,” she says.
“I know. I think it would be cool to write something to him that you can share with him when he can understand. Tell him about how you feel about him and his coming. What you’ve learned about motherhood since you found out you were pregnant. Your hopes and dreams for him. That kind of thing.”
She processed and then said, “OK. I can do that. Who you gone write a letter to?”
“The husband I don’t have yet?” I asked her, while I simultaneously asked myself with annoyance, “Why in the world would this non-thinking chap ask me a question I don’t have a good answer for?!”
“Yeah,” she said smiling.
I smiled in return. We both started writing.
I won’t share what she wrote, though I will say I think it was probably the first time she’d ever really thought about how her life was going to change, as she read her letter aloud to me, tears punctuating her heartfelt sentiments.
This is a little bit of what I wrote to the husband I don’t have yet. I can’t share it all with you because it’s personal and because you’re not my husband. … Hmmm … I wonder if my future husband is reading this. If he is, sorry, guy. You can’t read it all until the night before our wedding.
… I don’t love you now, as I’m writing this, because I don’t know who you are yet. I do, however, love myself. That hasn’t always been the case, but it will make all the difference. … I wanted to know what it was to be both strong enough and weak enough to allow myself to be loved by and simultaneously love God. … One of my first steps toward self-love was to see myself completely. Mostly, I didn’t like what I saw … a self-apologetic, self-loathing, self-ignorant imposter. … Learning to love myself has been a process. … I’ve made mistakes, and I’m unashamed. I’ve lost and cried. I’ve triumphed and laughed. I’ve unearthed and rediscovered. I’ve learned. I’ve tried. And now I’m ready. … I’m not offering you innocence; I don’t have much of that left to offer, but what I do have to present to you is a renewed mind and spirit.
I will be ready for you when you come. I am ready for you.