Luke 1:30-38Living Bible (TLB)
30 “Don’t be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to wonderfully bless you! 31 Very soon now, you will become pregnant and have a baby boy, and you are to name him ‘Jesus.’ 32 He shall be very great and shall be called the Son of God. And the Lord God shall give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he shall reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom shall never end!”
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of God shall overshadow you; so the baby born to you will be utterly holy—the Son of God. 36 Furthermore, six months ago your Aunt[a] Elizabeth—‘the barren one,’ they called her—became pregnant in her old age! 37 For every promise from God shall surely come true.”
38 Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever he wants. May everything you said come true.” And then the angel disappeared.
The last couple of nights have been rough for our son, Steven. He’s been restless and fussy and mostly just wants to be held…all night. Those aren’t my favorite nights as a mom. I love my kids but I love sleep and my own space in the middle of the night. Lucky for my kids, I love them more, so when they struggle, or can’t sleep, or are sick, they win out. So, Steven and I have snuggled a lot. Like all the time. Which sounds lovely if you think you’re just holding a sweet sleeping baby….but it’s not like that, he’s squirmy and fussy and wants to keep eating and eating—mostly for comfort, I think. And while they’re not the nights I love or the nights I thought I was signing up for when I became a mom, they are part and parcel of the mom-job.
Every mom deals with sleepless nights, sick kids, interrupted meals, constant chatter, boogers, spit up, diapers, throw up, tantrums and the like. It’s part of the gig.
But then there are moms who are forced out of the norm and into the unimaginable. There are far too many moms who have to face something terrible or tragic or tremendous—far beyond the normal… What about when you have a child who can only eat through a g-tube? or who spends countless days in the hospital? or must undergo chemo or radiation? or is hurt in a major accident? or battles more than every day bullying? What about when you face the sleepless nights not because they can’t sleep but because their day to day reality is harder than it should be, worse than anyone should have to deal with? What about when you’re the mom who doesn’t make enough to put food on the table? or confronts sleeping on the street rather than living with an abusive partner? What about when you’re a mom in a war torn country? stuck in a part of the city that’s overrun with terrorists who won’t even let you out when help is available simply because of hate and spite? What about if you’re the mom who carries her child on her back for days simply to reach a doctor who might (or might not) be able to tell you what’s wrong and causing his illness. What do you do when you’re one of those moms? Or maybe worst of all, what about when you’re the mom who has to lay her baby to rest, not comfortably in a bed, but in the earth? These aren’t the “normal mom things” and yet, sadly, there are so many mommas facing the abnormal that we might begin to believe that it is normal.
There are countless moms who face the extra-ordinary, not because they want to, or because they chose to, but simply because they have to—-it’s what life handed them. (Please don’t mistake me for saying God dishes out all those things. I think there are sicknesses and circumstances that happen outside of God’s desire—things I often summarize as “life”—part of being human, but not part of what God wills for us.)
All too often, when we watch the news or hear about the unimaginable realities parents are facing, we think, “I just couldn't do it.”
And we may not want to. We certainly wouldn’t choose to, but we could do it. No, we wouldn’t sign up for it. No one does. But the reality is you do what you have to do and if you had to do it, you would. Not just the moms, but the dads too, if you had to do it, you would…whatever it is.
I think all of us deal with the unexpected. We may have an idea of what motherhood is, or parenting is, but there’s so much more…the unanticipated…sometimes the tragic, terrible and tremendous. There’s all the things that would have given us pause. Had we known ahead of time, we may not have signed up at all. But once you’re in, once you’ve held your child and loved them, your threshold goes up…you’re willing to do all kinds of things that were unthinkable in your single days.
I love the song, “Mary Did You know?” I think it speaks to the interconnectedness of Jesus’ birth and his death. You really can’t tell the story of either one without somehow relating to the other. But the reality is Mary had no idea. Can you imagine if she’d known? As she held her precious baby boy that one day he’d be murdered for crimes he didn’t commit. Chosen to suffer on a cross instead of a known criminal. You think she had any idea of those things and didn’t do more to stop it?
I mean, I’m not Mary, and I’m not the chosen one—but you can bet that if I thought my son was going to be murdered, I’d get the heck out of dodge—-I don’t really care what the justifications might have been.
Mary didn’t know everything that lay before her or her son, but she still said yes. It wasn’t all spelled out with a bow on top, but she still said yes. She agreed to do what God asked even though she had no idea what on earth that would entail.
Mary wasn’t extraordinary. She wasn’t better than any other woman. But she became extraordinary through baby steps of faith that allowed her to ultimately stand at the foot of the cross and watch the horror of her son dying. But that came from 33 years of watching him become the Man of God he was. If you’d asked her on day one, there’s no way she would have consented. She simply trusted God and kept on trusting God one day at a time. I’d bet good money she questioned and doubted and wondered what God was thinking along the way.
Think about it. The first part of this story leaves her pregnant by someone other than her husband, Joseph, which left her as a good candidate for stoning. Joseph was led to act with grace, but what about her family? her parents? siblings? friends? neighbors? She stood to lose a lot as she sought to be faithful to her calling. And so her best bet was to head out of town for months to avoid the gossip, threats, and ugliness. Being God’s chosen one wasn’t easy—not even on day one—and yet Mary stuck with it. Maybe because the good days outweighed the bad, or maybe because she had to choose faith or she would have wound up with despair. Or maybe a mix of both. The gifts of a baby…the sweet smell, the tiny fingers and toes, the adorable little sounds, the love and snuggles can overpower the greatest trials. There’s something about a precious baby that softens the blows of evil. There’s something redemptive just in their presence. And maybe that’s what kept Mary holding on, despite the unknown, despite the early threats from Herod and the need to flee, as a refugee, into Egypt. There’s something about a child, your child, that will make you say yes to all kinds of crazy things. They inspire you to hope for better times, to persevere through devastating trials, and to laugh when all you wish to do is cry.
Mommas around the world hold something sacred in common—they hold love…deep abiding love that is beyond all reason. And they hold hope…for a better tomorrow, for their children, for the world. And that hope will give you the courage to stand in the face of unspeakable evil. And it will give you the faith to keep saying yes to God, one step at a time.