For Christmas this year, I decided to share an excerpt from my book, Loved So Much It Hurts: Purpose in the Pain. This particular piece was posted on my CarePage on December 20, 2010, a year after my cancer surgery.
This season, I’ve felt the story of our Savior’s birth more deeply than I remember in past years. Perhaps, it’s because of the miracle He worked in my life over the last year—though, I’d have to say the miracle He’s working in my heart by far outshines the healing He’s doing in my body. Perhaps it’s that our time here is so short, and, like Gracie at the advent calendar, the closer I get to seeing Jesus face-to-face, the more excited I get. Gracie, at least, has a date to look forward to. I only have a growing sense of anticipation. I also feel a sense of urgency from the Spirit that people know and accept God as He really is, and not what we want Him to be. And this brings me to Mary (Jesus’ mom).
Here, we have a young girl. A good girl, by all accounts, espoused to a good man, and coming closer to the day she will finally be married. Blessed with the comfort of a husband’s arms. Finally, to be able to experience loves first kiss, make a home of her own, and start a family. What more could a girl want? She’d probably been dreaming of this since she was a little girl. Stealing glances at Joseph in the market place, or at various festivals. Feeling a rush of heat in her cheeks, when he looked back at her. It wouldn’t be long, now.
“Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
And Mary responds logically. “What???”
Then Gabriel explains, and though some of his explanation is just plain weird, the bottom line is that Mary has received unwarranted favor from God himself! She has been blessed! What must this have looked like to Mary? Parades in her honor? Gifts? Riches? Respect? It would sure put those girls who looked down their noses at her in their place! But, what did God’s blessing look like in reality?
First of all, she’d never known the touch of a man, and here she was to be with child? Pardon my frankness, but most of us tend to look forward to our wedding night, don’t we? That part of married life kind of makes up for the nine months of discomfort and pain—not to mention all the years that follow. But that was all right. She would have a loving, supportive husband to get her through and share her joy, right?
Wrong. The man she’d dreamed about all those years did not take the news at all well. In fact, he wanted nothing to do with her. After all, if he married her, he would appear just as guilty of sin as she obviously was. It may be common place in the world, but fornication is a stoning offense to God, which was why Joseph wanted to “put her away quietly.”
Even after an angelic visitation convinced him to go ahead with the marriage, he didn’t cohabitate with Mary until after Jesus’ birth. Any moms out there who have had to go through a pregnancy alone?
And Joseph was very much human. His reputation was shot. I can imagine he had a hard time looking at Mary, and when he did, I’m sure she saw a look that said, “My wife is carrying someone else’s child, and I haven’t even been with her, yet.” Or maybe, “I know the prophets foretold a virgin birth, but did it have to be my virgin?” I don’t know how many of you have experienced rejection like that, but this must have been horrible for Mary.
Even now, some people have a very hard time sharing their spouses with God. And for all Joseph knew, his dream could have been just that—a dream. And, don’t forget the villagers—the looks and the whispers—”Good little Mary—boy, she had us fooled!” Mary had to go live with her cousin, Elisabeth for three months, probably wondering when the “blessing” would begin. Elisabeth, got it, what was with everyone else?
But, it just went downhill from there. With the census, came a nice vacation—not. When I was four months pregnant with my first child, my husband and I drove from Northern Oregon, to Southern California in the summer to visit family. Now, we had a new car—with AC, but even so, it was the most miserable trip I have ever taken! Stopping every thirty minutes to throw-up, trying to no avail, to get comfortable—it was horrible! But, here was Mary, very near her due date, having to make this journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem—about 60 miles—on the back of a donkey! Tears come, just thinking about that poor child! But, it gets better! When they arrive, there are no rooms left! I don’t know how Mary handled all this, but I know how I would have:
“Are you serious, Joseph? You couldn’t make reservations? Don’t these people know who I am? I – am – Blessed – Among – Women!—and you’d better do something fast, ’cause my water just broke!”
The mother of our Savior then proceeded to bed down and give birth in a barn. I personally like the smell of horses, but cow, sheep, and donkey doo? Yuck.
There was no golden bassinette or soft receiving blankets for this King. Only bandages, much like he would be wrapped in at His burial, and a dirty, feed trough that countless animals had slobbered and chewed on. I’m sure Mary thought things were finally looking up, when the visitors and gifts began to arrive—some two years later—and Joseph’s attitude probably took a turn for the better. But, it wasn’t long before the little family was on the run to save their child’s life. Perhaps it was then that Mary finally realized the gravity of being blessed of God, even though old Simeon in the temple warned that even her own soul would be pierced through by a sword. Silly old man, I am blessed among women. Pierced through my own soul? I don’t think so.
My point is, that our idea of blessing is vastly different from God’s sometimes, because our vision is limited. God sees the big picture, beginning, middle, and end. I’m sure Mary wondered at God’s interpretation as she raised this King in poverty, this kid who was so different from everyone else’s kids, right up until the time she watched her baby hanging on that cross, being pierced with a sword. The sword that pierced her own soul through and through. Even then, she had no idea how she had been blessed. She just had to take God at His Word. Thank God that she did! Her blind faith blessed us all!
It was not just Mary who was to be blessed by this great event, but the whole of Israel. Ironically, aside from the early Church, they missed it, simply because they refused to give up their preconceived notions of who God was, and just take Him at His Word, as Mary did. And that, my friends, is the choice before us, still. Accept the blessing as is, or lose it all together. I’ll take it. No amount of pain and suffering in this life will extinguish the Light of my life. the Light Of the World.
May God bless you richly this Christmas and in the coming New Year!