Your Identity as an Image Bearer
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Jasmine HolmesJasmine L. Holmes has written for The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Fathom Mag, Christianity Today, and The Witness. She is also a contributing author for Identity Theft: Reclaiming the Truth of Our Identity in Christ and His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God. She teaches humanities in a classical Christian school in Jackson, Mississippi, where she and her husband, Phillip, are parenting two young sons.
Jasmine Holmes wants her son to understand he is made in the image of God, to understand the beauty of diversity, and to be a hopeful optimist centered on the gospel of Christ.
Your Identity as an Image Bearer
Bob: If you are a minority, living in a majority white culture, as parents, there are conversations you will likely have with your children that would be less typical in a majority white home. Here’s Jasmine Holmes.
Jasmine: Lots of black children have that conversation of: “If the police pulls you over, what do you do? How do you act? How do you respond?” For me, it was: “If there’s a customer service issue when you’re out, how do you act? How do you respond? You’re a black woman, so you have to keep that in mind at all times,”—that’s something that my parents instilled in me.
It’s something that I walk a fine line with for my son. I want him to be aware of his skin, and I want him to act with awareness; but I also want him to be able to be a kid.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 15th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. It’s good for all of us to be aware of some of the unique challenges facing minority families in a majority white culture. We’re going to hear more about that today from Jasmine Holmes. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I want to know if your wife was a—was she a mama bear? Would you have used that expression about her when you were raising your boys?
Dave: I think every mom’s a mama bear at some point.
Dave: Yes; and she was in some things, but not other things. Yes; there are some stories.
Ann: There’s a fierceness there.
Dave: Oh, yes.
Bob: Do you remember when your mama bear instincts came out as you were raising your sons? Was there anything that happened that caused you to just say, “Over my dead body!” kind of stuff?
Ann: I feel like it’s more, as they got older, with coaches. Dave’s pretty laid back and I’m pretty intense, and I can let her blow in the house. [Laughter] But then, I would have to/every time, I’d have to go before God—like, “Lord, here’s what I’m going to say!” Then He would always temper it, like, “Alright, let’s just calm it down”; because when I’m at my peak, it’s just like, “Everybody look out; here she comes!” Dave would just be praying in the other room, probably, “Jesus, help her to calm down a little bit.” [Laughter]
Bob: Well, we have got a mama bear joining us; is it fair to call you a mama bear?—is that alright?
Jasmine: Yes; definitely. [Laughter]
Bob: Jasmine Holmes is joining us on FamilyLife Today; Jasmine, welcome back.
Jasmine: Thank you for having me back.
Bob: Jasmine has written a book called Mother to Son, which is a collection of letters you wrote to your, then, three-year-old son, Wynn. You’re not a mother of two; Langston was born right after you had submitted this to your publisher. This was a collection of letters about how you wanted to be guiding your boys as they grew; some of it related to the fact that you’re living as minority people in a majority white culture.
But that’s really not all that you were writing about. You were writing about what their identity would be beyond their racial or their ethnic makeup; right?
Jasmine: Absolutely; yes.
Bob: As you think about the non-ethnic themes in this book, what was most important to you, as a mom, that you wanted to make sure you were communicating and guiding your son with?
Jasmine: When we talk about ethnicity, it’s really easy to talk about it as though it’s the most important thing, especially right now, in our culture. I think that there’s a ditch on both sides of the road. There’s a ditch on one side that says, “It doesn’t matter what color you are; we’re colorblind, your heritage doesn’t matter.” It’s just, “We’re just all people; nothing else is important.” Then there’s the ditch on the other side that says that: “Your heritage and ethnicity is the most important thing; it’s all that matters, and you should be judged solely based on the level of melanin in your skin.”
My goal for the book was—even though it is a book about ethnic identity—I wanted to remind my son that the most important of his identity is in the fact that he’s made in the image of God. I hope that, the older that he gets, the most important part of his identity becomes his identity in Christ.
Bob: There are character qualities that all of us want for our kids as they grow up. I kind of have a sense of what those character qualities were for my kids—like I wanted to make sure that my boys were hard workers, that they would take responsibility/not be passive,—
Bob: Yes; I’m just wondering, in a minority environment, are there other qualities that stand out that you say, “We just have to emphasize other things, because of the unique nature of being minority,” or not?
Jasmine: I think, overall, there’s a similar emphasis on all kinds of things—right?—the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control.
I do think, as a black mother, sometimes, I major a little bit more on certain things; because of the color of my son’s skin. When it comes to teaching him, for instance, how to regulate his emotions—how to be a self-controlled and patient young man—well, part of that’s because he’s a boy. Doesn’t mean, if I had a daughter, it wouldn’t be important for her; it’s just something that I’m really emphasizing with him, because he is a boy. In a similar way, because he’s a young black man, I emphasize that even extra/even more so.
Me and my brother—when we were learning how to drive—more so my brother than me—lots of black children have that conversation of: “If the police pulls you over, what do you do? How do you act? How do you respond?” For me, it was: “If there’s a customer service issue when you’re out, how do you act? How do you respond? You’re a black woman, so you have to keep that in mind at all times,”—that’s something that my parents instilled in me.
It’s something that I walk a fine line with for my son. I want him to be aware of his skin, and I want him to act with awareness; but I also want him to be able to be a kid; right? Even though he is a little black boy, he’s still a boy with thoughts, and feelings, and emotions. I don’t think that it’s fair that he should have to work extra hard just because of the color of his skin. That balancing act kind of starts with me. I’m still figuring that out for him. I want him to be exemplary; because he’s a young man, who’s being raised by people who love Jesus, and not have to feel like he has to be exemplary just because he’s sometimes going to be the only black boy in the room.
Dave: Hey, talk about—because I found it in your second chapter, where you’re talking about the identity that you are God’s—and then you list three things you want your son to know. Again, even as I read your book, I thought, “Man, every mother and father needs to read this book—every son and daughter—because it speaks to every son and daughter, not just yours, which is a beautiful thing. You wrote it for your son, but we all get to benefit from it.”
You say, about identity, three things: “You are made in His image,”—and I’m thinking, “I’ll tell my son that,”—and I have told my son that—“You are His beloved son.”
The second one is: “You are black on purpose.” I’m like, “Whoa! That’s unique, because that is so important to understand that for a little black boy.” I never thought of telling my white son, “You are white on purpose.” That wasn’t something that came to my mind, but it’s distinctive. Talk about that, so we can understand that.
Jasmine: I think, again—and I kind of talked about this last time—a lot of me talking to my son is talking to younger me: things that I wanted to hear; things my parents told me; things that were true of me, even though I didn’t always feel them. So often, being the only black girl in the room was hard. It was really easy for me to be like, “Well, why me? How come I have to do this? How come I have to be different?”
Really, changing my mindset of the fact that God was purposeful in His making of me. I really want my son to understand that, as well/to see—you know, not, “You’re black and it’s better,”—it’s not better, but it’s good.
Ann: Jasmine, is there ever a part of you, as a mom raising black sons, are you afraid for them?
Jasmine: Sometimes/sometimes, I am. I think my more immediate fear for my sons, rather than being afraid for them bodily, my more immediate fear is for their souls. I am so afraid of raising young men, who are jaded by the state of things in the world right now. I am so committed to raising boys, who know how to hope/boys, who are optimists—in spite of knowledge that might prove to the contrary—boys who are centered on the gospel of Christ.
That doesn’t mean that I never see these hashtags and headlines, and never put myself in these mothers’ positions; but I think my more immediate fear is for their souls.
Ann: How do you keep them from being jaded?
Jasmine: I have such a good community, here, in Jackson. I realize that not everybody has that. I have just been able to surround our little family with people—who understand the gospel/who understand the beauty that God created in diversity—who love us and who love us well.
I think that surrounding my boys with this community is a huge step in showing them that the world has more to offer than what we see on headlines, because it can be so easy to get wrapped up in Twitter® debates, and wrapped up in Facebook® comment threads, and wrapped up in hashtags, and wrapped up in media. But when it comes down to the actual day to day of living in community with brothers and sisters in Christ, and learning how to love them well, I think that I do find more reasons for optimism than I might find looking at a headline.
Dave: You know, I found an interesting quote in your book about fear—a mother’s fear—I thought was so insightful. I’ll read it to you, and I’d love to have you comment; because I don’t know how long ago you wrote this. I’m sure you remember it; but you said:
My fear for you, my son, is not so much that you will be lynched like Emmitt Till. Make no mistake, I will train you, as I was trained, to respond to authority in a way that will make you appear as nonthreatening and compliant as humanly possible; and I will hope and pray that this compliance will serve as some kind of barrier against brutality that your young black form may incur.
What I fear most is the way that the politicizing of that violence, and of the black bodies it sometimes harms, will impact your mind. Will you become desensitized by the death of black men, shrugging off injustice, because it makes you uncomfortable? Will you become paralyzed by the death of black men, locked in an endless downward spiral of fear and grief? I hope not.
I mean, that is a fear that you articulated that I’m sure many moms relate to and many don’t. Talk about that; that’s a unique fear.
Jasmine: Yes; there’s a lot of conversation every time that a death happens to a black man at the hands of law enforcement. There is a lot of kickback about it/a lot of kick-up about it—justified. I do think that, when these things happen, we have a tendency to dehumanize the people, who are the victims of these deaths. We see the hashtags that 0either support or don’t support our preconceived political ideals of why they got shot, what the police should be doing/what they should not be doing—things just go from being human—go from us mourning a death/mourning a loss; and seeing a person, who’s made in the image of God, in the face of the fallen and in the face of law enforcement—and instead, seeing different political ideologies.
It starts to devolve into this kind of political chess game, and moves away from being a conversation about a human being, who is made in the image of God. I want my sons to stand outside of that political chess game—and to truly see people and see their worth, outside of the back and forth that so often happens around these deaths—it’s hard.
Bob: I’m thinking about the inspiring, famous quote from Dr. King, who said that he dreamed of a day when people would be known by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. That quote is being kind of reconsidered in our day. Deconstruct that for me; and as you raise your son, is that a value that you would teach your son, or is there another side to that we need to be considering?
Jasmine: I want my son to be judged by the content of Christ’s character; because I want him to be a person, who has been bought with a price. I want him to be a person, who walks in an identity that is in Christ above all else.
I think—I’ve said it already—one of the ingredients of that identity is that he’s a black man. I think that’s beautiful/wonderful. One of the ingredients in that identity is that he is a man. I don’t think anybody would be like, “You know, Wynn, I know that you’re a man; but I just want to ignore that, and I want to treat you like you don’t have any gender or sexuality at all.” That’s silly; he’s a man.
Well, I think it’s equally silly to say, “Well, Wynn, I just want to overlook—I know that you’re talking about your unique struggles or unique triumphs, as a black man, but I just want to overlook that.” I think that looking at that is part of looking at the whole picture and part of looking at the whole man—and appreciating him—so seeing his ethnicity as a beautiful part of him, not something that needs to be ignored, but also not something that needs to be preeminent.
Ann: It was fun this morning, Jasmine; I was on Instagram®. I just happened to be scrolling through, and one of my good friend’s daughters had posted a cover of your book; she said, “Every mom needs to read this; this is amazing.”
I text her—she’s a white mom that has adopted a black son. He’s five years old, so she’s really trying to learn. I text her/I said, “Hey, we’re going to be interviewing Jasmine today. If you sat down with her, across the table, what would you want to ask her?” Instantly, I get like five questions from her. She’s like, “This is what I would want to hear from her…” One of the questions was—you’re a teacher, and you’re a mom—“How are you practicing racial reconciliation in your church, in your school, and in your neighborhood? What does that look like, practically speaking?”
Jasmine: A lot of times, for me, it takes place in school. I’m the only black teacher at my school. Most of the time, I teach medieval history; but my first year teaching there—and now, this year, teaching there—I will be teaching American history. Every year that I teach American history, we do a whole unit on the civil rights movement in Mississippi, and ways that things can change and things can be better. There’s a power in teaching history that I really enjoy; that’s the major way.
Then, like I said, I go to a church—I think we were talking about this earlier—that’s very ethnically, and politically, and economically diverse. They’re in a predominantly black lower-class neighborhood, and my church’s school is specifically geared towards kids in that neighborhood, where the church is, which is great. They have what they call their “covenant kids in the church,” and then they have the community kids in the neighborhood; so they’re all going to school together—learning together/learning alongside each other—and I’m super excited for my son to be part of that.
Bob: Those of us, who are not history teachers, and who don’t have that same approach, how can we be practicing—majority-culture families—what can we be doing to help encourage racial reconciliation as we raise our kids?
Jasmine: Relationships are so important. I have so enjoyed friendships with people in our community/at our church. The cool thing, again, about living in Jackson, Mississippi, is that I know ten of the people in my neighborhood also go to my church; so people in my neighborhood and people in my church are the same people. We’ve done all kinds of things: even from just having really difficult conversations that are uncomfortable sometimes, to checking in on each other when things are happening in the world, like things that have happened over the last few months. I have a book club/I do book club things, where we read things that bring up these issues.
I think everybody kind of finds their own way to engage in these issues. Maybe, people who are more politically involved—like my husband is more politically involved than I am—that’s his area/that’s his focus. That’s just an example of how the two of us are really different, and we kind of interact with these things in different ways.
Dave: Speaking of your husband, from a mom’s perspective, how important do you see the role of a dad with a son in identity and hope?
Jasmine: It’s so important. My husband was not blessed to have a dad, who was actively involved in his life. One of the most beautiful and redemptive things about being a parent for me has been to be able to see him be the kind of father to his sons that he was not blessed to have himself. He delights in his sons, and they know that.
My son, Wynn—he does this thing, where he—I mean, it’s mocking us, basically—he’ll be like, “I’m Mama”; and he’ll go [imitating her voice], “Goodnight, Wynn. I’ll be right back; I love you.” I say, you know, “Okay, what does Dada say?” He thought about it, and then he goes, “Dada says, ‘Wynn, I love you so much; I’m so proud of you.’” I was like, “Is that what Dada says to you all the time?” He kind of rolls his eyes and he’s like, “He tells me all the time!” [Laughter] [I’m] like, “You don’t understand what an important/huge deal that is, but someday you will.”
Ann: I think, too, for me, as I watched our sons growing up, I was amazed at the power that a dad carries. I realized that they were around me more than Dave, but they were always watching Dave.
Jasmine: Yes, yes!
Bob: Well, Jasmine, this book and your writing is so helpful for every mother/I think for every father—for every Christian to understand the context/understand the uniqueness that you’re facing—to help us all. At one level, we are all together in the process of partnering in raising your son; because we’re part of a covenant community. We need to understand that responsibility better, and you’ve helped us do that with the book. Thanks for this time, and thanks for your writing.
I think we should close—why don’t you pray for Wynn and Langston—would you do that?
Ann: I would love to.
Father, thank You, first of all, for Jasmine and for the passion that You’ve given her for her sons to know You and their identity in You, Lord. So, Lord, I pray that that would sink deep into their souls, of who they are as men of God/of who You called them. I pray that You would form them and that You would take their character and mold it into Your hands, so that they reflect You, Lord. I think that’s what we all want, as mothers and fathers, that we would reflect You and our kids would reflect You to impact their community and generation for Your kingdom, Jesus.
I pray for protection for these boys; I pray for power over them. I pray for Jasmine and Phillip as they raise them—not only them, Lord—but for our other brothers and sisters that are listening, that You would anoint us and give us wisdom, Lord, that we need to raise these kids in an era and in a time that they would stand up and proclaim Your name in power and in reverence of who You are; because, Lord, You are the reconciler. You are the one that has adopted all of us into Your kingdom.
Lord, I pray that You would fight on our behalf to bring peace and to give us wisdom to know when to stand up and to shout and when to sit down and just pray. Lord, we need You. I thank You for all You’re doing, and I pray that You would give Jasmine more dreams of how she can use Your gifts to encourage us and to prompt us to be closer to You. We pray in Jesus’ name; amen.
Bob: Jasmine, thank you; thanks for the time.
Jasmine: Thank you for having me.
Bob: Thanks for the book, too; thanks for writing Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope. I hope this will be widely read, not just by other black moms, but by all of us to better understand the challenges that minority families are facing in a predominantly white culture. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy of Jasmine’s book, Mother to Son. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get your copy of Jasmine’s book. Again, it’s titled Mother to Son. Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, we’ve had a whole bunch of you, over the last several days, who have gone to your app store for your device and downloaded the brand-new updated/upgraded FamilyLife® app. You can type “FamilyLife” as one word in the search bar in your app store, and the new app pops up there.
David Robbins, the president of FamilyLife, is here with us. David, this new upgraded app gives us a fresh opportunity to connect with our listeners.
David: Yes, Bob; we are really excited about this; because we know, in a unique season like 2020, our rhythms are all over the place. When people need help, they need help at that moment. When people need hope, they need access to it right then. We want to be a source to provide encouragement and biblical help and hope when you need it. That’s why our team has really invested time in making this app.
My new habit has been coming home from taking the kids to school—it doesn’t line up to when FamilyLife Today is on in my city—so I open up that app. It has been such a refreshing thing, and the timing’s perfect. I pull back in my driveway, before I go jump on a bunch of Zoom calls, and I listen to that day’s show. I find myself praying specific prayers for my kids as they’re at school and as I walk back into my house.
We’re hopeful that this app allows people to access biblical truth whenever they need it. I’m so grateful for our financial partners at FamilyLife who make it possible for our teams to continue to innovate and to launch this vastly-improved and relaunched app.
Bob: Again, it’s easy; and it’s free to download. Go to your app store for your device, type in “FamilyLife” as one word, and download the new FamilyLife app. Thank you, David.
We hope you can join us, again, tomorrow. We’re going to hear a conversation that our friend, Kim Anthony, had recently for her podcast, Unfavorable Odds. She talked with John Perkins—I think he’s 90 years old now—John has been a leader among evangelicals in the deep South, talking about racial issues for years. Kim had a conversation with him recently; we’ll hear that when we come back tomorrow. I hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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