Oh Jonathan, you turned four years old this month! Amazing how time flies so fast. You are my little guy, and I love you, although there are times when you drive me up the wall. Like yesterday. And the day before that. And the entire month of July, for that matter.

I still remember the day I first heard that you were coming into our lives. Your mother was going into surgery for her mastectomy, and her doctor called me in to the surgical ward because she had to tell me something important. When I heard that, my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. In fact, I almost vomited. You see, the prior year had taught me to expect the very worst from life, and from God: miscarriage, burglary, cancer, health insurance cancellation. And so that morning I braced myself for another kick to the teeth, perhaps news that the cancer had spread, or that the surgery couldn’t be performed.

But the last thing I ever expected to hear was that mommy was pregnant, and that you were in her belly. I was at an absolute loss for words, something that doesn’t happen to your father often. It was in that moment that my understanding of God completely collapsed. I realized that I didn’t understand God in the least, a God who could allow your mother to suffer so terribly, but also would bring such an unexpected gift into our lives. I felt like Job standing before the whirlwind, my haughty theology eroding and folding in upon itself in light of the sublime mystery of God and His ways.

So thanks, Jonathan, for completely destroying your dad’s theology.

Fast forward a few months, and I was with your mother at the Sculpture Garden of the National Mall. I got another call from a doctor, this time from a wonderful cancer specialist in San Francisco. Her words to me, although kind, broke my heart. “Peter, I hate to say this, but this is the advice that I would give my own sister: you need to terminate that baby and get Carol started on treatment right away.” Despair swept over me, and from some deep place in me, I lamented, “God, why? Why give me this gift only for it to be taken away? Why do you do things for no reason?!”

And somehow, I swear that I heard God say this: “I don’t.

"Why do you do things for no reason?!” And somehow, I swear that I heard God say this: “I don’t.

Your mom and I then decided that no matter what, no matter what anyone told us, we were going to keep you. We were convinced that God had given you to us, and no matter what anyone told us, we were going to protect you and bring you into this world. We had faith that God does and gives nothing without great purpose...faith as small as a mustard seed.

The next few months were hard, so very hard. Dad was trying to plant a church, and having a terrible time with it. People looked to me for leadership and guidance and faith, not realizing that my own faith hung by the thinnest of threads. And your mother – oh Jonathan, your mother. She was a sight to see, a woman who had lost all her hair, but at the same time, was heavily pregnant with you. The stares we got from people wherever we went! My heart would burn with anger, and I would glare at them, but who could blame them? Who would have been able to keep from staring at such a jarring juxtaposition, such a powerful and saddening image of cursedness and blessing, of health, and sickness. Of life, and death.

But we managed to make it through those months, mostly because your sisters. I wonder if you will ever understand what wonderful sisters you have, how strong and gentle they are, and how much they take after your mother? Your sisters' laughter and joy and triumphs became ours, inherited strength that came from child to parent, rather than the other way around. So you be good to your noo-nahs.

You were born a month later, September 9, 2010. I didn’t cry any tears that day, because your dad is a big stud. But it’s also because your mom insisted in having you without any epidural. Can you imagine that?! After enduring chemotherapy while pregnant, your insane mother decided that she still had one more thing to prove to herself, that she could have a child without drugs. So I couldn’t cry that day because your mom was screaming at me, and the doctors were casting their judgmental looks at me, and things were just generally chaotic and unpleasant for your dad.

But you came, your perfect toes and fingers, your huge head, seemingly untouched by everything you had endured for the last 9 months…how did you do that? How did you come out unscathed by such terrible circumstances? By the moment you were born, and were one minute old, you had already endured so much, and overcome! Not many children can make such a claim.

I didn’t cry that day, but I did in the months to come, and sometimes still do. Sometimes I take your face in my hands and just look, marvel. Yes, you’re my son, one of my beloved children (EQUALLY beloved, mind you). But you are more than that. You are a symbol to me, an incarnation of sorts, a tangible reminder of the amazing and inscrutable ways of God. It is a rare and precious blessing to be able to physically see God’s love and power, and to be reminded that His ways are not my ways, but much higher and better. Truthfully there have been moments where your dad has lost heart and faith, overwhelmed by all the random and minute disappointments of life. But then I look at you and remember who God is, and what he is able to do, and I laugh. After all, if a God who can bring you into the world against all odds is with us, who can be against us?

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No one, Jonathan – no one.

Third Culture
Third Culture looks at matters of faith from the multicultural and minority perspective.
Peter Chin
Peter W. Chin is the pastor of Rainier Avenue Church and author of Blindsided By God. His advocacy work for racial reconciliation has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR, and the Washington Post.
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