Monday, November 17, 2008

in honor of advent

a devotional i wrote for my church's advent publication...

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139-13:16).

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46: 3-4).

I had never thought all that much about Mary. That is, until I was pregnant at Christmastime.

I was twenty-seven years old, not a teenager as Mary no doubt was. I was already a mother of a two-year-old, not a young, virgin, first-time-mom like Mary. I was married, carrying my husband’s child, one we’d planned and hoped for. I had a safe, warm, comfortable home, and had no long travels planned in that all-important last month until I was due. In so many ways unlike Mary.

But still.

I distinctly remember the moment when I thought I might—just might—have understood one bit of what Mary was experiencing. I was in the car, feeling terrible and uncomfortable and miserable at 8 ½ months pregnant, and my two-year-old was whining in the backseat. Whining because he was feeling neglected by Mommy, who had no energy or time or space for him right then. I was hungry and tired and questioning every life choice I’d ever made. And so I stuck a CD in the player, mostly in hopes of quieting the two-year-old whine. Amy Grant.

Lay down your burdens; I will carry you, I will carry you, my child.

Even in the misery of the moment, the parallel was not lost on me. As I was comforting my two-year-old, I was promising I’d carry him, both physically (no doubt, as soon as we got out of the car) and emotionally, as he learned what it would mean to have a new sister. To my unborn baby, whose feet were digging into my ribs and whose gymnastics stealing my sleep at night, I was promising I’d carry her (and I had no idea through how much). And yet I so desperately needed to be carried myself.

I give vision to the blind, I can raise the dead. I've seen the darker side of Hell, and I returned. And I see these sleepless nights, and I count every tear you cry. I know some lessons hurt to learn.

As He saw the tears that rolled down my face in that car that day (and I hoped no one else did), I thought I could imagine Mary on that donkey. Fearful. Confused. Uncertain. Uncomfortable (on a donkey!). Lonely.

I can walk on water and calm a restless sea; I've done a thousand things you've never done. And I'm weary watching while you struggle on your own. Call my name, I'll come.

What did Mary understand of what the future held for her and for her son? Her Son. Certainly less than (I thought) I understood of my unborn daughter’s future. What did she understand of God’s promise to her in Isaiah 46:4? “Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Call my name; I'll come.

He came to Mary. Even as she carried him—in her womb and later in her arms—He carried her. I imagine the compassion He must have felt for his beloved mother as the time of His death approached: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26-27). He made sure His mother was cared for in His physical absence, in the grief she was certainly to feel in the death of her son. She carried Him, and He carried her. And he carries me, and us.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11: 28-29).

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