Nicole Johnson reflects on the upcoming marriage of her son and rests in the peace of all he knows about love.
I’m not necessarily known for being merciful. That's not to imply I’m mean—but I am real. I don’t hold much back and, for the most part, people get to know the real me pretty quickly; sometimes as early as our first encounter. Such was the case, I’d say, for my future daughter-in-law.
The first time she came over for dinner, the four of us—me, my husband, my son and his then brand-new girlfriend—played quadruple solitaire. This oxymoron is a deliciously fast-past competitive game where each player deals his/her own deck of cards solitaire style, yet any aces placed in the middle are free for all to play on. My cousins and I would play this for hours on end growing up. There was always a significant amount of pouncing, a fair amount of yelling, and a dose of legit rage every now and then when someone swooped in and played the very card you were trying to get rid of. Years of experience with this has left me a bit (ok, totally) blind to the somewhat viscous nature of the game and the trauma one might experience when trying it out for the first time. Enter future daughter-in-law, stage left.
Seated across from this young woman, we reviewed the rules of the game and I proceeded with the same aggressively competitive nature I have been raised with. Cue Katelyn grabbing one of her cards and reaching to the middle to place it down only to be beat out by my swift and merciless hand that snuck my card under hers, slapping it down with enough force to wordlessly declare to the universe that I owned the play.
While I never actually intended it, I now realize I couldn’t have planned a better hazing opportunity if I had tried. Katelyn had every reason to be horrified by my manner, yet not only did this girl take it all with ease, she came back. And she still plays this game with me. Sometimes. If I ask nicely.
Some might feel the need to apologize for such questionable behavior, yet I am more inclined to simply say, you’re welcome. No point in putting on airs. This girl deserved to know the truth of what she was getting into right from the start.
It feels surreal, really. My guy—my first born—is getting married. I guess I’ve been training for this his whole life; each stage of letting go slowly preparing me for this handing over of sorts. As any mother might, I do wonder: have I done enough? Maybe not. But he has been raised in the presence of love for twenty-two years now. I may not be ready. But he is.
He knows what love is. He knows it's abundant in the easy but also hidden in those moments when what was easy becomes a decision.
He knows love doesn’t mean perfection, but somehow it's enough for two people who come in many pieces to form one beautiful whole.
He knows love doesn’t mean grief won’t find you, but it does mean it won’t break you. He knows when one of you can’t carry the weight of it all, the other will be there to give more of themself than they ever knew was possible.
He knows true love demands putting God first—even over you—because if he doesn’t invite God in, he can’t be the best friend, husband, and partner he is called to be.
He knows love is work; it is sacrifice; it is wanting more for the other than you do for yourself.
He knows love is in the messy bun and pjs as much, if not more, than the put-together version that first caught his eye.
He knows love means laughing together—often and loudly—even when it is at his expense. Not in a self-deprecating way, but in the acceptance that you are each a work in progress and there is always room and time for growth.
He knows love is in the unspoken glances that somehow say more than words ever could.
He knows you are a gift, handpicked just for him. He knows you are the other half that will—with time, through the mountaintop highs and valley lows, the easy and the hard, the living and the loving—make him whole.
... And when her son was taken down from the cross and placed in her arms, she knew every moment—from the Annunciation to His last breath—was God gently preparing her to let go and do the very thing a mother’s heart innately fears. Every precious moment together was this slow and steady realization that He was never really hers at all. She was given the gift of nurturing Him, feeding His body and soul, protecting Him, teaching Him, and loving Him like no one else could. But it was all for this moment when He would give Himself to the world in the most complete and selfless way He could. She no longer had to wonder if she had done enough. He was ready. And to all those who would open their hearts and receive Him, she quietly proclaimed, you’re welcome.
Copyright 2024 Nicole Johnson
Images: (top, lower center) copyright 2024 Nicole Johnson, all rights reserved; (center, bottom) Canva
About the Author
Wife to a guy she adores and mom to two grown sons and a teenage daughter brought home through the gift of adoption, Nicole loves people and writes to connect with others. To be vulnerable with one another is to grow. Her messy and miraculous faith journey is told in her memoir, My Unexpected Journey, My Surprising Joy. Nicole blogs at NicoleJenniferJohnson.com.