5 years ago, I had no idea what God was about to do.
Sure, I knew we were about to go to the hospital and that we’d be welcoming our youngest child, a son, into the world. But I had no way of knowing at that time just how God was intending to bless our lives with little Jackson Cash Bybee.
Sunny and I really wrestled with what to name our little guy. At first, we weren’t going to find out the sex of our child. Since we’d already received a little boy and a little girl from Him, we thought we’d be “surprised” with what we were pretty sure would be our final pregnancy. Some complications along the way pressed that decision and when the time came, we couldn’t resist. When the doctor told us that we were going to have a son, we started going through all of the names that we’d always kicked around. For a while, we thought we had a name picked out: Jacob. And in the early months, that’s what we called him. But after a while, we changed our minds and started exploring some other options. We were drawn to the Gospels as source material — primarily because we’d received “good news” with regard to an in-utero health scare with the baby. My favorite Gospel is Luke — I love his emphasis on Jesus’ reception of the outsider. So for a while, we talked about “Baby Luke” as well. And though the thought of being able to speak the famous Darth Vader line with integrity was compelling — “Luke, I am your father!” — in the end, we decided that wasn’t the direction we want to go, either.
A few weeks before delivery, my grandfather passed away. William Bybee was one of my heroes in the faith and one of the supreme honors of my life was the opportunity to preach his funeral. (I recorded my eulogy in its entirety here.) Sunny and I gave serious consideration to naming our son after Grandaddy. But in the end, we decided to go a different route.
One of the meanings of the name Jackson is “God has been gracious”. And this is the best expression of what this little guy means to me. He is pure grace, a rambunctious ball of energy and motion and blond hair. His smile lights up the room. You see his heart in all its purity when he prays. He is fiercely stubborn, fiercely determined, fully my son through and through. It takes a self-differentiated individual to grow up as the younger sibling of twins: the other two always have inside jokes, always have shared experiences to draw on. But Jack goes his own way, always quick to play along when he wants, but completely comfortable in his own skin, too. And he’s mischievous, no mistake about it. He comes by that pretty naturally, too. But more than anything, he is God’s unmerited favor to us. And I can do nothing but love him for it.
Jackson’s middle name is Cash, on the surface an homage to Johnny Cash. There’s a family resonance with Cash’s music that’s difficult for me to explain to those who don’t know me well…especially those who never knew my father. Suffice it to say, Cash has been the Bybee family bard for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I wonder how Jack will feel about his name when he gets older. Will he like it? Will he think it’s weird? But when it comes to etymology, the word itself means “peace”. There was a sense of completion, of wholeness, that Jackson’s birth signified in our home. This, too, was only the work of God. And that is what the child’s name means, what it represents. Jackson Cash, God’s gracious gift of peace and wholeness.
Jack, you’re turning five years old in just a few moments. I am thankful to be God’s steward of your precious life. You bring me such joy and you make me so proud. I’m proud of you in all your uniqueness. I’m proud of your intellect, your compassion, your daring character and your sense of identity. But I’m most proud to call you my son. May you never forget how special you are. God has only just begun His work in you, my special gift of grace and goodness.
I love you.
June 5, 2012