Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pondering Mary's Pain

I have been thinking about Mary a lot the past few days. First I am obsessed with this song

Secondly, I am participating in a Road to Christmas bible study and have spent my mornings pondering her calling. Today's commentary pointed out that Mary was most likely 14 or 15 when she became pregnant with Jesus. She was the age of my students.

My idiotic, naive, think they are mature, controlled by hormones, just figuring stuff out students. Now I recognize that culturally she was raised to be married at 14. That life expectancy was lower, and there was no concept of a "teen". However, to be a virgin who is carrying the Messiah at 14 or 15 is a tall order.

She was a child and she would have had to face questions from everyone. The bible never tells us how her parents react. Did they scream and yell? Tell her she was crazy? Accuse her of being something she wasn't? Was she threatened?

Her community would have whispered about her. According to Jewish law, she could have been stoned. Imagine how it felt to go and get water from the well, or attempt to say hello to people you had grown up. Did she lose friends?

Finally, she had to go to Joseph, her betrothed, and tell him what happened. We know that he doubted her, but felt sorry for her. He was older than her, though there is debate about how much older, and he discovered her pregnancy after she had been away visiting her cousin Elisabeth. He wanted to find a way to end the betrothal, but not get her stoned. Mary must have sensed this, or maybe he told her. How terrifying.

If he broke of the engagement, no other man would marry her. She would be alone. Did she lay in bed and cry? Wondering why God had asked this of her? Did she feel weak and lost? Did she question her own sanity?

God intercedes and sends an angel to assure Joseph of the validity of Mary's story. They marry and soon head off to Bethlehem. We hear little to nothing of their marriage after the birth of Christ. We know there were other children, and that Mary kept her knowledge of Christ's status as the Messiah to herself. When Jesus is crucified, Joseph is already gone, and Jesus must ask his disciple John to care for his mother.

She must have been alone a lot. How do you make close friends when you are raising the savior? How do you discuss your fears with others? When she cuddled toddler Jesus, did she fear what would happen? Or, in the rush of parenting so many  young children, did she mildly forget only to be astoundingly reminded when he disappeared on trip to the temple?

Finally, as she stood at the foot of the cross and watched her son in agony, did she see the newborn she fed? Or the toddler who laughed and ran to her? Did she imagine her young son bringing her flowers? Or recall how big his feet were at that awkward stage? How did she stand there? I have been overwhelmed by the loss of a son not yet in my arms, how did she survive the agony of watching her firstborn slowly be tortured to death?

For the rest of us, her story is a story of joy. We see the beginning and the end, and celebrate it. However, I can't help but think that living it was  hard. She didn't know he would rise again. She didn't know he was dying to save the whole world. She didn't know that by dying he was paying a debt that she owed.

She must have cried out to God the Father multiple times. She must have raged, begged, and sobbed. She must have asked why God picked her. She must have felt betrayed. She must have wondered what the point of her suffering the scorn of the virgin birth was. She must have felt like she had died too.

I don't know what Mary's discussions with God were, or how He assured her of His love.  Her pain blessed all of us. Her suffering helped our redemption. The loss of her son, her baby, saved the world.  A regular girl, in a small town, young and of no importance, was chosen for an impossible task. Because she was willing, because she had faith, because she believed, the world was saved.

I hope to have a teeny bit of that kind of faith.

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