Profiles of Faith
How did she do it? How did this brilliant jurist endure the insults, the interruptions, the obvious denigration from some of the senators at her confirmation hearing? How did she keep her cool for four days?
We could argue the politics of it but in a blog about faith in public life, I prefer to look at her character and what drives her. Seated there in that chamber was someone special, and everything about her confirmed it. She started by introducing her family and those introductions seemed real. When she mentioned him, her husband, Patrick teared up thinking about all they shared. Turning to her daughters, Judge Jackson spoke about the uneasy balance of being a mother and having a demanding career. She admitted she couldn’t promise she always got it right but she believed that “with hard work, determination and love” it could be done. Aware of her responsibility as a role model, she continued, “I’m so looking forward to seeing what each of you chooses to do with your amazing lives in this incredible country.”
Those words set the tone of grace and poise for the days that followed as Jackson rose above the fray, finding clarity where others sowed the seeds of confusion, keeping her cool while others attacked her relentlessly. Her strength came, in part, from her family those who knew her best and recognized her courage last week.
One photo of Leila Jackson, the judge’s younger daughter, went viral on social media. Sitting in her Sunday best, she gazed at her mother with such pride and affection, with a face full of goodness and trust. Leila Jackson was not worried. She had faith in her.
Judge Jackson taught us a lot at those hearings, because none of us can avoid struggle. Often adversity comes precisely when we are innocent and don’t deserve it. Often it comes because we’re crossing some barrier, or challenging someone’s expectations. It comes because our achievements put the lie to sexism or racism others don’t want to see. But Renee Graham said something in the Boston Globe that I remember. She said, “Jackson never flinched. She had come this far by faith, and it didn’t fail her.” In the end, it wasn’t just her family or her personality that made her strong, it was her faith Judge Jackson had plenty of faith, faith in the judicial process, faith in the American dream, faith in herself. She had faith like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that history is an arc and it bends towards justice.
When you face adversity, you can only get so far on perseverance, though that helps. You can only get so far on raw courage, though that’s important. To prevail, you need to believe in something bigger than yourself. Faith is one of the few things that really gives any of us true strength. Whatever we have to face in life, earned or not, we all have choices, We can decide to live with integrity or not. We can decide to be vulnerable and honest or guarded and defensive. We can face each day with faith in ourselves, faith in God and faith in the promise of a new day. That kind of faith may make all the difference. When you see Judge Jackson’s Confirmation hearings through the eyes of faith, ironically, they may have been amazing.