By Hannah Kallio
This woman. We’ve never met, but her song reverberates through my bones. I’d like to think we understand each other.
She’s mentioned by name just twice in the Bible, but don’t let that fool you. Her legacy spans further than those few paragraphs would lead you to believe. We know so little about her life, yet for a moment she stands in stark relief against the backdrop of slavery and salvation.
Her name is Jochebed. And her name itself is telling. It means “the Lord is glory.” The Hebrew word translated here as glory means “weight.” Substance. Heaviness in the very best sense of the word.
Jochebed knows what it means to bear a burden. When she steps into the spotlight, she’s a slave, a wife, and a mother of two. That’s when the best and worst thing that could have happened happens to her.
She feels the heaviness of her third pregnancy more acutely than the others. It’s the physical exhaustion, of course, but also the weight of dread. What hope can she have for this child? They’re drowning baby boys.
After months of heaviness, she’s face-to-face with her son. The Hebrew text tells us she saw that he was “good,” in the same way God saw creation was good. So she does this desperate, hopeful thing. She hides him.
I get it. As a mom, I understand this protective impulse. As a mom of three boys, I appreciate the impossibility of hiding a baby boy. As someone who’s been entrusted with something weighty and precious, I understand clinging with such ferocity. When the other women yield, Jochebed hangs on. She bears the weight of secrecy. For months she does the impossible.
Finally, she admits to herself that even she can’t bear this burden anymore. When she reaches that point of surrender, she does something else that sets her apart. She builds a boat. It doesn’t get as much attention as Noah’s, but to be fair, she doesn’t have centuries to build it, either. In fact, she doesn’t know how much time she has. Will they come for him in minutes? Hours?
The boat is small, but she does everything she can to make it watertight. She puts her precious son into this fragile vessel and launches it at the water’s edge. She doesn’t know it yet, but this crushing moment is heavy with the glory that’s about to be.
I’ve never had to physically give up a baby. But I identify with a fraction of what she’s feeling in this moment; letting go of her son, thinking she’ll never see him again. I’ve felt that raw, sick weight in my chest. I’ve carried a dream heavy with glory. I’ve done everything I could to keep it. And when I reached that point of letting go, I watched that dream I birthed sail away.
Jochebed and I have another thing in common. That dream has come back to me in ways I never could have orchestrated, and sailed away again. God gave me a dream when I was a young girl, and we’ve been taking turns giving it back to each other my whole adult life.
I’m grateful for the fresh, courageous kind of letting go Jochebed taught me. It’s not passive. It’s not with a shrug or a sigh of despair. Even in grief, she has her wits about her. She’s resourceful, intentional, even calculating. Her letting go is a launching. It paves the way for a hope and a future for her baby, even if it’s not with her.
She taught me something else, too. You don’t know five days or even five minutes before that God will turn your story around. When you’re facing a loss, or grieving one, you don’t yet know how it will be turned inside out.
Each time it’s happened to me, after the initial thrill of having my dream restored, I’ve felt a twinge of regret, wishing my heart had trusted more, wishing I’d never doubted. Right now, I’m in the part of the story where I’ve watched my dream sail away again. Lately all I can do is tell myself I want my heart to be ready this time. Whenever God brings it sailing back to me, I want my heart to be ready.
What have you been entrusted with that’s heavy with glory? What have you had to release?
Hannah Kallio is an Israeli who’s at home in France, Italy, and Minnesota. A homemaker who had it all, gave it all away, and lived out of a backpack. She loves one man, 5 kids, and the crazy story God is writing in their lives even more than palm trees, ancient ruins, and deepest dark chocolate. She writes, coaches, speaks, sings, and creates her guts out at hannahkallio.org.
Photograph © Bonnie Kittle, used with permission