Before you were born, I thought long and hard about just what I wanted to say to you in your first minutes of air-breathing life. What should be the very first words your brand new ears ever hear? Your mom didn’t think it mattered too much; after all, you won’t be able to understand human speech for a long time yet. But to me this was important.
Part of me knows that words are just words. But deep down I still secretly think that words—all words—are incantations of a sort, doing things to those on whom they fall. And so I’m praying these words, three little words, do their work in you until you become like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaves never wither (Psalm 1).
I wanted the first words you ever heard to be like good soil for you to grow in. I want these words to be a firm foundation under your feet, allowing you the freedom to try and fail, the liberty to trust, the strength to be yourself in an age of pretending. And though you won’t understand their meaning at first, I will take you back to these first three words often—on good days and on bad ones. When you’re navigating identity issues, or celebrating a birthday, or hurt by the words of a classmate, or getting ready for a date, we’ll revisit these words together. I’ll say to you, “Do you know what the very first thing ever said to you was?”
Whether you feel like it or not, these words are truth. Fact, even. No matter what you do you will not be able to shake the whole worlds of meaning they hold, brimming just beneath the surface. You are stuck in these three words, and I’m sorry but there’s nothing you can do about it. Whatever shape your identity takes in the years ahead, it will forever be building off of your base, your starting point, the irrevocable, unalterable, irreversible reality that