Anyone who knows me personally might find it laughable that I could compare myself to Mary, mother of Jesus, but I propose we have a few things in common. Though I’ll be the first to admit Mary’s devotion to God and steadfast womanly innocence are wildly different from my own, we both have gone through the rigors of childbirth—and we both made treks of quite some distance prior to bringing life into this world.
While I am tempted to put forth a discussion on how Mary might have reacted when the angel Gabriel came to visit her to deliver her the news of a divine pregnancy, I struggle with that concept too much to engage in theological debate. I often entertain the notion that Jesus was the unplanned result of a natural tryst between two consenting betrothed’s. However the 30+ years of Methodist ideology pounded into my head has me scared shitless that I could be wrong—and do I really want to piss off the blessed mother? I don’t think so…
What I can relate to, however, are the feelings of impending labor, knowing my life was about to change forever, knowing that while I might not have the son of God in my uterus, the tiny life I was about to nurse at my breast would create her own mark on this world. And before I could meet this wonderful gift, I would need to make a journey of my own.
With a due date of April 16, I got express permission from my doctor to make a 450 mile trip for a once-in-a-lifetime event: I was to be the Matron of Honor in my sister’s wedding. Lacey was to wed on March 20 and I was to stand by her side, eight months pregnant, to witness her vows of fidelity, honor, and love. So on St. Patrick’s Day 2004, I loaded my whale of a self into the backseat of our Toyota Camry, surrounded by pillows and blankets aplenty and headed to Atlanta. I can’t remember how many pee breaks we made, how many times I had to shift my body to move baby from my bladder, or how often I had to do deep breathing exercises at the Braxton-Hicks contractions that racked my body. I had an arduous 900 mile round trip journey…but there is no way I wouldn’t have made the trip.
Thinking about it now, I cannot imagine how Mary and Joseph made that 90 mile trek with her in her late third trimester. She had the “luxury” of riding on a donkey while Joseph led her to Bethlehem, but she certainly needed pee breaks, too. Mary and Joseph had a legal duty to make the journey, by order of King Herod, so not returning to Judea wasn’t even an option. Though I was not legally bound, I get that feeling of responsibility to one’s kin to stand up and be counted.
I returned home on March 21 and made it another week until labor started. I remember those first labor pains and rubbing my belly knowing I had only a few short hours (or 18 long ones) before 2 would become 3 and my beautiful daughter would shift my moniker from simply wife to that of mother. I rocked in the rocking chair and gazed at the newly painted John Lennon mural of her nursery and wondered what she would smell like and whether she would look more like me or like her father. I thought things that every mother thinks when her world is about to change—things that I’m quite certain Mary thought too, as a mother naturally would.
There are so many questions I have when I think about Mary: How cool was it that she didn’t have to do the needle/thread test—she knew without an ultrasound that she was having a son. How on earth did she make that journey without the use of cruise control or noseplugs to ward off offensive smells? By the same token, does she know how lucky she was that she didn’t have to gulp the orange drink for the mid-gestation diabetes test? Once she found out she was knocked up, did she take advantage of the 2nd trimester hormone surge and pounce on Joseph once and for all? So many questions, some of which I’m sure she had too and she didn’t have the help of online message boards to find out whether that really was her mucus plug or not…
In this Christmas season, I find it easy to find a kindred spirit in mother Mary as we celebrate the birth of her first born. After all, there’s something special about the one who first calls us mama. As for all of my questions, while fun to ponder, I harken the Beatles who remind me that mother Mary whispers words of wisdom, just “let it be…”
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most Highwill overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:26-38
I am sitting here trying to empathize with the Virgin Mary. Trying to put myself in her sandals, if you will. I’m a little less hung up on the fear and disbelief that would strike knowing I was a pregnant virgin, and I am way more concerned with how I would react knowing I was pregnant with God’s Son. The only way I would know how to sort through such a conundrum would be to drop to my knees and pray. Mary was amazing in her response to the angel Gabriel. She asked a reasonable question, then said Thy will be done. Now I am assuming that after the winged messenger disappeared, she might have been hit with a bit of reality. I found it way more difficult to get into Mary’s head than I expected, but here is my feeble attempt:
I am so scared. Yes, you have made Your will clear to me, and I trust You. But can you see where I am coming from? I mean here I am, about to be married, and now I am pregnant. Not only am I pregnant, but I am pregnant with Your Son. I’m pretty sure that story isn’t going to go over well with the people here in Nazareth. I am a bit scared of their judgement and desire to punish me. Help me know that You will protect me from their judgement.
Lord God, could you help me out with Joseph? The angel came to me, and I know Your will, but why would Joseph believe me? I love him dearly, and I would be so grateful if I could have him as a helpmate through this journey. Please just give him peace in knowing that I am Your servant and this is of You. Thank you!
Here comes the fear again. What is it like to be pregnant with God’s Son? I mean, I’ve talked to plenty of women in town, and I’ve seen my own mother pregnant, but those were common pregnancies. I know what to look for and what to prepare for in such a pregnancy. But now that I am carrying Your Son, will I be less sick or more sick than typical? Will my belly glow? What am I supposed to eat? How much am I supposed to eat to nourish the Son of God in my womb? Will I be pregnant for 9 months? Does it take more or less time to grow the Son of God? Oh gosh, what is labor going to be like? How does one give birth to a child of the Almighty?
I take comfort that I know You pretty well, so I can at least know a little bit what to expect about this boy to be called Jesus. I imagine He will be just like you. He will be loving. He will be wise. But God, I’m a little nervous about his temper! Please give me the wisdom and patience to raise Your child.
For the next few months, I will literally have God inside me. I guess that should be comforting to me. I don’t have to wonder if You are with me or if You hear me. i will feel Your love coming from within. Thank you for such a privilege.
I don’t know why You chose me. And at moments, I’m a little bit perturbed that You chose me. But here I am Lord. Please help me to keep focus on Your will throughout this pregnancy. And Lord, help me have peace about bringing Your Son into this world. Please guide me in helping the birth of Your Son be glorifying to You. Amen